US governor Branstad turned ambassador to China could help boost trade

Global Business

Xi Jinping, Terry BranstadFILE – In this Feb. 15, 2012 file photo, Chinese then-Vice President Xi Jinping and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, right, raise their glasses during a toast at a formal dinner in the rotunda at the Iowa Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. The 70-year-old Branstad was confirmed Monday, May 22, 2017, as the U.S. ambassador to China. Branstad has no formal diplomatic experience, though his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping dates to the 1980s, when both men were in early stages of their careers. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

The new U.S. Ambassador to China has some work to do before he even assumes his post in Beijing. Terry Branstad officially resigned May 24th as Governor of the U.S. state of Iowa. Now, he must complete a three-week State Department crash course on how to be an Ambassador. CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

Branstad and Iowa have a long business relationship with China.

“I think it sends a really strong message to China that this is an important relationship for the United States,” said Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham of the Branstad appointment. “When you’re the friend of the (U.S.) President, in China you’re a friend of China.”

In 1983, in his first year in office, Branstad signed a Sister State agreement between Iowa and Hebei Province in China. In 1985, he welcomed Xi Jinping, then a provincial agricultural official and now China’s President, to Iowa. Xi returned to the state as Vice President in 2012.

“To see the way they greet each other, there’s true respect and fondness for each other,” said Durham.

Iowa is America’s second largest exporter of agricultural products. Almost a third of its soybeans are shipped to China.

“It’s by far and away our largest market,” said Grant Kimberley, a corn and soybean farmer in Maxwell, Iowa. Kimberley hosted Branstad and Xi at his homestead in 2012 and believes Branstad was the perfect choice as Ambassador.

“With that strong personal relationship, I think he can have very frank and open conversations with the Chinese leadership,” Kimberley said.

“This is going to be a much shadowier role for him,” said Kyle Munson, Des Moines Register columnist who’s followed the Branstad-Xi relationship. He believes, with issues like North Korea, the former Iowa Governor has his work cut out for him in his new role.

“Maybe it’s an Iowan who helps solve some of the trickiest problems in international diplomacy,” Munson said. “That boggles my mind.”