Branstad steps down from China ambassador post

Former Iowa governor to retire from ambassador position he first started in June 2017.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

September 14, 2020

3 Min Read
Branstad steps down from China ambassador post
Jacqui Fatka

U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China Terry Branstad will retire from his position as U.S. envoy and depart Beijing, China, in early October. The ambassador confirmed his decision to President Donald Trump by phone last week.

Branstad’s appointment to the post was hailed by many in agricultural circles because of his history with China's President Xi Jinping during Xi’s time in Iowa decades ago. Branstad and his family arrived in China in June 2017.

In an internal town hall meeting at the U.S. Embassy on Monday, Branstad thanked the embassy staff and consulates in China for all of their hard work. “I am proudest of our work in getting the Phase One trade deal and delivering tangible results for our communities back home. Our goal remains meaningful, measurable results for American families. We have made significant progress, and we will not stop pressing for more,” he said.

Branstad helped lead the embassy’s successful effort to reduce the flow of Chinese fentanyl into the U.S. In 2018, following months of negotiations, China agreed to schedule fentanyl and all of its derivatives as a controlled substance. The agreement will likely save thousands of American lives, the embassy said in a release.

The ambassador noted that it has been an extraordinary honor to represent the U.S. President and the American people over the last three years and three months. “We are rebalancing the U.S.-China relationship so that it is fair and reciprocal and can fuel positive growth in both countries,” Branstad said.

Related:U.S. beef gets ‘huge wins’ in China deal

He also noted that during his tenure, he traveled to 26 provinces and autonomous regions in China and would have visited all of them if COVID-19 had not limited his domestic travel: “Getting to know the Chinese people, meeting them in their homes and hearing their personal stories has been one of the great privileges of this job.” 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanked Branstad for his service via Twitter, saying the ambassador’s contribution to rebalancing U.S.-China trade relations will have lasting, positive effects on U.S. foreign policy in the Asian Pacific for decades to come.

Iowa Soybean Assn. (ISA) president Jeff Jorgenson said Iowa soybean farmers recognize Branstad for his work during an important time in U.S.-China trade relations.

“Although the Iowa Soybean Assn. is disappointed that he’s stepping down, we certainly respect his decision,” Jorgenson said. “Since taking on this important role for our country, he has worked tirelessly to represent America’s interests in China. Through all the challenges, Branstad has been a forceful and important voice for all Americans, particularly for Iowa and Iowa’s farmers.”

Related:Deep dive into China phase one deal for ag

He added, “Given China’s importance as a global soybean buyer, ISA leadership has often called upon him for insight and to share our perspectives. We have had multiple meetings with him during his time as ambassador, both in China and in Iowa. We always left those meetings knowing we had a friend working on our behalf. Iowa soybean farmers say, ‘Thank you, Ambassador Branstad, and welcome home.’”

Branstad will return to Iowa after leaving Beijing.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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