|Iowa Governor, Terry Branstad
The ambassador nominee spoke Feb. 23 at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum in Washington, D.C., U.S. China already imports more U.S. soybeans than all other countries combined, and has become a major importer of U.S. pork.
Branstad said he will work to reopen the market for American beef. In 2003, China stopped beef imports from the United States following discovery of mad cow disease.
“I want to serve U.S. beef at the embassy,” he said. “Mad cow disease is long since gone in this country, and there’s no reason why the Chinese should continue to restrict American beef. So that’s one of the things that is high on my priority list.”
Branstad said he would also like to see the tariff on U.S. dried distillers grains (DDGS), a co-product of ethanol production, eliminated.
When asked about the impact of President Trump’s “America First” trade policy, Branstad said the president is a businessman who will look for the best deal that can be beneficial to the United States and its trading partners. He noted that the trade imbalance is too great with many countries, and it needs to be closed.
“Frankly, since we’re such an important market, I don’t think our trading partners will want to lose this market,” he said. “It’s a matter of trying to negotiate the best deal for America, but in a way that’s going to be a win-win for our trade partners as well.”
Possible U.S. competitors, such as Brazil and Russia, face their own obstacles that make them less than ideal as suppliers to China, Branstad said. Russia has problems with spoilage and Brazil has major issues with its transportation infrastructure.
“We have some natural advantages, especially if we upgrade and improve our infrastructure,” he said. “We have some of the most productive land in the world and some of the most innovative farmers in the world. I think we can compete. The big concern I’ve got is that we get a level playing field, and not have adverse restrictions on our products.”
Branstad said he will leverage the relationships he’s developed through the years with Chinese officials to work on issues such as the acceptance of genetically modified crops. Branstad has a 30-year friendship with President Xi Jinping as well as a long-standing relationship with Cui Tiankai, Chinese Ambassador to the U.S.
Branstad has collaborated with the Ministry of Agriculture for China, met with leaders from the Ministry of Finance and has led six trade missions to China during his time as Iowa governor.
“Hopefully I can help bring down some of the barriers that are making it difficult to get these traits approved,” he said.
Branstad is the longest-serving governor in U.S. history, serving as Iowa governor from 1983 to 1999, and again from 2011 to present.