President Obama is set to nominate ex-Washington governor and former King County exec Gary Locke as the next ambassador to China. The Commerce Secretary "has the experience and relationships necessary to take on this key post," a senior administration official told ABC News. That's clear not only from Locke's days as governor but as chair of Seattle law firm Davis Wright Tremaine's China practice. In those days he carried the water for Microsoft and Boeing in China, and he likely will do so again as ambassador. He also advised companies how to skirt Chinese law.
His biggest lobbying triumph was persuading Chinese President Hu Jintao to drop in for a 2006 dinner at Bill Gates' Medina mansion. Within days, Microsoft announced plans to spend $3.7 billion over five years on tech purchases and new partnerships in China. Last November, Microsoft said it would be spending another $1 billion in China through 2011 on research and development there.
Also on Locke's China Practice client list are two other firms he boosted as governor: Starbucks and Boeing. [Locke] spokesperson [Roger] Nyhus claims Locke has not done any work for either corporation while at the law firm. But Boeing was one of the stops the Chinese president made here on the trip arranged by Locke, and according to press reports Locke was invited by Starbucks to attend the 2005 opening of its new store at the Great Wall. Starbucks, despite recent cutbacks, plans to expand in Europe and Asia, and is buying coffee from growers in China. And Boeing, which is building a new $21 million parts facility in Tianjin, predicts China will spend $400 billion investing in new airplanes over the next 20 years.
At Davis Wright, Locke was lauded for demonstrating "a remarkable ability to gain access to top Chinese governmental officials." In a 2006 interview with The Seattle Times, Locke said he flew to China five times a year for Davis Wright, and boasted of meeting with China's top banking regulator to help a "large, multi-national company" skirt China banking laws. "I said we'd love to work with you in finding a creative way to achieve your objectives as well as help this company," Locke said in that interview. "If you just go to a midlevel bureaucrat, they're just going to go by the letter of the law and say no, no, no."