Dec. 1 - Washington is counting on the popular ambassador Gary Locke to help break down trade barriers into the China market. Jon Gordon reports.
All Aboard. China's high-speed growth rate is a major attraction to U.S. firms facing a stagnant economy at home. But trade barriers are acting as brakes for U.S. businesses that want in. Washington believes part of the answer is ambassador Gary Locke, a very popular man in China. Locke's trade mission this week on behalf of U.S. energy firms. It will be the first of 5 similar initiatives -- all with one aim - selling more of the U-S-of-A. (SOUNBITE) (English) U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA, GARY LOCKE, SAYING: "Certainly these trips can help publicize the great products and services made in America that can help meet the need of China, but at the same time create jobs in America. And the reality is that the more American companies export, the more they produce. The more they produce the more workers they need, and that means jobs , jobs that we very much need in America" It won't be easy. China and the US have a symbiotic but at times difficult relationship. Obama traded rare barbs with Hu Jintao over the yuan at the recent APEC summit. China opponents in the U.S. congress argue an artificially weak yuan, along with restricted access for American companies, have supersized China's trade surplus with the US -- costing many American jobs. Locke, a former US commerce minister, is taking a softer approach on the ground. He became an overnight Internet star in China after the unassuming diplomat was spotted buying his own coffee and carrying his own suitcases at the airport. And that, the U.S. hopes, will make for a sympathetic audience of local power brokers and CEOs as Locke gives his America sales pitch. But there are challenges. Take Lock's latest pitch for energy. HSBC's Arjuna Mahendran says concerns about technology transfer to China are a major roadblock. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HEAD OF ASIA INVESTMENT HSBC PRIVATE BANK, ARJUNA MAHENDRAN, SAYING: "The Chinese like any other nation are obviously very sensitive about giving their own energy companies the expertise and transfer of technology in order to become world class manufacturers of different types of technology and equipment in the energy space and the US request for more access for more US energy technology into the Chinese market is perhaps running at odds with that to some extent." Even the high speed train Locke came on is a reminder of the danger of exporting technological know-how to China. Western and Japanese companies originally helped to build the country's high speed rail network, but now they fear their Chinese partners will take their blueprints and compete with them overseas. To Locke, it's all about open business and protection of intellectual property. (SOUNBITE) (English) U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA, GARY LOCKE, SAYING: "What we really want for American companies is the same fair, open environment that Chinese companies encounter and receive in the united states." The ambassador will have to use every ounce of his popularity to help make that happen for U.S. companies Jon Gordon for Reuters in Hong Kong.