US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke speaks during an event in Tianjin in this May 22, 2010 file photo. US President Barack Obama will nominate Locke as next ambassador to China, two US officials said on Monday.[Photo/Agencies]WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama will nominate Commerce Secretary Gary Locke as next US ambassador to China, two administration officials said on Monday. Locke would replace the current ambassador, Jon Huntsman, who is stepping down on April 30 and is considering a run for president in which he'd join a field of Republicans vying to challenge Obama in the 2012 election. An official announcement on Locke is expected on Tuesday. Locke, whose appointment would need confirmation by the US Senate, became the first Chinese-American Commerce Secretary when he joined the Obama administration in 2009.Both his father and grandfather were born in China. Locke, who made a number of trips to China while he was governor of Washington, has remained active on that front as Commerce secretary. Last year, he led a group of nearly two dozen companies executives on a mission to explore opportunities in China's fast-growing clean energy sector. He has warned that the United States risks being left behind as China plows billions of dollars into solar, wind and other "green" technologies. In an interview with The Associated Press that took place before his nomination was reported, Locke praised the economic relationship he has helped to build between the United States and China. He said US exports to China had posted a 34 percent increase last year. Obama sees boosting US exports as a way to save and create jobs and has set a goal of doubling the amount of American goods sold to other countries within five years. Huntsman, a former Republican governor of Utah, raised eyebrows in the White House when he sent signals several weeks ago he was considering entering the 2012 presidential race. He is expected to make a decision on whether he will run for president when he returns from China at the end of April.