Gary Locke -The Next US Ambassador to China?

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On March 7, reports surfaced that President Barack Obama was planning to nominate U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke as the U.S. Ambassador to China. The formal announcement of the nomination was made on March 9.

“I can think of nobody who is more qualified than Gary Locke,” said Obama. “More than 100 years ago, Gary’s grandfather left China on a steamship bound for America, where he worked as a domestic servant in Washington State. A century later, his grandson will return to China as America’s top diplomat.”

Locke was nominated by Obama for his current position as the U.S. Commerce Secretary in February 2009 and has played an important role in U.S. and China relations for the Obama administration.
Once confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Locke will be the first Chinese American to be U.S. Ambassador to China.

The position for U.S. Ambassador to China is vacant because current Ambassador Jon Huntsman submitted his resignation in January (it will take effect on April 30).

Huntsman, a former Republican governor of Utah, is considering a presidential run against Obama in 2012.

An ambassador’s job

A foreign ambassador acts as a liaison and representative for the president in the country the ambassador is posted in — in Locke’s case, China. His responsibilities will include enhancing economic, political, and social relationships between the United States and China. He will also be responsible for negotiating for the United States, creating possible business opportunities with China, and advising the president on matters relating to China. China’s economy has surpassed Japan’s and is now the world’s second largest. China is the second-largest U.S. trading partner after Canada.

Locke will deal with issues such as trade balance (China’s surplus and the U.S.’s $273 billion deficit), currency dispute, export control, and cleantech and environmental issues.

Locke’s qualifications

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, during his time as the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Locke oversaw a department that is charged with expanding the country’s broadband infrastructure, bringing economic development to communities hardest hit by the recession, and putting Americans to work under programs run by the Census, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

In his role as U.S. Commerce Secretary, Locke has been a central figure in Obama’s drive to double U.S. exports in the next five years.