President-elect Donald Trump has offered the key post of U.S. Ambassador to China to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, two GOP sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Fox News early Wednesday.
Branstad met with Trump at Trump Tower in New York Tuesday afternoon.
When reporters asked Branstad if Trump had offered him a job following their meeting, the governor said he couldn’t comment, but was proud he supported Trump and was excited about a Trump presidency and the “quality of the people that he’s attracting to the Cabinet.”
Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence will hold a “Thank You” rally for supporters in Des Moines on Thursday. In last month’s presidential election, Iowa voters backed the Republican ticket for just the second time since 1984.
Branstad, 70, was an early and staunch supporter of Trump, and his son, Eric, served as the state director for Trump’s campaign in Iowa.
If Branstad accepts the role, he would assume the post at a pivotal moment in U.S-China relations, following Trump’s Dec. 2 phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
The conversation broke nearly four decades of U.S. diplomatic protocol. Trump followed that with a series of Twitter posts over the weekend challenging China’s trade and military policies.
As a presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly accused China of manipulating its currency and trying to “rape our country” with unfair trade policies.
Bloomberg reported that Branstad has a longstanding relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The pair first met in 1985, when Xi, then a provincial agricultural official, visited Iowa.
More recently, Brandstad gave a dinner for Xi in Des Moines in 2012 and has visited China four times in the past seven years.
At a campaign rally in Sioux City Nov. 6, Trump called Branstad up the stage, saying the governor “would be our prime candidate to take care of China.”
Trump has pledged to be more “unpredictable” on the world stage, billing the approach as a much-needed change from President Barack Obama’s deliberative style and public forecasting about U.S. policy. But Trump’s unpredictability is likely to unnerve both allies and adversaries, leaving glaring questions about whether the foreign policy novice is carrying out planned strategies or acting on impulse.
China’s authoritarian government likes predictability in its dealings with other nations, particularly the United States. The U.S. and China are the world’s two largest economies with bilateral trade in goods and services reaching nearly $660 billion last year.
While there have been sharp differences between Beijing and Washington on China’s island building in the South China Sea and over alleged Chinese cybertheft of U.S. commercial secrets, the two powers have cooperated effectively on climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.
Fox News’ Serafin Gomez and the Associated Press contributed to this report.