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Locke promises ?urgency? in Commerce activities

Locke promises ôurgencyö in Commerce activities

Former Washington state Gov. Gary Locke told senators at his confirmation hearing Wednesday that he's prepared to embrace the numerous and urgent challenges facing the Commerce Department.

   'The ongoing transition to digital television, the looming 2010 Census and the critical role the department will play in the economic recovery — all create a sense of urgency,' Locke told the Senate Commerce Committee. 'I think urgency is a good thing because it lets the people at the Department of Commerce know that their work has never been more important and that we must solve the immediate challenges we face.'

   The department, beleaguered by a lack of leadership since the early days of the Obama cabinet, has numerous federal agencies under its jurisdiction. In addition to Census, other significant agencies within the department are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, International Trade Administration, Bureau of Industry and Security, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

   Locke said Commerce's responsibilities should include:

   ' Setting a foundation for long-term economic growth and job creation.

   ' Improving weather forecasting.

   ' Managing the fishing industry.

   ' Reducing the patent application backlog.

   'We must look over the horizon and prepare for the new economy that will emerge when this recession passes,' Locke said. 'Simply put, we must rebuild, retool and reinvent our national strategies for sustained economic success. The Department of Commerce, as the president has noted many times, must be able to do multiple things at once.'

   On the topic of free trade, Lock testified that he believed in 'fair trade.

   'That means we must enforce our trade agreements and place a high value on environmental, labor and safety standards,' he said. '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.'

   Locke is President Obama's third pick for commerce secretary. Earlier contenders, former two-term New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, withdrew their nominations for various reasons.

   The Senate Commerce Committee praised Locke for his credentials and past work at the state level.

   Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington noted Locke's past public and private sector trade missions advocating open markets and promoting U.S. exports.

   'At the International Trade Administration within Commerce, that experience will be put to good use,' Cantwell said. 'Part of its mission is to provide advocacy for American companies competing abroad. It can mean the difference whether major foreign sales go to U.S. exporters or their foreign competitors.'

   Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia reminded Locke that 'you have been asked to lead at a time of enormous challenge, but also a time of enormous opportunity.'

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