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Steven Mnuchin is confirmed by Senate to be Treasury secretary

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 - 09:04

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Steven Mnuchin was confirmed as US Treasury secretary, filling the role of chief spokesman for the dollar and steward for the Trump administration's economic priorities.

[WASHINGTON] Steven Mnuchin was confirmed as US Treasury secretary, filling the role of chief spokesman for the dollar and steward for the Trump administration's economic priorities.

The former Goldman Sachs banker won in a 53-47 Senate vote on Monday in which only one Democrat broke ranks and supported Mr Mnuchin.

After several delays in the Senate vetting process, Mr Mnuchin is expected to push ahead quickly with top administration goals to dismantle financial regulations and slash taxes. Almost immediately, he'll be immersed in preparing for the expiration of the debt limit suspension and his first meeting of G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors in Germany, both coming up next month.

Mr Mnuchin will play a leading role should President Donald Trump start any economic confrontations - with China, for example - as the new administration seeks a more balanced approach with countries that run large trade surpluses with the US. While he pledged on the campaign trail to designate China a currency manipulator, Mr Trump has since backpedalled on those remarks and Mr Mnuchin has indicated such a label can only be applied if warranted.

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Mr Mnuchin has already sent signals on America's long-held dollar policy, telling the Senate a strong US dollar is important over the long term and that it's currently "very, very strong".

During his confirmation hearing, Democrats forced Mr Mnuchin to defend his record running OneWest Bank, a mortgage lender accused of shoddy foreclosure practices during the financial crisis and which he later sold for a profit. He also faced questions about using a Cayman Islands entity to avoid paying taxes, an accusation he denied. The 54-year-old former Goldman Sachs executive and Hollywood financier has no previous government experience. He led Mr Trump's fundraising efforts during the campaign.

Mr Trump and Republicans in Congress are counting on his 17 years of experience at Goldman Sachs and six years as a regional banker to unlock economic growth.

"At Goldman Sachs, I had tremendous experience in both the financial markets and in technology - I think both of those are very important things and expertise for a Treasury secretary to have," Mr Mnuchin said during his Jan 19 confirmation hearing. "I've been in the investment business and, more importantly, I've been a regional banker" who has lent money and has trading experience.

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