President Obama Will Nominate Commerce Secretary Locke as US Ambassador to China

ABC News has learned that President Obama intends to nominate Commerce Secretary Gary Locke as his next Ambassador to China.

Locke is the first Chinese-American to be Secretary of Commerce. The former two-term governor of Washington state, Locke’s father and maternal grandfather emigrated from China to Seattle. As a partner in the Seattle office of the international law firm, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Locke co-chaired the firm's China practice.

“The president asked him to take this job because Locke had the experience and relationships necessary to take on this key post,” a senior administration official tells ABC News. “With more than two decades of experience dealing with China, Gary Locke has forged important relationships with China’s top political leadership. There is simply no one better positioned to advocate for American interests there and build on a bilateral relationship critical for the 21st century.” The official says that “as a Pacific Rim governor and Commerce Secretary he helped lead an historic increase in trade with China. As Commerce Secretary, Locke has delivered on the president’s goal of doubling U.S. exports in the next five years (up 17 percent in 2010), led the push for patent and export control reforms and presided over a Census count that came in 25 percent under budget – returning more than $2 billion to the Treasury.”

President Obama has had some interesting moments with his outgoing Ambassador to China, to say the least.

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman, R-Utah, who lived in China as a young Mormon missionary, was appointed amidst much fanfare about bipartisanship and politics ending at the water’s edge, but he will be leaving that post in April and returning to the U.S. to explore a run for president against his current boss.

The White House seems to be trying to have as much fun as possible as they can with Huntsman’s possible andidacy. Just yesterday, White House chief of staff Bill Daley, asked about Huntsman, said, “his support of the Obama administration, his support of the president, the things he did on behalf of this administration and the closeness in which he worked with the president is most appreciated. And I'm sure he'll talk about that in the primaries.”

At a Gridiron dinner in January, Daley joked that President Obama "has no hard feelings” about a Huntsman run, a White House source told ABC News. "He just did an interview with the Tea Party Express about how integral he has been to the success of the Obama administration,” Daley joked.

President Obama himself, at an event with Chinese President Hu Jintao, got into the act, saying “I couldn’t be happier with the ambassador’s service, and I’m sure he will be very successful in whatever endeavors he chooses in the future.”

With a mischievious smile, the president added: "“And I’m sure that him having worked so well with me will be a great asset in any Republican primary.”

At the State Dinner for President Hu, ABC News producer Jon Garcia asked Huntsman about a possible run, to which he said “we are loyal to our country and our president.”

Locke was President Obama’s third choice to be Commerce Secretary, after then-New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and then-Sen. Judd Gregg, R-NH, withdrew their names from consideration.

-Jake Tapper

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