WASHINGTON — The US Senate confirmed businessman John Bryson as commerce secretary, replacing Gary Locke, who left the post to become the US ambassador to China.

Lawmakers voted 74-26 to approve Bryson one week after the US Congress approved long-stalled free trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

President Barack Obama had nominated Bryson on May 31 in a move seen as part of an effort to soothe his White House's testy ties with the US private sector and spark export-led jobs growth.

"His decades of experience both in the public and private sector have given him a clear understanding of what it takes to put America on a stronger economic footing and create jobs," Obama said in a statement after the vote.

The White House has said Bryson, an environmental advocate who helped to form the Natural Resources Defense Council, has the ability to promote job creation, economic growth and sustainable development.

Bryson was chairman and chief executive of power company Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison, from 1990 to 2008, and sits on the board of Boeing and the Walt Disney Company.

Obama has said Bryson's experience will be vital to his goal of seeking to double US exports in the next four years, part of his efforts to rescue the battered US economy.

Bryson "will be a key member of my economic team, working with the business community to promote job creation, foster growth, and help open up new markets around the world for American-made goods," Obama said in his statement.

The appointment of Bryson, a graduate of Stanford University and Yale law school, may be seen by analysts as another effort by Obama to court the private sector after a rocky relationship with corporate America early in his term.

In a major reorganization of the White House, Obama brought in William Daley, a centrist pro-business former commerce secretary, to serve as his chief of staff, following a Republican rout in mid-term elections last year.

General Electric chairman and chief executive Jeffrey Immelt serves as head of Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, while Steve Case, the founder of AOL, also serves on the advisory panel.

The Business Roundtable, an association of top business executives, welcomed Bryson's confirmation.

"John has an impressive record of accomplishment in the private sector and a strong sense for the kind of policies we need to strengthen US economic growth and job creation," said its chairman, Jim McNerney, the president and chief executive officer of Boeing.

"He and the Commerce Department will play important roles as we all work to get the American economy back on track," said McNerney.