WASHINGTON President Barack Obama on Friday announced he will name U.S. Senator Max Baucus, who has long worked on China trade and economic issues, as his next ambassador to Beijing, underscoring the importance of commercial ties with the Asian power.
Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, has taken a tough stance against some of China's trade practices but also led successful U.S. efforts in the 1990s to admit China to the World Trade Organization and to begin normal trade relations with Beijing.
He had announced he would not seek reelection in November.
"For more than two decades Max Baucus has worked to deepen the relationship between the United States and China," Obama said in a statement. "The economic agreements he helped forge have created millions of American jobs and added billions of dollars to our economy, and he's perfectly suited to build on that progress in his new role."
Baucus' nomination, which had been expected, was seen by experts as a commitment to resolving some of the trade issues that have strained ties with China. The United States has long alleged that China keeps the value of its currency artificially low to promote exports, and has pressured Beijing to let the yuan trade more freely in foreign exchange markets.
Chinese-U.S. relations also have been soured recently by tensions over security issues in Asia. China's recent declaration of an air defense zone covering disputed islands in the East China Sea has upset Washington as well as Japan and South Korea.
(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao)