Five Things to Know About Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Donald Trump’s Ambassador to China

Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad is Donald Trump’s selection as the next ambassador to China.

Branstad, age 70, began his second hitch as governor in 2011, after first serving as governor from 1983 to 1999. That makes him one of the nation’s longest-serving governors.

In 1985, Branstad met China’s future President Xi Jinping on his first trip to the United States. In 2012, Xi returned to the state as the likely next leader of China, saying that “You can’t even imagine what a deep impression I had from my visit 27 years ago to Muscatine, because you were the first group of Americans that I came into contact with … My impression of the country came from you. For me, you are America.”

Iowa has a huge agricultural trade with China, partly because the increasingly affluent Chinese are buying a lot more soybeans and pork. So much pork, in fact that a Chinese company bought the world’s largest pork producer in 2013 — the Virginia-based Smithfield Foods for $7.1 billion.

Branstad supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, which promised to increase U.S. agricultural sales to China. Trump opposed the deal.

Branstad’s history of cooperation with China’s authoritarian government could strengthen Trump’s assertive stances against China’s self-serving mercantilist economic polities, and its increasingly aggressive stances towards its oceanic neighbors, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam. Trump’s tweets show he’s pushing back against China, which has its own economic vulnerabilities.

In September 2015, Branstad signed a token climate related deal with China’s government. But there’s little evidence that Branstad will push for the preservation of President Barack Obama’s one-sided climate treaty with China. Trump opposes the deal, which restricts the United States’ energy industries, while imposing few or no costs on China’s advancing energy industries.

Trump will likely showcase the nomination when he visits Iowa on Thursday as part of his victory tour.


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