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Third Time's the Charm?

3:00 PM, Feb 25, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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President Obama announced the appointment of former Washington Gov. Gary Locke to head up the Commerce Department, but Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel reports that Locke's work for some corporations may cause another "hiccup" for the smoothest transition evah:

Locke, a partner in an international law firm's China division, has advocated for Microsoft, Starbucks, and banking, timber and shipping interests in recent years, raising potential conflicts for him as head of a department charged with promoting U.S. trade around the globe.

One of Obama's first acts as president was to sign an executive order barring executive branch officials from working on issues "directly and substantially related" to their former clients or employers for two years.

Yet if he's confirmed as Commerce Secretary, Chinese trade issues - including some with direct impact on the companies he went to bat for - are likely to be high on the agenda for Locke, who is the first Chinese American governor.

Software piracy issues would rank among them. Microsoft and other software developers have lobbied both the U.S. and Chinese governments to crack down on profit-draining practice. On a similar front, Starbucks recently won a trademark lawsuit against a Chinese company using its logo.