Business groups express support for Branstad nomination

Business groups express support for Branstad nomination
© Getty Images

Business groups on Wednesday gave a thumbs up to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s nomination to serve as U.S. ambassador to China under President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens 2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' MORE.

Branstad, who established an enduring friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping more than 30 years ago, was named by the president-elect to engage with Beijing.

ADVERTISEMENT

"That experience will serve him well as he represents America’s interests and further develops a mutually beneficial relationship with Chinese leadership," Trump said.

Jay Timmons, head of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), said the governor’s "deep understanding of China, and close relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, uniquely qualifies him for this vital post."

“He understands that manufacturers are committed to building meaningful ties with China, but will not settle for anything less than a free and fair competitive landscape where both countries are playing by the same rules," Timmons said. 

Trump hammered China’s policies during his campaign. He has vowed to slap high tariffs on Chinese imports and label the communist nation a currency manipulator if Beijing doesn’t follow international trade rules. And he further inflamed tensions last week when he took a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in a move that broke with decades of diplomatic protocol.

Branstad, who will replace former Montana Sen. Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBottom line Overnight Defense: McCain honored in Capitol ceremony | Mattis extends border deployment | Trump to embark on four-country trip after midterms Congress gives McCain the highest honor MORE (D) in the post, will have his work cut out for him in China. 

“Branstad comes to the position with first-hand perspective on the importance of the commercial relationship with China for state and local economies,” US-China Business Council (USBC) President John Frisbie wrote in an email to The Hill.

China is the third-largest export market for U.S. goods, behind Canada and Mexico. U.S. goods exports to China represent a wide range of industries including transportation equipment, agriculture, computers, electronics and chemicals. 

For Branstad and Iowa, China is the state’s second-largest export market, primarily comprising agricultural products including soybeans. 

“As we have said in the weeks that followed the presidential election, it is extremely important to have voices within the incoming administration that understand and value the huge impact that global trade has on U.S. agriculture and specifically American soybean producers,” said American Soybean Association (ASA) President Richard Wilkins.

“Nowhere is that relationship more significant than in China, a market that demands nearly 60 percent of our soy exports and over 25 percent of our production overall,” Wilkins added.

Businesses have aggressively backed a U.S.-China bilateral investment treaty, which they had hoped to complete this year, and have called on China to drop tariff and non-tariffs barriers that raise costs for U.S. exporters.

“For manufacturers, China stands as one of our largest trade and investment partners, but it is also a major challenge, imposing a range of market-distorting policies and practices that impact manufacturers in the United States,” Timmons said.

In 2014 speech before the USCBC, Branstad said he saw “great potential in the U.S.-China relationship” and that it is “absolutely critical for our nation to get the U.S.-China relationship right.”

“Every relationship and friendship formed enables future business agreements to be signed and for the positive power of trade to be unleashed,” he said during that speech two years ago.

Branstad traces his relationship with China back to 1983, when he established a sister-state relationship between Iowa and a province in China.

He first traveled to China in 1984 and met Xi in 1985 during the now Chinese leader’s first visit to the United States.

“Our unique and old friendship gives us a great opportunity to foster and enhance relationships that can be mutually beneficially,” Branstad said two years ago.

Branstad is the longest-serving governor in U.S. history, leading Iowa from 1983 to 1999. He was elected again in 2011.

"I have known President Xi Jinping for many years and consider him an old friend,” Branstad said in a statement after his nomination was announced. 

“I look forward to building on our long friendship to cultivate and strengthen the relationship between our two countries and to benefit our economy," he said.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul Top GOP senator: Drug pricing action unlikely before end of year Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock MORE (R-Iowa) said Branstad is the right choice because he understands China's global importance. He predicted an easy path to confirmation.

“Iowans have chosen him for his successful track record as the chief executive, his trustworthiness and his reputation as a straight shooter,” Grassley said.  

“Those attributes would serve the United States very well if he’s confirmed for this position. He ought to be confirmed very easily.”

Secretary of Agriculture Tom VilsackThomas James VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE, who served as governor of Iowa between Branstad’s two stints, called him “tenacious” and said he could think of no one who fit the bill better for the China job.

“He is hard-working. He cares deeply about business and agriculture. He's a promoter, and that's what ambassadors do, they promote,” Vilsack said according to Iowa media reports.

“They make sure that if there are barriers or problems to getting American-made products and goods into a country, they work to make a difference," Vilsack said.