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Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 10:22

Branstad to push for positive US-China relations

By Chen Weihua

Branstad to push for positive US-China relations
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (left) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Be ijing on April 15, 2013. (Andy Wong / AFP)

Terry Branstad, the nominee for US ambassador to China, said he hopes to use his relationships with President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump to positively influence US-China relations.

Branstad made the remarks on Tuesday morning during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

His wife, Christine Johnson, and his two sons, Eric and Marcus, sat behind him. Branstad, 70, also has a daughter and seven grandchildren.

I hope to use my unique position as an old friend of President Xi and a trusted confidant of President Trump to positively influence the US-China relationship

Terry Branstad, nominee for US ambassador to China

"If confirmed, I hope to use my unique position as an old friend of President Xi and a trusted confidant of President Trump to positively influence the US-China relationship," he said.

Branstad, a Republican who is serving his sixth term as Iowa governor and is the longest-serving governor in US history, described his relationship with Xi, which goes back to 1985. Branstad was then serving his first term and met Xi, who was leading an agricultural delegation from Hebei province, Iowa's sister province.

"A connection was made and a friendship was founded. To this day, President Xi still speaks fondly of Iowa and the hospitality he enjoyed there so many years ago," said Branstad.

When Xi visited the United States in 2012 as China's vice-president, he went to Iowa to visit the people who hosted him in 1985, people he referred to as "old friends", including Branstad.

Branstad told lawmakers on Tuesday that as Iowa governor, he saw firsthand the importance of a positive and healthy trade relationship between the two countries, adding that one out of every two rows of Iowa soybeans is sent to China, as well as US$33.5 million in pork in 2016.

He said as ambassador, he would continue the work he started as governor to open up the Chinese markets to US businesses of all sorts. "This will be good for the American people as it will create more jobs, and good for the Chinese people as they will have more access to the best-made products this world has to offer," he said.

He described US-China relations as "multifaceted", citing last month's meeting between Xi and Trump in Palm Beach, Florida, where they agreed to cooperate more closely on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula .

The Chinese government reacted favorably to Branstad's nomination. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in December, "Mr Branstad is an old friend of the Chinese people, and we welcome his greater contribution to the development of China-US relations."

Branstad told lawmakers on Tuesday that as governor, he travels to all 99 counties in Iowa every year. "As ambassador, I hope to continue this tradition by visiting every province in China," he said.

"Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that a boy from a small farm in Leland, Iowa, would one day have the opportunity to become, with your consent, the ambassador to one of the world's most influential countries and one of America's largest trading partners," he said at the hearing.

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