President-elect Donald Trump has picked Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who has longstanding ties to China’s president, to serve as ambassador to Beijing, a spokesman confirmed Wednesday. Trump announced his selection of Branstad — an early supporter of the Republican billionaire during his campaign –at a fundraising breakfast in New York today, Jason Miller told reporters.
The transition team said the governor had accepted the position, chosen for his experience in public policy, expertise on trade issues and “tremendous understanding of China and Chinese people.”
Branstad has “considerable public policy experience,” a “great grasp” of trade and agriculture issues, and “very much impressed the president-elect,” Miller told reporters.
“It is very clear that Governor Branstad is someone who will represent our country well on the world stage and we couldn’t be prouder of this selection,” he added.
Bloomberg first reported news of the nomination last evening, citing anonymous people close to the matter. The Iowa governor had met with the Republican billionaire earlier on Tuesday at Trump Tower in New York. Afterward, Branstad, 70, declined to comment on whether he had been offered a job, telling reporters only that he was excited about a Trump presidency and the “quality of the people that he’s attracting to the cabinet.”
Branstad has known Chinese President Xi Jinping since 1985, when Xi visited Iowa as a provincial official, Bloomberg reported.
The governor has since visited China several times and gave a dinner for Xi in Des Moines in 2012 nine months before he became Chinese president. Branstad’s son Eric served as the state director for the real estate tycoon’s campaign in Iowa. The governor will join Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Thursday in Iowa, where the incoming Republican president is due to headline an evening “thank you” rally in the key swing state, Miller said.