China envoy pick pledges to confront Beijing on human rights

U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) questioned Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, President Trump's nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to China, on soda ash, beef exports and human rights. Last December, news leaked that Trump had offered Branstad the ambassador post.

However, the importance of trade between the United States and China extends well beyond agriculture, he said.

" Maintaining unfair trade barriers to US agricultural products such as beef and chicken".

When Xi visited the U.S. in February of 2012 as China's vice-president, he went to Iowa to visit the people who hosted him in 1985, people he referred to as "old friends", including Branstad.

Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., opened the confirmation hearing on a contentious note, accusing China of "outright theft" of American intellectual property as well as "discriminatory trade and investment practices".

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the panel, noted in his opening comments that he looked forward to hearing that Branstad would stand with the Chinese people when it comes to labor rights. China still regards the island as part of its territory and would consider it unacceptable for the recognize Taiwan's leader as a head of state. The two men have corresponded and visited each other's countries since, and Branstad aides say they can be frank with each other.

That demonstrated Branstad's command of the range of hot button issues, said Susan Neely, who worked on his first gubernatorial campaign and was his chief of staff. "It needs to be done in a way that they don't feel it threatens them".

China envoy pick pledges to confront Beijing on human rights

"China is the United States largest trading partner, in terms of great potential economic opportunities for businesses in the United States".

"China could play a critical role in convincing North Korea to dismantle its nuclear and missile programs, a strategic policy that would boost the security of America, China and the entire world", Branstad said.

Branstad appeared eager to dispel any notion that he would take it easy on his old "pal", the Chinese president.

As the governor of a USA state whose economy is mainly driven by agriculture industry, Branstad noted that nearly one out of every two rows of Iowa soybeans is sent to China, as well as 33.5 million US dollars in pork in 2016.

Given the tense nature of ties and the enormous challenges the two countries face, it will be important that Branstad has a relationship with Xi.

Branstad said he would leverage his understanding of the country and a personal friendship with its leader to work on lowering tensions with North Korea.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang reiterated that China was serious about enforcing United Nations resolutions and, referring to the possibility of secondary USA sanctions, said China opposed other countries using their law to sanction others or to harm Chinese interests.

  • Larry Hoffman