Trump nominee Branstad hopes personal relationship with Chinese will help improve U.S. ties, aims to reopen beef purchases

Source: By Bloomberg News • Posted: Friday, February 24, 2017

President Donald Trump’s pick to be the U.S. ambassador to China, former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, emphasized friendship between the countries as he prepared to meet with China’s ambassador during a trip this week to Washington.

Cordial ties are “going to be an important thing” between the two nations, Branstad said Thursday in an interview after speaking at a U.S. Department of Agriculture conference in Arlington, Virginia. “If you think of the history, there have been a lot of rocky times. It gets worse, and then it gets better. But I hope I can play a constructive role in helping to improve the relations.”

Business leaders and traders in China and the U.S. have searched for clues as to how Trump will approach relations between the world’s two biggest economies. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Bloomberg on Thursday that there is no urgency to designate China a currency manipulator, contradicting an October pledge by then-candidate Trump to direct Treasury to name China a manipulator on the first day of his administration.

Trump rode to his election victory partly on strong support from voters in rural areas clamoring for an economic turnaround. Farm incomes, which reached a record high in 2013, are expected to fall for a fourth successive year, while debt levels have climbed. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “better understand the needs of rural America” and the “importance of a level playing field on trade” than the previous administration, Branstad said.

China is expected to be the biggest buyer of U.S. farm goods this year, with $22.3 billion in purchases of soybeans, cotton and other crops. Canada and Mexico are projected to be the next-biggest buyers.

Branstad played down prospects of trade disputes with Mexico, saying that Trump “feels the trade imbalance is too great and that that needs to be closed.” Mexican business leaders are meeting with commodity-sellers in Argentina and Brazil to discuss ways to reduce reliance on U.S. corn in response to administration moves to reduce immigration and potentially make Mexican goods more expensive.

Branstad was nominated by Trump to be U.S. ambassador to China in December.