Obama plans to tap Commerce secretary for China envoy

President Obama intends to nominate Commerce Secretary Gary Locke as the new U.S. ambassador to China, a White House official confirmed Monday evening.

If confirmed, Locke would replace Jon Huntsman, who is stepping down next month as he considers running for the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 2012.

Locke served two terms as governor of Washington, the first Chinese American elected to lead a state. He was the first Chinese American Commerce Secretary.

Locke, who would be the first Obama Cabinet secretary to step down, was the president’s third choice for the post. Then-New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew his name from consideration amid an investigation of his state administration. Obama’s second choice, Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, initially accepted the nomination but withdrew as he got cold feet about joining a Democratic administration.


Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, announced in January he would step down as ambassador on April 30. A formal announcement of Locke’s appointment, first reported by ABC News, is expected Tuesday.