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Trump wasn't soft with Xi Jinping on trade gap, says US ambassador to China

  • "I would say that discussions were candid and frank and the chemistry between the presidents was good," Ambassador Terry Branstad told CNBC on Wednesday
  • Branstad's comments refer to a high-profile visit by Trump to China in November during his first visit to Asia as president
  • There was some criticism that Trump was too "soft" on China during the visit

The U.S. ambassador to China has defended President Donald Trump's stance towards the Asian nation during his recent visit, amid criticism that the U.S president was too soft on trade imbalances between the two superpowers.

"I would say that discussions were candid and frank and the chemistry between the presidents was good," Ambassador Terry Branstad told CNBC on Wednesday, although he conceded there were still trade imbalances.

"We want a fair reciprocal trade relationship and it hasn't been fair for a long time and the president brought that up and he was very candid and very direct. I think the Chinese were a little surprised because this president has been much more direct in how he's approached that but we also saw some significant deals that were reached," he said.

Branstad's comments refer to a high-profile visit by Trump to China in November during his first visit to Asia as president.

The visit was deemed a success with 37 major deals signed between Chinese and U.S. companies, totaling more than $250 billion. Caterpillar, Boeing, and Goldman Sachs were among the companies that made deals with the country.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that the deals can provide a "solid foundation for a stronger relationship that is more free, fair, and reciprocal between the U.S. and China."

There was some criticism that Trump was too "soft" on China during the visit. Some commentators highlight that Trump's meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping concluded without China making any known commitment on the trade deficit between the two countries.

But Branstad said that discussions between Trump and Xi Jinping were "very dir

US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017.

ect and frank" and focused on "difficult issues such as the threat from North Korea, the imbalances in trade and also the problem of the illegal drug Fentanyl (an opiod pain medication) getting to the U.S."

"I think the Chinese really wanted to make a good impression and I think the president was very pleased by the reception he received," he added.

"These are the two biggest economies in the world and it's important that we work together and if we can meet these challenges it benefits the whole world," Branstad said.

The ambassador said China was going to up more opportunities to U.S. businesses in China's financial services and insurance sectors, and beyond.

"There's a lot of other areas like pharmaceuticals and medical devices where I think we could do some things that would really help the people in China, the consumers, the patients here, and also reduce the trade deficit as well," he said.

—CNBC's Lori Ann LaRocco contributed reporting to this story.