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Americas

Obama nominates Gov. Locke for commerce secretary

Latest update : 2009-02-26

President Barack Obama nominated Gary Locke (pictured), the first Chinese-American US governor, as commerce secretary. Two earlier candidates for the post were forced to withdraw from consideration amid controversy.

AFP - President Barack Obama has nominated Gary Locke, the first US Chinese-American governor, for Commerce Secretary.


Locke, a two-time governor of Washington State -- on America's pacific north west -- has been described by a senior US official as the "likely" candidate for the job.
   
The Obama administration will hope it is third time lucky to fill the trade post, after two high-profile candidates stepped aside amid controversy.
   
If confirmed, Locke, a Democrat, would be the third Asian-American in Obama's cabinet after the selection of Steven Chu as Energy Secretary and Eric Shinseki at Veterans' Affairs.  
   
Born into an immigrant family, his grandfather arrived to the United States almost a century ago by steamship and worked in Seattle as a servant.
   
His family remained in the Seattle area, with the now 59-year old Locke spending his formative years living in Seattle's Yesler Terrace -- America's first racially-integrated housing project.
   
It is a background that may inform his future role overseeing the next decennial census in 2010, which many Democrats believe undercounts immigrants, minorities and low-income Americans.
   
The son of a grocery store owner, Locke earned a bachelors degree in political science from the prestigious Yale University, thanks to a combination of "part-time jobs, financial aid and scholarships," according to his web site.
   
He later served as a deputy county prosecutor before being elected to Washington State's House of Representatives.
   
Between 1989 and 1994 he served as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and was responsible for overseeing the state budget. In 1996, he was elected governor with 58 percent of the vote.
   
While at the governor's mansion he became known for boosting trade with China and Taiwan, embarking on a series of trade missions, meeting then president Jiang Zemin and building ties with current president Hu Jintao.
   
He also established a trade representative in Guangzhou -- a booming provincial capital in southern China.
   
If confirmed by the US Senate, those ties will likely prove invaluable as Washington and Beijing continue to iron out trade disputes caused by China's meteoric rise.
   
While governor, Locke was seen as a rising star of the Democratic party, giving the party's response to then president George W Bush's 2003 State of the Union address, highlighting "education, hard work, responsibility and family," as his sustaining values.
   
He is married to Mona Lee Locke who was once a TV reporter and who focused on education issues as Washington's first lady. The couple have three children.
   
A fiscal conservative, Locke described the Bush tax-cuts -- which reduced levies on families earning more than 250,000 dollars a year -- as "irresponsible" and advocated tax relief for the middle class.
   
Since leaving office Locke has retained close ties with China. He remains a member of the Committee of 100, a group of prominent Chinese-Americans who promote links between the United States and "greater China."
   
He is currently a partner at the Davis, Wright, Tremaine law firm, where he co-chairs its China practice and is "active in the firm's governmental relations practice," according to the Committee of 100.
 

Date created : 2009-02-25

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