ABC News' Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report:
President Obama made it official this morning in the Diplomatic Reception Room, formally nominating Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be the next US Ambassador to China
Flanked by Locke, Secretary of State Clinton, and National Secuirty Adviser Tom Donilon the president first said a few words first about his outgoing Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, a possible contender for the Republican nomination in 2012.
“During his tenure, Jon has been an outstanding advocate for this administration and for this country,” Obama said, “and has helped to strengthen our critical relationship with the Chinese government and the Chinese people. And so I am very grateful for his service.”
President Obama highlighted Secretary Locke’s family ties to China – calling him the “grandson of a Chinese immigrant who went on to live the American dream.” Locke’s grandfather left China on a steamboat bound for Washington State where he worked as a domestic servant in exchange for English lessons.
“A century later, his grandson will return to China as America's top diplomat,” Obama said noting the symbolism of his nomination.
“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,” Secretary Locke said.
The president also emphasized Locke’s work in his two years as the Commerce Secretary, advocating for American businesses and exports around the world. He said this would be a role Mr. Locke would continue to play in his new job.
“He's earned the trust of business leaders across America by listening to their concerns, making it easier for them to export their goods abroad, and dramatically reducing the time it takes to get a patent. When he's in Beijing, I know that American companies will be able to count on him to represent their interests in front of China's top leaders. “
Locke said he is eager to manage “one of America's most critical and complex diplomatic, economic and strategic relationships,” as he takes on the new challenge.
The president singled out Locke’s family –his wife and three kids – who will be packing up shortly to move to Beijing. The president commiserated with the family’s 14-year-old daughter about having to move around a lot as a child.
“I assured her it would be great 10 years from now. Right now it's probably a drag,” the president joked.
-Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller