Gov. Terry Branstad issued a statement Wednesday announcing his nomination to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to China, which had been rumored following his meeting with president-elect Donald Trump in Trump Tower in New York City on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
“After long discussions with my family, I am honored and humbled to be nominated to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to China,” Branstad said in the press release. “I also accept President-elect Trump’s charge to prioritize collaborative policies that will Make America Great Again. This is an extraordinary opportunity. I believe that the respect and admiration built over a decades-old friendship between President Xi and I give me an opportunity to help the President-elect and serve Iowa, the United States and the world for the better.”
Branstad, the longest-serving U.S. governor, first met Chinese President Xi Jinping in 1985 when Xi was a Hebei provincial official and visited Iowa for the first time. A few years before, in 1983, Branstad signed a formal agreement establishing a sister-state relationship between Iowa and Hebei province. The two leaders have maintained a working friendship since then and Branstad is considered an “old friend” of the president.
“During our 30-year friendship, President Xi Jinping and I have developed a respect and admiration for each other, our people and our cultures,” Branstad said in the release. “The United States-Chinese bilateral relationship is at a critical point. Ensuring the countries with the two largest economies and two largest militaries in the world maintain a collaborative and cooperative relationship is needed more now than ever. The President-elect understands my unique relationship to China and has asked me to serve in a way I had not previously considered.”
Branstad was in China as recently as November for a trade mission focused on beef and pork exports.
In a Sioux City rally just days before the Nov. 8 election, Trump called Branstad “my prime candidate to take care of China.” Branstad’s son Eric Branstad served as the Trump campaign’s Iowa state director.
If Branstad is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds would take over as governor, making her the first female governor in Iowa.
“Gov. Branstad has been my mentor and friend, devoting his life to advocating for Iowa,” Reynolds said in a statement released separately.
Reynolds, who has also served as a state senator and county treasurer, has been lieutenant governor since 2011.
“I have been honored to be a full partner with Gov. Branstad in this Administration and know that the experience I’ve gained over the last six years has prepared me well for this next chapter of service to all Iowans,” she said.