Sec. Gary Locke Nominated for Ambassador to China

President Obama nominated Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be the new U.S. ambassador to China. The post is open after former Utah governor Jon Huntsman (R) announced he would resign earlier this year amidst speculation that he may seek the Republican presidential nomination. Huntsman will officially step down on April 30. Locke, past governor of Washington, will be the first Chinese-American to hold the ambassadorship if confirmed by the Senate. 

Locke’s appointment will require approval by the Senate, who will likely use the confirmation process to drill Locke about the Obama administration’s policies toward China. Locke has close economic ties with China due to big corporate residents such as Boeing Co. and Microsoft Corp, both located in Washington state.

Locke was unanimously confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of Commerce, and the White House said it expects a successful confirmation process for his new post.

Locke has criticized China for not honoring promises to open its market. In February, he said that U.S. companies had a variety of concerns about China’s trade practices and he chided China for not delivering on its promises.

During the White House announcement, Locke said: “As Commerce Secretary, I’ve helped open up foreign markets for American businesses so they can create more jobs right here in America…I’m eager to continue that work in China and to help you, Mr. President, manage one of America’s most critical and complex diplomatic, economic, and strategic relationships.”

The White House did not offer a timetable for replacing Locke at Commerce or comment on potential successors. However, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, outgoing Google Inc. Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, Symantec Corp. chairman John Thompson, former Pfizer Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Kindler, and Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, all are reportedly being considered.