US President Donald Trump said he is exploring several locations to sign the first phase of a trade agreement with China, including Iowa.
“Looking at a different couple of locations,” Trump told reporters Friday at the White House. “It could even be in Iowa.”
Trump said that the two nations are actively discussing plans and making a lot of progress. The US and China are searching for a new site for a signing ceremony after the cancellation of this month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Chile because of unrest there. It’s not clear if Chinese President Xi Jinping would agree to sign the deal in the U.S.
“I like to get deals done first,” Trump said, “I would do it in the U.S.,” adding that Xi “would too.”
Discussions are underway over holding the signing in Iowa, an idea that just surfaced this week, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Another person said an Iowa summit was discussed back in the spring, but people on the National Security Council and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer were opposed because they thought it might appear to be just an agricultural purchase agreement that lacks structural reforms.
Xi has long had a soft spot for the Hawkeye State. He first visited in 1985 when he led a delegation from Hebei province to look at farming methods and received the key to the city of Muscatine. He also visited in 2012, a visit that is the basis of his relationship with Terry Branstad, the former governor of Iowa and now US ambassador to China.
Iowa would also make sense as Trump is eager to highlight the agricultural purchases that are the cornerstone of his “phase one” deal. Iowa is a major producer of pork and soybeans, two commodities that China is expected to buy large quantities of.
And the state carries significant political importance as the 2020 election nears. Trump won Iowa in 2016 after it went to Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.
Chinese officials have privately cast doubt about reaching a comprehensive trade agreement with the U.S. The U.S. and China are still far apart on some of the thorniest issues in their trading relationship.
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