AAP staff report
Washington D.C. (March 9, 2011) – President Barack Obama named Gary Locke as the next United States Ambassador to the Peoples Republic of China, late Wednesday morning during a White House press conference held in the Diplomatic Reception Room. Locke replaces Ambassador John Huntsman, who was appointed in April 2009, and according to the President, has decided to step down. Obama said Huntsman has helped to strengthen a critical relationship with the Chinese government and the Chinese people.
Obama said he could think of no one more qualified to replace Huntsman than Locke, the grandson of a steamboat worker in China, who was present with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.
As the first Chinese-American governor, Obama said Locke worked tirelessly to attract jobs and businesses to Washington State, and he doubled exports to China – which prompted his decision to appoint Locke as Commerce Secretary to advocate on a national level and as a point person for the National Export Initiative.
Locke currently serves as the Secretary of Commerce, and recently completed a trade mission to India. Obama said Locke is of the most respected and admired public servants, overseeing an increase in American exports and presided over a census that “ended on time and under budget.”
Locke took the podium and said he was “deeply honored and humbled to be chosen as your Ambassador to China.”
He told the story of his grandfather who came to America a century ago to work as a houseboy in Washington State in exchange for English lessons. His father arrived years later to become a member of the Greatest Generation, enlisting in the U.S. Army and taking part in the Normandy invasion and the march to Berlin. He returned to Washington State to raise a family and build a small business in Seattle.
“My father never imagined that his child would one day serve America as the Secretary of Commerce,” said Locke. “He was beaming with pride the day you presided over my swearing-in ceremony.
“Sadly, Dad passed away this January. But I know that if he were still alive, it would be one of his proudest moments to see his son named as the U.S. Ambassador to our ancestral homeland.”
Locke said he would return to the birthplace of his grandfather and father, as a devoted and passionate advocate for America, the country where he was born and raised. As Commerce Secretary, he helped open up foreign markets for American businesses so they can create jobs right here in America. Now he is eager to continue that work in China, and manage one of the most critical and complex diplomatic, economic and strategic relationships.
“I’m excited to take on this new challenge, as is my wife Mona and our three children,” he added. “…It is a privilege and a solemn responsibility to serve you and the American people as the next U.S. ambassador to China.”
Praise for President Obama’s Choice to Nominate Gary Locke to be Ambassador to China has come from around the nation.
John Frisbie, President, US-China Business Council, said Locke is a great choice as a former elected official, who understands how ordinary Americans view the relationship with China.
“With his background as secretary of Commerce, he understands that trade and investment ties with China are important to American jobs and economic prosperity,” said Frisbie. “Secretary Locke made China one of his top priorities as Commerce secretary. He is focused on results, measured by both export growth and solving market access issues, and he understands how China works. He will be a respected and effective US Ambassador to China.”
Jim McNerney, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO, The Boeing Company, applaud Obama’s decision given Locke’s experience as the Secretary of Commerce, the Governor of Washington State, and various positions in the private sector that will serve him well in helping to manage the United States’ important and complex relationship with China.
“While leading the Department of Commerce and serving on the President’s Export Promotion Cabinet, Secretary Locke has vigorously promoted the National Export Initiative, advocated for fair international trade policies, and initiated important reforms of export-control regulations,” said McNerney. “Upon confirmation, we look forward to Secretary Locke’s work as our next Ambassador in Beijing.”
Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO, The Coca-Cola Company and Chairman of the U.S.-China Business Council, said Locke’s leadership roles in business and government, combined with his recent success in strengthening U.S.-China commercial relations makes him ideally suited to be a strong and effective Ambassador to China.
“Over the long run, innovation, economic growth and diplomatic harmony are most effectively achieved by free and fair trade and open dialogue,” said Kent. “For these reasons, we are extremely pleased to see Secretary Locke nominated for this vital role.”
Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo, said it is good news and that he is very pleased.
“Over these past few years, I’ve traveled overseas with him and have been impressed with both his cooperative, business-friendly approach and his strong commitment to the critically important issue of creating good jobs,” said Nooyi.Robert A. Iger, President and CEO, The Walt Disney Company, said Locke’s leadership was crucial to the Department of Commerce’ focus on creating the kind of strong, supportive environment required for American businesses to thrive in the face of increasing global competition.
“I’m confident he’ll bring the same level of leadership and advocacy to his new role, representing the interests of our nation in China,” said Iger.
Jim Rogers, CEO, Duke Energy, said Locke has advanced our country’s relationship with China while serving as Commerce Secretary and his nomination as U.S Ambassador to China is an inspired choice.
“Locke’s personal China roots run deep and there is no one in the Administration as passionate about more aggressively developing trade and diplomatic relationships between our two nations,” said Rogers. “We saw Locke’s passion first-hand when we participated in his trade mission to China last year, and we are eager to continue to work with him after he is confirmed by the U.S. Senate as our new Ambassador to China.”
Bob Pisano, President and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., said Locke has a strong record in support of American workers and businesses whose livelihoods are dependent on exports – and has an outstanding record of championing intellectual property rights.
“As Ambassador to China, he will be an important advocate in a nation where the theft and illegal distribution of American movies, television shows, music, software and other forms of intellectual property is a major threat to American competitiveness,” said Pisano. “Likewise, he will help lead efforts to ensure that the Chinese marketplace is opened up to American products that face far too many restrictions. We look forward to working with Secretary Locke in his new role on these issues that are so critical to the film and television industry and its 2.4 million employees.”
Harold (Terry) McGraw III, Chairman, President and CEO, The McGraw-Hill Companies, said the business community is grateful to Gary Locke as a tireless advocate for American trade and exports, adding that he has brought a Governor’s discipline and sense of purpose to the job of Commerce Secretary and focused on improving commercial ties with our major trading partners such as China and India.
“Gary will be steadfast as Ambassador to China in promoting access for American companies and ensuring that fair trading conditions are met,” added. McGraw.
Robert Holleyman, President and CEO, Business Software Alliance, said Locke is an exceptionally well-qualified and respected choice, as an energetic and effective champion for US industry in general and for software companies and other copyright holders in particular.
“The software industry faces an enormous challenge with rampant piracy in China. Secretary Locke, working with President Obama, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, has succeeded in elevating the use of illegal software and other intellectual property concerns to the top of the bilateral economic agenda,” said Holleyman. “BSA looks forward to continuing to work with Secretary Locke to achieve progress through his new position.”
Wendell P. Weeks, Chairman and CEO, Corning Incorporated, said Locke has a unique combination of talent and experience to enhance the level of cooperation between the United States and China.
“As Governor of the nation’s most trade-dependant state and as the Secretary of Commerce, he has clearly developed an understanding of the complex economic and political forces that drive our bilateral relationship,” said Weeks. “And, he has an appreciation for Chinese culture that will certainly enable him to earn the confidence of his host government.”
Dave Cote, Chairman and CEO, Honeywell, said the appointment of Locke is an inspired choice of an action oriented Commerce Secretary.
“We need comprehensive and thoughtful engagement with the Chinese,” said Cote. “Locke’s experience in working through tough issues at Commerce and as Governor of Washington make him uniquely qualified for this role. He is well respected in China and here in the United States and I believe he is the right person for this role.”
Locke was elected Washington’s 21st governor in 1996, making him the first Chinese American governor in U.S. history and the first Asian American governor on the mainland. In 2000, Locke was overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term. He served as chair of the Democratic Governors Association and gave the Democratic response to the State of the Union address in 2003.
As the popular two-term governor of Washington, the nation’s most trade-dependent state, Locke broke down trade barriers around the world to advance American products. He worked closely with business, labor and government at all levels to successfully negotiate complex issues.
To open doors for Washington State businesses, Locke led 10 productive trade missions to Asia, Mexico and Europe, significantly expanding the sales of Washington products and services. He successfully fostered economic relations between China and Washington State. He also opened a Washington State trade office in Germany to advance trade relations with European countries.
Until his appointment as Commerce Secretary in early 2009, Locke worked for four years as a successful business adviser and partner in the Seattle office of the international law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP. He also co-chaired the firm’s China practice and is active in its governmental relations practice.
Locke and spouse Mona, have three children together, Emily, Dylan and Madeline.