Telephonic Press Briefing on President Trump's Visit to China With U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad

November 10, 2017


Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Hi. And thank you everyone for joining us in our third readout from president trip -- President Trump’s trip through Asia. We’re really grateful to have Ambassador Terry Branstad with us today. He’s obviously had a pretty intense but high energy and fun couple of days in Beijing with President Trump.

A little background on Ambassador Branstad. He was Iowa’s longest-serving governor before he announced that he’d accepted the nomination to serve as the ambassador of the United States to the People’s Republic of China in December; and he was confirmed in May and then came out to Beijing. So a -- a really big thank you to Ambassador Branstad for taking the time to do this. We’ll now turn it over to him. Ambassador Branstad?

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Mary Beth, thank you very much. This is Terry Branstad, the American ambassador to China. I’m very honored to represent the United States here in the People’s Republic of China.

As you all know, Chinese President Xi Jinping invited President Trump to -- for a state visit in China, which started on November 8th. And President Trump left this morning to go on to Vietnam. His wife Melania is still here, and she’ll be leaving later today.

Our two presidents had a very candid and constructive discussion about issues of shared interests and concerns. They affirmed that we need to work together to expand areas of cooperation and generate positive outcomes for the benefit of both countries and our citizens.

The key topic of discussion was our continued joint effort to increase pressure on North Korea to convince the regime to abandon its nuclear and missile program. President Trump and President Xi affirmed their commitment to achieve -- achieve a complete verifiable and permanent denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. President Trump and President Xi affirmed that they will not accept a nuclear armed North Korea.

President Trump called on China to give fair and reciprocal treatment to US companies and exports in order to reduce the US trade deficit and rebalance the economic relationship between our two nations. Also accompanying President Trump was a large delegation of American companies, and a number of trade agreements I think totaling over $250 million were signed -- $250 billion were signed. And I think that’s the largest probably that’s ever been done in one sitting.

With that, I would open it to your questions.

Ms. Mary Beth Polley: And the first question actually will go from [Inaudible] with the South China Morning Post. Unfortunately, he’s in a noisy newsroom and unable to ask a question without bringing a lot of noise on the line. He wants to know your thoughts on how much progress the two presidents made in bridging the gap in their thinking about North Korea.

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Well, I think significant progress has already been made over the last three months with the US and China leading the effort in the UN Security Council. Two significant resolutions have been passed placing significant sanctions on North Korea, and those were passed unanimously.

Also, I have been to Jilin Province to Tumen on the border with North Korea, and I have seen personally that China is working to enforce the sanctions. And there was discussion about additional pressure that can be placed to convince North Korea they need to change their direction and stop these provocations. So I think it was a very frank and positive discussion about the progress that’s been made, but more needs to be done.

Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Okay. Thank you, sir. Now we’ll open up to other questions.

Question: Hello, Mr. Ambassador. I’m Harry from The Paper. Can you hear me?

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Yes, I can hear you.

Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Yeah.

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Go ahead.

Question: Oh, thank you for taking our interview. I have a very general question to you. What’s your opinion towards the achievements of President Trump’s visit to China, and which sectors specifically do you think could be the new good point or momentum in China-U.S. relations after this visit? And, also, could you please say some words about our Chinese special Forbidden City arrangement for President Trump? Thank you. Thank you very much.

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Well, first of all I would say the Chinese were very great hosts and did an outstanding job of making the president and his entire party feel very warmly welcome. I personally was with the president at the Forbidden City and also, of course, at the -- the Great Hall of the People. And you couldn’t help but be very impressed with that.

With regard to the areas of progress, obviously, the signing of over 250 billion dollars’ worth of deals I think is very significant. Also, among the deals were some involving energy, a big one that’s important to Alaska that has to do with LNG; another one with shale gas from West Virginia. So -- but there’s also other ones that are involving automobiles and airplanes and many other sectors.

So, also, the Chinese have announced their intention to give -- to open up opportunities for investment for banks and insurance companies and financial institutions. Right now there’s a –

Question: Yeah.

Ambassador Terry Branstad: – restriction that a bank cannot own more than 49%. This would –

Question: Yeah.

Ambassador Terry Branstad: – raise it to 51%. And I think –

Question: 51; yeah. Yeah.

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Yeah. And then phase it out over the three next years, and it does – similarly, over I think five years for insurance companies. So these are positive developments, and so I see progress in a number of sectors.

Question: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you for taking our interview.

Ambassador Terry Branstad: You’re welcome.

Question: Good afternoon, Ambassador. I’m [Inaudible] from VnExpress, a Vietnamese online newspaper. I want to ask what the US thinks of the result of President Trump’s vis -- visit to Vietnam?

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Well, first of all, I’m not with the president in Vietnam. I am the ambassador to China. So I -- I think you’re going to have -- have to ask the ambassador in Vietnam while he’s there.

Question: Yeah.

Ambassador Terry Branstad: He is there at the meeting now in -- in Vietnam. So my focus has been on the China portion of his visit.

Question: Okay. So my -- another question regarding to Mr. President, your visit to China. He was very warmly greeted there, but there are a few still disagreement in terms of trade balance and in terms of North Korea issue. So what do you com -- how do you comment on that?

Ambassador Terry Branstad: I believe progress was made on both of those issues. The biggest one, and I’ve already addressed this, is North Korea in that fact that both China and the United States have supported the UN Security Council Resolutions that have been passed recently. They’re now working diligently to enforce those restrictions. And that we’re looking at additional things that can be done to place pressure on North Korea to abandon their provocative program of -- their nuclear programs and guided missiles.

Also, with regard to trade, the president was accompanied by a large delegation of business leaders, and over 250 billion dollars’ worth of deals were signed. And we’re hopeful that this will indicate an opportunity to reduce the trade deficit. Of course, we’re still asking China to do more on North Korea, and to [speakerphone cuts out] relations between our two countries.

Question: Thank you so much, Ambassador.

Ambassador Terry Branstad: You’re welcome.

Question: Hello, Mr. Ambassador. I’m [Inaudible] from RAPPLER in the Philippines. I’m interested to know if President Trump raised the issue of the South China Sea dispute in China. And my second question is about the president – President Trump’s statements in China, how do these reflect the priorities of the United States in the Asia-Pacific?

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Well, let me start by addressing the issue of the South China Sea. The two sides did have a candid discussion on regional and maritime security. President Trump underscored the critical importance of the peaceful resolution of the unimpeded lawful commerce and respect for international law in both the East and South China Sea, including freedom of navigation and overflight and the lawful uses of the sea.

He raised concerns about construction and militarisation of outposts in the South China Sea, and that there should be no more of that type of activity

I think there was a second part to your question?

Question: Yes, Mr. Ambassador. The second part of my question is: actually in relation to his trip also to ASEAN, to the Philippines, I wanted to know how his statements in China are reflective of the United States’ priorities in the Asia-Pacific?

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Well, I would say the president is very interested in maintaining a strong American president -- presence in the whole Pacific and Indian Ocean area. This is the fastest growing part of the world. The United States has long been actively involved in this area, and we’re very interested in working with all the countries in this Indo-Pacific area.

We want to make sure that there’s opportunity for trade and free commerce throughout the entire area of the world. And this is a big and growing part of America -- a big and a growing part of the world, and America is very interested in being actively involved.

And that, I think, is why the president is taking this unprecedented long -- and the first time in I think over a quarter of a century that an America president has taken this long a trip to the -- this region. As you know, he’s already been in Japan and South Korea and China. He’s now [speakerphone cuts out] going to the Philippines before he heads back to the United States.

Question: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.

Ms. Mary Beth Polley: And I’m going to go ahead and read out a question from [Inaudible], who also actively acts on his behalf. He asked: Looking at -- how do you evaluate the relationship and the cooperation between the United States and China in the future following this visit?

Ambassador Terry Branstad: I am encouraged about the personal relationship the two leaders are building that started with the meeting in Florida last April. They also had a meeting in Hamburg, and now they’ve had nine telephone calls. And the meeting here in Beijing I think was extraordinary.

And -- and they had very frank discussions on a number of topics, obviously, the North Korean threat, the trade imbalance; but other issues like combatting drugs and the collaboration between the two countries in dealing with fentanyl, which is a dangerous drug that has caused a lot of death, and the work of identifying additional derivatives that are being developed of this illegal drug that are deadly. And there’s a commitment to work together to address this, and we’re hopeful we’ll see more progress on that, a number of other issues, as well.

This is all about saving American lives. We’ve had a lot of people that have died because of -- of fentanyl. This issue was brought to my attention when I went to the confirmation process with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

So I’m encouraged from what I’ve learned since I got here to China, is there’s a lot more collaboration than I was aware of before I arrived. And I believe it is a result of the president’s meeting with President Xi and the other parties on both sides that we’re going to see additional action and collaboration in combatting this dangerous threat to human life in the United States and throughout the world.

Question: Good afternoon.

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Yes.

Question: Yeah. Can you hear me?

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Yes.

Question: Yeah. [Inaudible] I have a question for you. [Inaudible]

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Mary Beth, can you repeat? I didn’t –

Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Sure. I think –

Ambassador Terry Branstad: -- totally understand the question.

Ms. Mary Beth Polley: -- I think it was a -- another question about North Korea, just asking again about the progress that was made between the US and China on the issue of North Korea.

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Well, first of all, I -- I will repeat that both countries have strongly supported the -- the UN Security Council Resolutions, and there is no disagreement on what needs to be done with regard to North Korea. Both countries want to see a denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and oppose the provocative acts that have taken place from the regime, including the nuclear tests.

In fact, I was in Jilin Province which borders on North Korea. They felt the impact of that nuclear test, and that was not well received in China.

And so both countries are concerned, interested in additional things that we -- can be made to make pressure on North Korea, convince them to come to the bargaining table and stop any additional nuclear tests or missile launches.

Question: Yes, thank you. One more question. How many [Inaudible] between US and China yesterday? Can you tell me?

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Oh, I –

Ms. Mary Beth Polley: You’re asking how many deals were signed?

Ambassador Terry Branstad: I think there were 20-some agreements that were signed.

Question: Uh-huh.

Ambassador Terry Branstad: There were 15 of them that the two presidents witnessed, but there were additional ones in addition to that. And I -- I -- I think the number was about 28.

Question: Yes. Thank you. Can I ask one more question?

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Go ahead.

Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Sure.

Question: Yes. What do you think about China’s [Inaudible] and unfair trade deal in past years?

Ambassador Terry Branstad: What – what –

Ms. Mary Beth Polley: I’m sorry. Do you – are you asking –

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Would you repeat that? I didn’t –

Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Sure.

Question: What do you think about China’s very one side and unfair trade deals in past years? Is it fair?

Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Are you asking about the unfair -- unfair -- the perception that China’s trade -- the trade imbalance is unfair and one sided; correct?

Question: Yes.

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Well, I think what the president said is that we need to address some of the impediments and barriers that China has placed on investment -- on trade. The United States market is very open and Chinese companies can invest in the United States, but in many cases American companies cannot do the same here. And those are the areas that we want to focus on. We want it to be open, fair, and reciprocal.

Question: Yeah. Thank you for your answer. Have a nice day, Ambassador. Thank you.

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Thank you.

Question: Good morning, Ambassador

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Good morning.

Question: Yes, this is [Inaudible] from GMA Network in Manila, Philippines. I am just curious, sir, to know if there has been any discussion made between the two presidents regarding South China Sea and code of conduct [Inaudible].

Alongside President Trump’s visits there in China, we’re on -- we’re on the heels of starting the ASEAN summit that the Philippines is hosting starting tomorrow with the arrival of leaders. Is there any -- has there been any discussion regarding South China Sea? Thank you.

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Yes. Yes, there was discussion between the two sides about the South China Sea; it was very candid, on regional and maritime security.

President Trump underscored the critical importance of a peaceful resolution of disputes, unimpeded lawful commerce, and respect for international law in the South China Sea, including freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea. He raised concerns about construction and militarisation of outposts in the South China Sea.

Also, the president will be coming to the Philippines to participate in the discussions that are going to be occurring there. He left here this morning to go to South Vietnam -- or to Vietnam, and he is going from Vietnam [speakerphone cuts out] for that ASEAN meeting.

Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Okay. Thank you, sir. I think we have time for one last question.

Question: Yes, my last question to the -- Mr. Ambassador is that: Did President Trump in his speech in -- he -- he said, like, he want to bilateral [Inaudible] trade deal and discussion with countries in Indo-Asia-Pacific. So will US abandon multi -- multilateral institutions?

Ambassador Terry Branstad: No, I think what the president is saying is we want to work with all countries in this region. And we’re interested in fair and balanced and reciprocal trade opportunities, and that he is very interested in encouraging and participating in those, not only with China, but with other countries in this entire Indo-Pacific region of the world.

This is the fastest growing region of the world. There are some great opportunities here. And we want to make sure that American companies and American interests are represented.

Question: Thank you, Ambassador. I have no more questions. Thank you for your answer.

Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Thank you-all.

Ambassador Terry Branstad: Okay.

Ms. Mary Beth Polley: And thank you-all so much for joining us. And Ambassador Branstad, again, a really warm thank you for taking the time to do this. I know you have had an intense couple of days on this trip and time before that.

Is there anything you want to add before we close the call?

Ambassador Terry Branstad: I just want to say it was obviously a great honor for me as the American ambassador to have the President of the United States come here. I was just very pleased with the very warm welcome that the president and his large party received from President Xi Jinping and his spouse and the Chinese leaders.

I think it was a very significant and historic event, not only the president’s state visit, but also the fact that he was accompanied by a large delegation of American businesses. And the two presidents witnessed a number of contracts being signed; that we’re very hopeful that this will lead to reduction of the trade deficit and more openness in this market, as well as additional [speakerphone cuts out] the North Korean threat.

Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Great. Thank you so much, Ambassador Branstad. And thank you-all for joining us. We’ll let you know when the next call will be. And, Ambassador Branstad, I hope you can get some rest now. Thank you-all.

Ambassador Terry Branstad: I’m going to see the First lady off and – at the airport, but after that I hopefully will get some rest. Thank you very much.

Ms. Mary Beth Polley: Thank you.