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China Expert Rumored To Be Commerce Secretary

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Former Washington state Governor Gary Locke is reported to be President Obama's choice for Secretary of Commerce. If nominated and confirmed by the Senate, he would be Obama's third choice for that post, as New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., previously withdrew after being named.

Locke, the only Chinese-American to be elected governor of any state, is highly experienced in areas of international trade, and particularly trade with China. Since leaving office, he has been with the Seattle law firm of Davis Wright Tremain LLP, and one of his areas of operation is trade relations with China.

The Seattle-Post Intelligencer newspaper quoted Lloyd Hara, secretary of the Port of Seattle Commission, saying: "Gary has been working hard on promoting international trade, especially in China. He is well-liked in China, knows Pres. Hu Jintao and is well-connected."

Joe Borich, president of the Washington State China Relations Council, says Locke is "close to rock star status in China."

Neither Locke nor Obama administration officials have confirmed the nomination on the record, but the plan has been leaked by some government sources.

If nominated and confirmed, Locke will play a major role in President Obama's pledge to address a number of trade problems with China. The president has said China must change some of its trade policies, including export subsidies and currency manipulation, and he plans to use "all diplomatic means at my disposal to induce China to make changes."

February 24, 2009