U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke formally resigned Monday and was sworn in as the country's next ambassador to China by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
'While commerce secretary was one of the best jobs I've ever had, I'm excited to take on the challenge of serving as our nation's top envoy to China,' Locke said in a statement. 'I look forward to continuing my service to the American people.'
Since leading the Commerce Department in March 2009, Locke has played a significant role in promoting U.S.-made products and services in overseas markets. He presided over President Obama's National Export Initiative. Locke also led a clean energy trade mission to China and Indonesia in May 2010, a high-tech trade mission to India in February 2011, and a congressional-delegation to South Korea in April to build support for the U.S.-South Korea trade agreement.
In addition, he co-chaired two sessions of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, which helped to level the playing field for U.S. businesses and promote American products and services in the growing Chinese market. Exports to China saw a 32-percent increase in 2010 compared to 2009, according to the Commerce Department.
Rebecca M. Blank, acting deputy secretary of the Commerce Department, will serve as acting commerce secretary. Blank has served in her post since November 2010.
Blank has overseen matters of management and policy for the department's 12 bureaus, functioning as Commerce's chief operating officer. Blank has served Locke since June 2009 as his principal economic adviser in her role as undersecretary for economic affairs and head of the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA). ESA oversees the two premier statistical agencies in the United States, the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
In May, Obama nominated John Bryson to serve as the next commerce secretary. He has been a key member of the president's economic team. The U.S. Senate is considering his nomination.