Corn Belt Governor to Become Trump's Ambassador to China

Dec 9, 2016  | 4 min  | Ep4216

This week, the President-elect continued to handpick his administration. In a strange twist of fate, the decision on who should handle diplomatic relations with the country of 1.3 billion people has its roots in the Midwest. Josh Buettner explains.

Governor Terry Branstad/R - Iowa: “Thanks to our great new president, who is going to make America great again, I am very proud to serve America in this very important role.  Thank you very much.”

This week, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad accepted President-elect Donald Trump’s offer to become U.S. Ambassador to China.  The Governor gave unwavering support for Trump during the run-up to the presidential election.

Donald Trump/U.S. President-elect: “I just want to tell you, officially, the man I have chosen as our Ambassador to China is the man who knows China and likes China….Better to like China if you’re going to be over there.  Do we agree?  …And knows how to deliver results.  And he will deliver results, just like he’s been delivering results for 23 years for the great farmers and for the people of Iowa.”

Officials in Beijing welcomed the appointment of America’s longest serving governor to a post which they say bridges the governments of both countries, calling Branstad an ‘old friend of the Chinese people’.

While China is America’s largest economic rival, the two nations also are significant trading partners.  In 2015, the U.S. imported over $480 billion in goods and services while sending $116 billion in exports to the Middle Kingdom.  And according to the U.S-China Business Council, a non-profit Washington, D.C.- based collection of more than 200 American companies doing business with China,  $15 billion in U.S. agricultural products were sold to China last year.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Governor of Iowa himself, praised Branstad’s appointment as beneficial to U.S. farmers.

Sec. Tom Vilsack/USDA: “I think Governor Branstad deserves that opportunity for several reasons.  One, he has been a tireless advocate for trade.  We all know that.  He certainly has been a proud advocate of Iowa agriculture and American agriculture.  He obviously has relations with Chinese officials which are important.  And he’s tenacious.  And trust me, the Chinese, you      gotta be tenacious.”

A likely factor in Trump’s decision to bring Iowa’s governor into his administration is Branstad’s longtime friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The two political leaders have known each other since a sister-state exchange brought Xi, then an agricultural official, to Iowa in 1985.  Both have reconnected on several occasions, notably in 2012, when the Chinese leader was welcomed to Iowa’s capitol a year before becoming his country’s president.

Some say a mutual love of agriculture has helped the pair form a strong bond, and the relationship may ease tensions over Trump’s past statements on Chinese currency manipulation, as well as a recent diplomatic mix-up concerning communication with Taiwan – considered a rogue province by China.

Donald Trump/U.S. President-elect: “The nation of China is responsible for almost half of America’s trade deficit.  And that’s why we designate them as being a non-market economy.  Big thing.  They haven’t played by the rules, and I know it’s time that they’re going to start.  They’re going to start.  They’ve got to.  We’re all in this thing together folks.”

Pending U.S. Senate confirmation, Branstad’s move from Des Moines to Beijing may add another footnote to Iowa’s history books, as his resignation would allow Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to become the first female governor of the Hawkeye State.

For Market to Market, I’m Josh Buettner.

 

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