DES MOINES, Iowa, April 3, 2017 -- Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad heads to D.C. this week to meet with lawmakers and U.S. State Department officials about his nomination as Ambassador to China.
The trip comes as Chinese President Xi Jinping prepares to meet with President Donald Trump in Florida, but Brandstad said he won’t be joining those discussions. That would be “inappropriate,” Brandstad said, considering he has yet to receive Senate confirmation.
Speaking at his weekly news conference at the state Capitol, Brandstad said he’s looking forward to a busy schedule in Washington.
“I’ll meet with a number of senators and meet with people from the State Department and get briefed. I also have some briefing material to study on the way out there, too.”
Branstad said he will meet with Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and other committee members. The governor is in a unique position because of his close ties with Xi, whom Trump will meet with on April 6-7 at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.
“April 29, 1985, Xi Jinping led an Ag delegation (to Iowa),” said Branstad, who was in his first term of governor at the time. “He was so impressed with the friendliness and hospitality of Iowans he calls us old friends.”
In Chinese culture, long term friendships are very important.
“President Xi calls me and the other Iowans he met ‘old friends.’ We had the ‘old-friends reunion” here in 2012. He was so moved by that, he hosted an old-friends reunion in Beijing with the young men that came with him back in ‘85, some of whom I don’t think he had seen in years.”
Branstad said he has a lot to learn if confirmed as ambassador, including the Chinese language.
“I know a few words like “ni hao” (hello) and “xi xi” (a giggling sound) but they do have interpreters over there. I’ve worked to learn appropriate names of the Chinese leaders and communities in China. I’ve been to China six times, but this is a huge responsibility and I am going to learn as much as I can.”
He respects the fact this is a different role than what he has had as governor.
“I will be representing the U.S. as Ambassador to China, but I hope my long-term friendship and relationship with the leadership of China and the Chinese people can help me communicate some issues we need to get resolved between our two countries and there are many.”
The U.S. agriculture community, for example, is hoping the Trump administration can persuade China to lift its restrictions on imports of U.S. beef and rice.
Branstad confirmed he will not attend the meeting between Trump and Xi later this week and said he does not know a timetable yet for hearings.