Trump's pick for China ambassador wants win-win boost to trade ties

Terry Branstad, governor of Iowa, speaks to members of the media in the lobby at Trump Tower in New York, US, on Dec 6, 2016.
Terry Branstad, governor of Iowa, speaks to members of the media in the lobby at Trump Tower in New York, US, on Dec 6, 2016.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

BEIJING (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump's pick for ambassador to China said he would help increase trade in a "win-win" for both countries, Chinese state media reported, amid concerns over protectionist talk from the new US administration.

Mr Terry Branstad, currently the governor of Iowa, said he would help to work out differences and that there was immense potential for more Chinese investment in the United States.

"We want to continue to enhance the relationship and to increase trade between our two countries," he told China's official Xinhua news agency in an interview in the US published late on Thursday (Feb 2).

"I hope ... that I can play a constructive role trying to work out many of these differences in a way that makes it a win-win. It is beneficial to both of our countries, and also benefits the rest of the world," Xinhua cited Mr Branstad as saying.

"I think we have seen just the tip of the iceberg of the potential (Chinese) investments here," he said.

Mr Trump has railed against China's trade practices, blaming them for US job losses, and has threatened to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese imports.

Beijing says it will work with Washington to resolve any trade disputes, but state media has warned of retaliation if Mr Trump takes the first steps toward a trade war.

Mr Trump's nomination of Mr Branstad, a long-time Republican governor who has developed relationships with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders, was well-received, even among some Democrats.

He still faces a confirmation hearing.

Mr Trump has moved to fill his administration with critics of China's trade policies, including Mr Wilbur Ross for Commerce Secretary, Mr Robert Lighthizer for US Trade Representative, and Mr Peter Navarro, an economist and China hawk who will serve as a White House adviser.

Free trade advocates worry that Mr Trump's trade team will be too quick to use tariffs to keep imports out, raising costs for manufacturers that rely on imported parts - or even sparking retaliatory trade wars.

Mr Xi made a vigorous defence of globalisation at the World Economic Forum last month, and presented China's economy as "wide open", despite complaints from the foreign business community that Beijing has not made good on pledges of economic liberalisation.

The official China Daily newspaper said on Friday that China could weather trade frictions better than the US, as its exports accounted for a larger proportion of global trade, but Mr Trump's words and actions "bode ill" for relations.

"China needs to cast aside any illusions it may have had that Trump was just mouthing off to attract votes and instead be prepared for the worst," the paper said in an editorial.

Commentary from influential Chinese state-run media does not equate with policy, but can be reflective of official thinking.

Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka was greeted by China's ambassador to the United States, Mr Cui Tiankai, at a Chinese New Year reception at the embassy in Washington on Thursday.

The China Daily said her father had "broken a tradition" of US presidents "sending New Year's greetings to people of Chinese origin in the United States for their most important festival".