Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, continuing efforts to deal with America's huge trade gap with China, will make his third visit to the country next month since joining President Bush's Cabinet last July.

The Treasury Department announced Wednesday that Paulson will meet in Beijing with government officials on March 7 and deliver a major speech on China's capital markets in Shanghai on March 8.

The administration is trying to convince the Chinese to open their financial markets to greater participation by U.S. companies as a way to strengthen the Chinese financial system by introducing American expertise and greater competition.

The U.S. trade deficit with China hit a record $232.5 billion last year, prompting more calls by Democrats in Congress for the administration to do more to deal with the soaring imbalance.

Paulson announced last week that he was setting up a telephone hotline to connect him directly with Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi, his counterpart in a new high-level dialogue designed to ease trade tensions between the two nations.

Paulson also announced he had tapped Alan Holmer, a pharmaceutical executive and former top trade official in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, to be his top deputy oveseeing the China discussions. The next meeting of the U.S.-China dialogue is scheduled for May 23-24 in Washington.

In addition to China, Paulson will stop in Tokyo for meetings on March 5 with Japanese Finance Minister Koji Omi and Toshihiko Fukui, the head of Japan's central bank.

On March 6, Paulson will meet in Seoul, South Korea, with top finance officials in that country, Treasury spokeswoman Brookly McLaughlin said.