Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be named ambassador to China

Rob Schmitz and Gregory Warner Mar 8, 2011

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be named ambassador to China

Rob Schmitz and Gregory Warner Mar 8, 2011


STEVE CHIOTAKIS: President Obama today is expected to nominate Gary Locke to the post of U.S. ambassador to China. He’s been Commerce Secretary since Mr. Obama took office.

Marketplace’s Gregory Warner is with us live this morning with the latest on this story. Good morning Gregory.

GREGORY WARNER: Good morning?

CHIOTAKIS: Why did Locke? Why did he get this job?

WARNER: Gary Locke is one of the highest ranking Chinese Americans in the administration. He’s also the ex-governor of Washington state, said to be “the most trade-dependent state.” Boeing’s manufacturing base is there. Also Microsoft. Apple farmers, of course and other exporters. So Locke made a number of trips to China for trade relations with Washington.

Now he’ll be representing a different Washington, but trade will still be the tune he’s singing.

CHIOTAKIS: All right — the tune he’s singing. What notes issues will he be dealing with over the next few years?

WARNER: Basically Locke’s message to China as ambassador is the same thing he said as governor which is “buy more of our stuff.” And you don’t have to take my word for it. I called professor Patrick Chovanec at his home in Beijing — he teaches U.S. China business relations.

CHOVANEC: The U.S. is interested in China becoming more of a consuming nation not just a producing nation. And the message that the U.S. has for China is that that will be good for China.

And that’s the message of course that Gary Locke will be carrying over as ambassador.

CHIOTAKIS: Marketplace’s Gregory Warner. Thanks.

WARNER: Thanks a lot.


JEREMY HOBSON: Today, President Obama is expected to nominate Commerce Secretary Gary Locke as the next ambassador to Beijing. Locke would replace Jon Huntsman and would be the first Chinese-American to serve in the post. How is the news going over in China?

Marketplace’s Rob Schmitz has that now from Shanghai.

ROB SCHMITZ: The U.S. ambassador to China is a tricky post. You’re in charge of managing what is arguably the most important economic relationship for the U.S., yet a difficult one — you have to hold a smile while politely asking Chinese officials for the hundredth time to raise the value of their currency. Or crack down on pirated DVDs. Or level the playing field for American businesses in China.

This job is not for just anyone.

WU XINBO: I cannot imagine there would be a better nomination than this one.

Wu Xinbo is a professor at Fudan University. He says, for starters, the Chinese public will be surprised and pleased the new U.S. ambassador has a Chinese face and grew up speaking a dialect of Chinese.

WU XINBO: They will think that as an American-Chinese, they should have a better understanding of China, Chinese society, and it’s history.

Wu says Chinese officials will also be happy. Not only does Locke’s experience as Commerce Secretary give him the economic know-how, but serving on President Obama’s cabinet shows he’ll be able to deliver a message from Beijing straight to the White House.

In Shanghai, I’m Rob Schmitz, for Marketplace.

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