The US Senate on Tuesday confirmed Gary Locke, the first ever Chinese-American governor of a US state, to be President Barack Obama's commerce secretary.
Senators confirmed Locke, who hails from Washington, the most trade-dependent US state, by unanimous consent, meaning no lawmaker objected and no formal roll call vote was held.
At his confirmation hearing last week, Locke promised lawmakers he would pursue "fair trade" with countries like China and South Korea if confirmed to the post.
But he sidestepped a lawmaker's call for "a brawl" with Beijing on currency and trade issues and an invitation to criticize a US-South Korea free trade deal that one senator said was digging an ever-wider trade deficit.
Locke, whose nomination requires Senate confirmation, promised the Senate's commerce committee he would fight to protect US intellectual property rights and vigorously enforce the rules of existing US trade pacts.
"More than free trade, though, I believe in fair trade," he said in the confirmation hearing. "That means we must enforce our trade agreement and place a high value on environmental, labor and safety standards," he said, warning that failure to do so was "putting American workers at a competitive disadvantage."
If confirmed, Locke would run a giant agency tasked with enforcing US trade laws, but also managing the transition to digital television later this year and the 2010 population census that will decide the states' share in federal monies as well as their representation in the US Congress.