BEIJING (AP) – Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad said he will help Republicans campaigning in his native Iowa after returning home next month.
Branstad also told Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV that he considered the “phase one” trade deal between China and the U.S. as the biggest achievement of his three years in China.
The 73-year-old Branstad, who is a Lake Mills native, says he will work on behalf of President Donald Trump, Sen. Joni Ernst and others, but not in any official role.
Ernst, the state’s junior senator, is locked in a tight race, with Democrats hoping to capture her seat on the way to flipping the Senate.
As Iowa’s governor, Branstad was an early Trump supporter and served as the top envoy to China during the most tempestuous period in relations since diplomatic ties were established in 1979.
Branstad was governor of the major farming state for 22 years over two spans, from 1983 to 1999 and 2011 to 2017. Early in his first term, he met Xi Jinping, now China’s leader, when the then county-level Communist Party official visited Iowa on a 1985 trade trip.
The “phase one” trade deal reached between the U.S. and China in January amid the ongoing tariff war between the sides represented a truce but did not address the more fundamental complaints of the American side.
Still, Branstad said he believed it was ultimately in the best interests of both sides to follow through with it.