Gary Locke Sworn in as Secretary of Commerce
The new secretary of commerce pledges to support economic recovery and put every part of the Department of Commerce to work on saving U.S. jobs and creating the jobs of the future.
On March 24, 2009, the U.S. Senate confirmed Gary Locke as the 36th secretary of Commerce. Locke was sworn in as secretary on March 26 in Seattle, Washington.
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|Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)
“I’m honored to take on this challenge and will work every day to make the Commerce Department an engine for improving our competitiveness, encouraging innovation, and creating jobs,” said Locke upon his confirmation.
Experience in Promoting Trade
The new secretary has wide-ranging experience in international trade. Locke was elected Washington’s 21st governor in 1996, and was subsequently reelected to a second term in 2000. He was the first Chinese American governor in U.S. history and the first Asian American governor in the contiguous 48 states.
During his tenure as governor, Locke helped open doors for Washington businesses by leading 10 trade missions to Asia, Mexico, and Europe, significantly expanding the sales of Washington products and services. He successfully fostered economic relations between China and Washington state. His visits are credited with introducing Washington companies to the Chinese market, thereby helping to more than double the state’s exports to China, to more than $5 billion per year. He also opened a Washington state trade office in Germany to advance economic relations with European countries.
Trade: the “Lifeblood of the Economy”
In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on March 18, Locke noted the importance of trade in general, and his experience with it as governor of Washington. “I hail from the ‘other Washington’ where trade is the lifeblood of our economy. We are the most trade-dependent state in the nation with more than one in four jobs in our state either directly or indirectly tied to trade. There has never been a more important time for this country to have strong trade partnerships around the world—partnerships that protect our national interests while opening the doors of prosperity to American business.”
The importance of enforcement of existing trade agreements as an element of U.S. trade policy was emphasized by Locke in his remarks before the Senate. “More than free trade, . . . I believe in fair trade. That means we must enforce our trade agreements and place a high value on environmental, labor, and safety standards. As a former prosecutor, I believe in enforcing the law. It is pointless to negotiate complex trade agreements if we don’t intend to enforce them.”
Facing Economic Challenges
While the United States currently faces serious economic challenges, Locke asserted that the country must be prepared for what lays ahead. “We must look over the horizon and prepare for the new economy that will emerge when this recession passes. Simply put, we must rebuild, retool, and reinvent our national strategies for sustained economic success.”
In his remarks to the Senate, Locke outlined five key tools for job growth and economic renewal that the Department of Commerce holds. Several have direct bearing on international trade, including:
- boosting exports by promoting U.S. products and working with U.S. businesses
- creating new, energy-efficient businesses and green jobs
- strengthening the nation’s ability to compete in a global economy
“My goal is simple,” said Locke, “to carry out the president’s plan for economic recovery by putting every part of the Department of Commerce single-mindedly to work on saving American jobs and creating the jobs of the future.”
President’s Trade Agenda: Making Trade Work for American Families
On February 29, 2009, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released The President’s Trade Policy Agenda. The document outlines six policy priorities that President Obama intends to pursue in the area of international trade:
• Support a rules-based trading system
• Advance the social accountability and political transparency of trade policy
• Make trade an important policy tool for achieving progress on national energy and environmental goals
• Make sure that trade agreements are addressing the major unresolved issues that are responsible for trade frictions
• Build on existing free trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties in a responsible and transparent manner
• Uphold our commitment to be a strong partner to developing countries, especially the poorest developing countries
The report notes that “our agenda is to combine the best elements of previous trade policies, especially a rules-based system of global trade, with a determination to make trade policy a powerful contributor to the president’s national economic agenda for revival of the global economy and renewal of growth that benefits all people. If we work together, free and fair trade with a proper regard for social and environmental goals and appropriate political accountability will be a powerful contributor to the national and global well being.”
Copies of the report are available on the USTR’s Web site.