DES MOINES — U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad said he expects the federal tax-cut package President Trump signed Friday will foster international business activity and significantly reduce America's trade imbalance in future years.
Branstad, who attended an event celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Iowa-China Business Council and Iowa-China Business Forum, said he believes the two nations are working together to resolve trade differences and now cutting the U.S. corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent will provide an added boost that "could well reduce the trade deficit by half."
Branstad, a Lake Mills Republican who was Iowa's and the nation's longest-serving governor until he stepped down last May to take the ambassadorship, applauded China's cooperation in pushing sanctions and restrictions aimed at "denuclearizing" North Korea and stabilizing issues in Asia.
"There is no question there are some frictions," the ambassador said, noting that both China and Russia have been building their military strengths and it is important for the United States to remain a power in the Pacific theater as well to protect U.S. national security and national defense interests.
However, Branstad said increased trade, education, sports and other international interactions are positive alliances that "hopefully will help reduce the tension" and bring about better understanding between Chinese and American citizens.
"I'm always looking for win-win situations that can be beneficial to both of our countries. I think that's the way we need to try to work through the differences - to have an honest discussion of them and look at is there a way that we can find a win-win on these many issues," he said.
Branstad, whose well-known friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping dates back to a 1985 sister-state visit to Iowa, said the chemistry between Trump and Xi "is really good" and the two leaders have talked by telephone at least 10 times and met face to face in Florida, Germany and China over the past year.
"A lot of the media tends to dwell on the negative and the differences but there are a lot of things that we're working together on," he said.
"Even though there are differences, they've had honest and frank discussions and progress has been made," Branstad said. "We're seeing more collaboration and working together to address the threat from North Korea from the nuclear and ballistic missiles. That's the No. 1 thing they're working on and I'm trying to do what I can to help."
Branstad said he and his wife, Chris, have been treated very well since arriving in Beijing, although he noted that the air quality is bad and traffic congestion is a challenge.
"The Chinese are wonderful people," Branstad said. "Because we treated Xi Jinping so well on his first visit here, they treat us very well. We're old friends and I've had people in China tell me 'you're famous' because of the way that we Iowans treated the now-leader of China."
Also attending Friday's event were Govs. Kim Reynolds of Iowa and Matt Bevin of Kentucky, Kenneth Quinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Cambodia who now leads the World Food Prize Foundation, and Branstad's son, Eric, who serves as a White House senior adviser.