Government

Branstad sees progress in U.S.-China relations

From left, Kenneth Quinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Cambodia who now leads the World Food Prize Foundation, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin participate in a Friday event in Des Moines celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Iowa-China Business Council and Iowa-China Business Forum. (Photo by Rod Boshart/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)
From left, Kenneth Quinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Cambodia who now leads the World Food Prize Foundation, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin participate in a Friday event in Des Moines celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Iowa-China Business Council and Iowa-China Business Forum. (Photo by Rod Boshart/Gazette Des Moines Bureau)
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DES MOINES — U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad said he expects the federal tax-cut package President Donald Trump signed Friday will foster international business activity and significantly reduce America’s trade imbalance in future years.

Branstad, who attended a Friday event celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Iowa-China Business Council and Iowa-China Business Forum, said he believes the two nations are working together to resolve trade differences.

Cutting the U.S. corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent will provide an added boost, he said, that “could well reduce the trade deficit by half.”

Branstad, a Lake Mills Republican who was Iowa’s and the nation’s longest-serving governor until he stepped down last May to become an ambassador, applauded China’s cooperation in pushing sanctions and restrictions aimed at “denuclearizing” North Korea and stabilizing issues in Asia.

“There is no question there are some frictions,” the ambassador said, noting that both China and Russia have been building their military.

It is important, he said, for the United States to remain a power in the Pacific theater to protect U.S. national security and national defense interests.

However, Branstad said increased trade, education, sports and other international interactions are positive alliances that “hopefully will help reduce the tension” and bring about better understanding between Chinese and American citizens.

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“I’m always looking for win-win situations that can be beneficial to both of our countries,” he said. “I think that’s the way we need to try to work through the differences — to have an honest discussion of them and look at — is there a way that we can find a win-win on these many issues.”

Branstad, whose well-known friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping dates back to Xi’s 1985 sister-state visit to Iowa, said the chemistry between Trump and Xi “is really good.”

The two leaders, he said, have talked by telephone at least 10 times and met face to face in Florida, Germany and China over the past year.

“A lot of the media tends to dwell on the negative and the differences, but there are a lot of things that we’re working together on,” he said.

“Even though there are differences, they’ve had honest and frank discussions, and progress has been made,” Branstad said. “We’re seeing more collaboration and working together to address the threat from North Korea from the nuclear and ballistic missiles. That’s the No. 1 thing they’re working on, and I’m trying to do what I can to help.”

Branstad said he and his wife, Chris, have been treated very well since arriving in Beijing, although he noted the air quality is bad and traffic congestion is a challenge.

“The Chinese are wonderful people,” Branstad said. “Because we treated Xi Jinping so well on his first visit here, they treat us very well. We’re old friends, and I’ve had people in China tell me ‘you’re famous’ because of the way that we Iowans treated the now-leader of China.”

Also attending Friday’s event were Govs. Kim Reynolds of Iowa and Matt Bevin of Kentucky, Kenneth Quinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Cambodia who now leads the World Food Prize Foundation, and Branstad’s son, Eric, who serves as a White House senior adviser.

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Also there was Midamar Corp. founder William Aossey, whose presence Branstad noted in remarks. The Cedar Rapids company is a global exporter of halal food. In 2014, the Chinese Association of Iowa honored him with its corporate leadership award.

In February 2016, a judge sentenced Aossey to two years in federal prison for organizing a fraud to pass off halal meat to Malaysia that otherwise couldn’t have been shipped based on slaughtering methods.

Aossey was released on Dec. 11, 2016, his attorney said Friday.

This is Branstad’s first visit back to Iowa since he moved to Beijing earlier this year.

He returned for the funeral of his younger brother, Monroe “Monty” Branstad of Forest City, who died Dec. 13 at age 67.

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