Gary Locke to be next U.S. ambassador to China

President Barack Obama looks on as his nominee for Commerce Secretary, former Washington Gov. Gary Locke, speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

WASHINGTON - CBS News has confirmed that President Barack Obama will nominate Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be the next U.S. ambassador to China. A formal announcement could come as early as Tuesday.

Locke, the son and grandson of Chinese immigrants, would succeed Jon Huntsman, one of the few Republicans in the Obama administration. First, however, Locke has to pass Senate confirmation.

Huntsman recently tendered his resignation, effective next month, amid much speculation around whether he will run to be Republican challenger to Obama in the 2012 presidential contest.

Locke is the first Chinese-American to serve as commerce secretary. Both his father and grandfather were born in China. Locke is also the former two-term governor of Washington state. According to the Department of Commerce website, Locke earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Yale University and a law degree from Boston University. He is married to Mona Lee Locke. They have three children: Emily, Dylan and Madeline.

In an interview with The Associated Press that took place before his nomination was reported, Locke praised the economic relationship he has helped to build between the United States and China. He said U.S. exports to China had posted a 34 percent increase last year. Obama sees boosting U.S. exports as a way to save and create jobs and has set a goal of doubling the amount of American goods sold to other countries within five years.

Locke said China is becoming more accessible to U.S. companies, although he said that progress has been slow in coming.

"We in government and the business community want more and faster progress," he told the AP. "There's still a long way to go."

Locke said that in areas such as intellectual property rights, the U.S. needs to "keep the Chinese accountable" and "constantly monitor them, and let them know that we're not just going to accept their assurances."