WASHINGTON, May 22, 2017 – The Senate voted 82 to 13 Monday evening to approve President Donald Trump’s choice of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to be the next U.S. ambassador to China.
“Once confirmed..., Governor Branstad will be tasked with a portfolio that is important not only for our diplomatic relationship with China, but also for our trade policy,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said before the vote. “Having served as the governor of Iowa for more than two decades, Branstad has developed a strong understanding of agriculture and trade and other key national intersts.”
It’s the agricultural experience that groups like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is focused on. China is poised to lift its 13-year ban on U.S. beef by July 16, according to the Department of Commerce, and Branstad is seen as the best man to make sure that trade goes smoothly.
“As the six-term governor of a state with more than $10 billion in annual agricultural exports, Terry Branstad is an ideal person to help facilitate the U.S. beef industry’s return to the Chinese market for the first time in 13-plus years," said NCBA President Craig Uden. “Ambassador Branstad has said that he intends to serve American-produced beef at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, and America’s cattle producers look forward to working with him to make that a reality as soon as possible.”
Branstad, who has known Chinese President Xi Jinping for more than 30 years – long before Xi was president – has said he’ll use that relationship to help improve conditions for U.S. agriculture exports to the country that’s already the largest foreign market for U.S. soybeans.
Branstad and Xi first met in 1985 when Xi led a corn-processing delegation to Iowa and Branstad hosted the visitors in the governor’s mansion.
“If confirmed, I hope to use my unique position as an old friend of President Xi and the trusted confidant of President Trump to positively influence the U.S.-China relationship,” Branstad said during a Senate confirmation hearing
The Renewable Fuels Association is hoping Branstad’s commitment to agricultural trade and his close ties with Xi will help improve the situation for U.S. exports of distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), a byproduct of ethanol production used as a feed ingredient for livestock.
"Today," said RFA President Bob Dineen, "with the U.S. ethanol industry continuing its international expansion of ethanol and high-protein feed, we look forward to working with Ambassador Branstad to ensure consumers in China and around the world have access to both the cleanest, lowest-cost and highest source of octane on the planet and cost-effective protein for poultry and cattle. Ambassador Branstad will be an effective and ardent advocate for President Trump’s commitment to putting America first around the world.”
Branstad addressed the issue of DDGS during testimony before the Senate Finance Committee earlier this month.
In January, China’s Commerce Ministry announced it was slapping anti-dumping and countervailing duties on U.S. DDGS that total about 90 percent of the price of the feed product. Beijing alleged the U.S. industry was unfairly benefiting from subsidies.
China bought 6.3 million tons of DDGS in 2015, valued at about $1.6 billion, according to U.S. Grains Council. That was up from 4.3 million tons – or $1.25 billion worth – in 2014. The new duties imposed by China have effectively brought trade in DDGS to a halt.
“I’ve seen areas where we’ve made progress and I’ve also seen areas where we’ve lost ground,” Branstad said during the hearing. “We have to be vigilant … where we think they’re being unfair.”
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