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U.S. Commerce Minister Pick Pro-China Business

Posted by: Dexter Roberts on February 26, 2009

It’s news certain to please the policy chiefs of Beijing. Yesterday, Obama announced he intends to appoint 59-year-old Gary Locke, the first and only Chinese-American to serve as governor in the U.S., as the next U.S. commerce minister. Locke is a former two-term Democratic Governor of Washington state.

Locke, the son of Chinese immigrants who ran a restaurant and grocery in Seattle, has close relations with China going back many years and is known as a centrist, pro-trade Democrat (by some estimates, one-third of jobs in Washington are tied to international trade). As governor, he led multiple trade missions to the mainland and opened a state trade office in Guangzhou. After vacating the governor’s seat, Locke helped arrange a visit to Seattle by the Chinese president Hu Jintao in 2006. And last summer, Locke joined in the controversial Olympic Torch run, carrying the torch in China on one of its final legs before Beijing.

The news about Locke comes as Beijing grows increasingly nervous that trade protectionism, including from the U.S., may target Chinese exports. Speaking in an interview with Xinhua on Wednesday, Chinese trade minister Chen Deming warned: “No country can escape the global financial crisis and economic downturn. Only through opening markets can we solve the problem.” Chen is heading a delegation of Chinese businesses on a four nation buying tour of Europe that includes stops in Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and Britain. “China cannot save the world, but China will show that it will be able to keep its economy in shape, and that will be a big contribution to the world,” Chen said in the Xinhua interview. “China will stand against protectionism and remain committed to open market in trade and investment.”

“Our nation’s economic success is tied directly to America continuing to lead in technology and innovation and in exporting those products, services and ideas to markets around the globe,” Locke said after the announcement by Obama on Wednesday, according to Reuters. But despite the pro-trade pronouncements from both sides of the Pacific, job losses and failing businesses could well spur a wave of protectionism ahead, predict many watchers of the Sino-U.S. relationship. China perhaps should not get its hopes up just yet.

Reader Comments


February 27, 2009 3:03 AM

Hypocrisy! It's been China more than any other nation being taken to and thrashed at the WTO for all the dumping, subsidizing, pirating, selective taxing directed at western competitors. All in recent times!


February 27, 2009 4:22 AM

Gary Locke will be an excellent choice. He will be able to give message the world, global trade is a win win situation. At the same time, American companies can export more products to the rest of the world.


February 27, 2009 5:53 AM

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



February 27, 2009 11:48 AM

Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Thanks a lot.

February 27, 2009 2:11 PM

I agree with you Steve, that he will spread the positive message about global trade. He understands the political and socioeconomic climate there, and will be a great asset to those American companies doing business in China.


February 27, 2009 4:10 PM

@Maltwhiskman, before you spelled out accusations, I advise you had a chance to visit grocery stores, shopping malls in China…those places are packed with international brands, and many, many of them are American brand items, from cosmetics, snakes to electronic appliances. U.S. manufactures had moved to there in the past to take advantage over China’s cheaper labor for export manufacturing, but now they are also selling the products to China market. There is also a lot of protectionism sentiment floating among the young in China due to perception of receding domestic market to foreign competitors. Do you math, which party have been riding on bigger benefit on free trade?


March 2, 2009 4:07 PM

I am disappointed by this choice if it means that Locke will simply continue the "free trade" policies of the last few decades. Trade certainly can be a positive force, but the current types of agreements the US supports are pro-business and often work against communities, human rights, and the environment. We need someone who is able to weigh these different interests and not blindly assume that "all trade is good" - something that President Obama has warned against. We need someone who is ready to really re-evaluate the kind of trade policy this country supports - the economic crisis shows that we need fair trade that benefits everyone - not free trade that weakens the middle class and contributes to debt and economic crises.

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