Gary Locke, President Barack Obama’s newly installed ambassador to China, told America’s biggest creditor over the weekend that the U.S. is “committed to getting our fiscal house in order.”
Locke’s comments come after Standard & Poor’s decision to strip the U.S. of its AAA rating prompted a scolding from China. The country’s official Xinhua News Agency said in a commentary the U.S. must cure its “addiction” to borrowing. China held $1.16 trillion in U.S. Treasury securities at the end of May, more than any other country.
“We know that over the last several days more people are buying U.S. Treasuries,” Locke said in Beijing, where he arrived Friday after being sworn in as ambassador earlier this month in Washington. “It is a clear indication that investment in the U.S. is safe and secure,” Locke, formerly Obama’s commerce secretary, said in response to a question from a reporter for Chinese state television.
“Many outside the United States believe the credit rating cut is an overdue bill that America has to pay for its own debt addiction and the short-sighted political wrangling in Washington,” Xinhua said Aug. 6.
Ten-year yields set a record low last week as investors snapped up Treasuries on signs of slowing growth and a widening debt crisis in Europe, undeterred by Standard & Poor’s decision to downgrade the U.S.
Locke, 61, a former governor of Washington from 1997 to 2005, also represented the state in Congress from 1982 to 1993. From 2005 to 2008, he was a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, a business and litigation law firm that represents clients in the U.S. and China.
Locke was appointed commerce secretary in 2009. He replaced Jon Huntsman as ambassador after Huntsman resigned in April to make a bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
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