BEIJING Ensuring a "level playing field" for American businesses stands at the top of the U.S. diplomatic agenda in China, U.S. Ambassador Max Baucus said in his first public remarks since taking office.
"The first (of three goals) is to strengthen our economic relationship with China in a way that is mutually beneficial and ensures a level playing field for American businesses and workers to compete fairly with their Chinese counterparts," the former Montana senator said in remarks to reporters.
"I think this is very important."
The world's two largest economies have numerous points of contention in the region, including China's assertions of sovereignty over swathes of the East China and South China Seas, as well as U.S. support for self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a renegade province.
Baucus helped steer trade policy with China as chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, taking a firm stance against some of China's trade practices. He also led U.S. efforts in the 1990's to aid China's admission to the World Trade Organisation.
Baucus also said he hoped to strengthen people-to-people diplomacy and work with China on global challenges while encouraging it to abide by human rights norms.
"We're also urging China to support the laws, the norms, values and human rights that undergird the current international system from which we all benefit," he said.
(Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Robert Birsel)