Nation & World

Terry Branstad cites trade deal as biggest achievement of his time as ambassador to China

In this June 28, 2017, photo, U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad speaks to journalists at the ambassador's residenc
In this June 28, 2017, photo, U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad speaks to journalists at the ambassador’s residence in Beijing. Branstad, who is stepping down as ambassador, says he will help out Republicans campaigning in his native Iowa after returning home next month. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

BEIJING — Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad considers the “phase one” trade deal between China and the United States as the biggest achievement of his three years in China.

The “phase one” trade deal reached between the U.S. and China in January amid the ongoing tariff war represented a truce but did not address the more fundamental complaints of the American side.

Still, Branstad said during an interview with Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV that he thought it was ultimately in the best interests of both sides to follow through with it.

“This was a long and difficult process,” Branstad said. “They worked long and hard to reach an agreement that I think is fair and reciprocal. And it’s going to make a difference for both of our countries.”

Branstad, whose decision to step down as ambassador was announced this week, said he will help Republicans campaigning in his native Iowa after returning home next month.

The 73-year-old former Iowa governor said he will work on behalf of President Donald Trump, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and others, but not in any official role.

“My son is very involved in (Trump’s) campaign, and I will be a volunteer to help him, to help Joni Ernst and other friends for the election in Iowa. But I will strictly be a volunteer,” Branstad said in a report broadcast by the station Thursday.

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As Iowa’s governor, Branstad was an early Trump supporter and served as the top envoy to China during the most tempestuous period in relations since diplomatic ties were established in 1979.

Branstad was governor e for 22 years over two spans, from 1983 to 1999 and 2011 to 2017. Early in his first term, he met Xi Jinping, now China’s leader, when the then county-level Communist Party official visited Iowa on a 1985 trade trip.

Branstad is leaving at time when tensions between the sides are running high over Taiwan, China’s claims to the South China Sea, the coronavirus pandemic and allegations of spying and technology theft. In July, the U.S. ordered the closure of the Chinese Consulate in Houston, calling it a “center of malign activity.” China retaliated by ordering the shuttering of the U.S. Consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu.

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