March 9th, 2011
01:14 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama made it official today when he announced the expected nomination of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to become the next U.S. ambassador to China.
Locke, a former governor of Washington, was the nation's first Chinese American governor and commerce secretary, and will be the first to serve as ambassador to China.
In remarks to reporters in the White House Diplomatic Room, President Obama highlighted Locke's family ties to the country.
"More than 100 years ago, Gary’s grandfather left China on a steamship bound for America, where he worked as a domestic servant in Washington State," Obama said. "A century later, his grandson will return to China as America’s top diplomat."
Locke also spoke of his family, and recalled his father's pride when he was sworn in as Commerce Secretary.
"Sadly, Dad passed away this past January. But I know that if he were still alive, it would be one of his proudest moments to see his son named as the United States ambassador to his ancestral homeland," he said. "I'm going back to the birthplace of my grandfather, my father, my mom and her side of the family, and I'll be doing so as a devoted and passionate advocate for America, the country where I was born and raised."
As ambassador, Locke will have to deal with a whopping $273 billion trade deficit with China, and an often strained relationship between the two nations. Locke maintained his experience has prepared him for his new role.
"As Commerce Secretary, I’ve helped open up foreign markets for American businesses so they can create more jobs right here in America. And I’m eager to continue that work in China and to help you, Mr. President, manage one of America’s most critical and complex diplomatic, economic, and strategic relationships," Locke said.
If approved by the Senate, Locke will replace recently departed Jon Huntsman as ambassador.