President Obama named Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be the next U.S. ambassador to China, tapping the cabinet member to represent American interests with the country’s largest trading partner in Asia.
Locke, if confirmed by the Senate, would replace Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor who recently resigned as the envoy to China and is weighing a 2012 presidential run against Obama.
As Commerce secretary, Locke was involved in helping shape and promote U.S. trade policy, including the president's National Export Initiative to double U.S. exports over five years. A Chinese-American, Locke was formerly governor of Washington, where he doubled the state's exports to China.
Under Locke, Obama said the Commerce Department "led an historic number of trade missions that helped promote American businesses and support American jobs. He's overseen an increase in American exports, and particularly exports to China, a country we recently signed trade deals with that will support 235,000 American jobs."
China in 2010 was the second-largest U.S. trade partner in the value of two-way trade in goods, behind only Canada. It was the largest supplier of imports to the U.S. market, and the third-largest buyer of U.S. exports after Canada and Mexico.
"Our relationship with China is one of the most critical of the 21st Century," Obama said. "Over the last two years we worked hard to build a relationship that serves our national interest - addressing global security issues and expanding opportunities for American companies and American workers. Continued cooperation between our countries will be good for America, it will be good for China, and it will be good for the world."
He also said that when Locke is in Beijing "I know that American companies will be able to count on him to represent their interests in front of China's top leaders."
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