WASHINGTON (AP) - Sen. Max Baucus told his Senate colleagues Tuesday that he would work to build a more equitable economic relationship with China if he is confirmed to become U.S. ambassador.

WASHINGTON (AP) Sen. Max Baucus told his Senate colleagues Tuesday that he would work to build a more equitable economic relationship with China if he is confirmed to become U.S. ambassador.

Calling the U.S. relationship with China "one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world," Baucus said he would also encourage China to act responsibly as it emerges as a global power.

"I have become a firm believer that a strong geopolitical relationship can be born out of a strong economic relationship, which often begins with trade," Baucus said.

The U.S. trade deficit with China is the largest with any country. Figures through November show the trade deficit was on track to set a new record in 2013, exceeding $300 billion for the second straight year.

Tuesday's hearing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was a switch for the six-term Montana Democrat. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus is used to vetting nominees. On Tuesday he answered questions.

Baucus is expected to sail toward full Senate confirmation. "I am sure you will be confirmed," Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told Baucus.

Baucus would replace Gary Locke.

The 72-year-old Baucus said last year he would not seek re-election to another Senate term.