Trade negotiations between U.S. and Chinese leaders are focused in part on getting China to buy more goods rather than getting it to ship less, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Wednesday.
Fresh from a high-level meeting in China between members of both nations, Ross said there was progress made but that barriers remain.
"The Chinese are very good at the rhetoric of free trade, but in fact they are probably the most protectionist country of the major countries," he told Tyler Mathisen during CNBC's Capital Exchange breakfast in Washington, D.C.
Despite the criticism, he was at least pleased with China's willingness to listen and respond to U.S. concerns over a growing trade gap that President Donald Trump has pledged to bridge.
"It was the right level of people," Ross said. "There's a considerable gap between what they put on the table and what we feel we need. But that's OK, you sort of expect that at this stage in the game."
The U.S. has provided a list of products, such as soybeans, that it wants China to buy more of.
Before leaving for the trip, the U.S. delegation had set a list of demands, which the Chinese officials had responded to by the time Americans arrived. While Ross said that much is progress, more remains to be done.
"Us selling more to them has more bang for the buck for our economy to begin with, and it's probably less intrusive into their economy," he said.
The China trade situation was part of a broader discussion.
He also discussed the recent tariffs the U.S. has threatened to impose globally, particularly on aluminum and steel. While the U.S. has delayed implementation as it continues negotiating with affected parties, a June 1 deadline approaches.
Ross cautioned countries, particularly those in the European Union, to get serious about resolving the issue.
"The president is not a man of great patience, and so I wouldn't count on further extensions," he said.