President-elect Trump appointed Terry Branstad to the position in 2016
By Diego Flammini
The American representative in one of U.S. ag’s most important export destinations is leaving his post.
“U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China Terry Branstad will retire from his position as U.S. envoy and depart Beijing in early October,” the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in China said in a Sept. 14 release. “The Ambassador confirmed his decision to President Trump by phone last week.”
It appears Branstad is leaving China to help the president with his re-election bid.
He “is coming home from China because he wants to campaign,” President Trump said during a call with Iowa Senator Joni Ernst.
President Trump nominated Branstad, the former governor of Iowa, for the position in December 2016. The Senate confirmed the position in 2017.
Branstad’s existing relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping played a factor in Trump’s decision to choose him as the U.S. representative in the country.
The two started to conduct business with one another in the 1980s. At the time, Jinping, a young county official, was looking for closer ties with Iowa’s ag sector.
"Governor Branstad's decades of experience in public service and long-time relationship with President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders make him the ideal choice to serve as America's Ambassador to China," President-elect Trump said in a Dec. 2019 statement. "He successfully developed close trade ties with China while serving as chief executive of the Hawkeye State. That experience will serve him well as he represents America's interests and further develops a mutually beneficial relationship with Chinese leadership."
During his time as ambassador, Branstad worked on multiple files.
He helped develop the Phase 1 trade deal between the two countries and helped reduce the flow of Chinese fentanyl into the U.S.
Industry groups thanked Branstad for his work and highlighted some of his ag successes.
“Under Ambassador Branstad’s tenure, the U.S. and China agreed to a Phase 1 trade agreement that includes $40 billion in agricultural purchases, including pork, by far the most significant protein consumed in China,” Rachel Gantz, director of communications for the National Pork Producers Council, told Farms.com in an emailed statement.
“We appreciate Ambassador Branstad’s efforts to help ensure a U.S.-China trade deal and look forward to China meeting its Phase 1 commitments.”
African swine fever has damaged China’s pork industry resulting in food price inflations. The U.S. is positioned well to meet China’s pork needs, Gantz added.
The soybean industry also appreciates Branstad’s work in China.
"On behalf of the U.S. soy family, I want to thank U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad for his service and the work he has done," Monte Peterson, a soybean grower and member of the U.S. Soybean Export Council and American Soybean Association, told Farms.com.
"We recognize that during his time as ambassador, trade tensions between the U.S. and China have been at their highest, making his job very difficult. Despite this, one of the things I admire most about his service has been his accessbility. He was always interested in hearing from farmers and was a great advocate for U.S. agriculture in a critical market."