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Obama Names Former Governor, China Expert to Head Commerce Department


The man who was the first Chinese-American governor of a U.S. state is President Barack Obama's latest choice to be Commerce Secretary. Former Washington governor Gary Locke is the third person Mr. Obama has nominated for the post.

President Obama's nominee to run the Commerce Department spent eight years leading a Pacific Rim state with close ties to Asia and a dependence on trade.

Mr. Obama says that as governor of Washington state, Gary Locke persuaded businesses to locate there and create jobs for the 21st century, "jobs in science and technology, agriculture and energy - jobs that pay well and can't be shipped overseas. That's what he did by establishing favorable markets abroad where Washington state's businesses could sell their products."

The president says he believes Locke can do the same for the country.

Locke says that if he is confirmed by the Senate, his Commerce Department will play a critical role in nurturing innovation, expanding global markets, protecting and managing ocean fisheries, and fostering economic growth.

"The Department of Commerce can and will help create the jobs and the economic vitality our nation needs," he said.

The Commerce Department oversees many aspects of international trade as well as oceans policy and the national census.

As he introduced his third nominee for Commerce Secretary, the president acknowledged the difficulties he had with the first two.

"Now, I'm sure it's not lost on anyone that we've tried this a couple of times. But I'm a big believer in keeping at something until you get it right. And Gary is the right man for this job," he said.

Mr. Obama's first choice for Commerce Secretary, Democratic New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, withdrew in January because of investigations of wrongdoing in his state's government. The president then nominated Republican Senator Judd Gregg, who accepted but later withdrew, saying he disagreed with Mr. Obama's policies.

Aside from Secretary of Commerce, there is one remaining opening in Mr. Obama's Cabinet - Secretary of Health and Human Services. Former Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Thomas Daschle was nominated, then withdrew because of tax problems.

If he is confirmed, Locke will be the first Chinese-American Commerce Secretary. He talked about his family's journey, over generations, from China to the halls of power in the United States.

"My grandfather came from China as a teenager and worked for a family as a houseboy in exchange for English lessons - just one mile from the Governor's Mansion. It took our family 100 years to move that one mile," he said.

Locke would be the third Asian-American in Mr. Obama's Cabinet, along with Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

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