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US Treasury deputy chief nominee pledges to get tough on China

  • February 23, 2021

Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo, United States President Joe Biden’s nominee for the No 2 job at the US Treasury, promised to crack down on authoritarian governments and fight unfair economic practices in China and elsewhere while working to rectify economic inequality at home.

In testimony prepared for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, Adeyemo, said he would focus on three critical areas if confirmed: boosting US competitiveness, reclaiming the country’s credibility as a global leader and protecting US citizens from threats.

As Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s deputy, Adeyemo will play a key role in shaping US economic policies and overseeing the vast power of the Treasury on everything from financial regulation to relief for everyday Americans and sanctions on foreign governments.

The most immediate threat to US prosperity remained the COVID-19 pandemic, Adeyemo said, adding economic policy must remain focused on providing relief to those harmed by the health crisis and especially those in low-income communities and people of colour, who have been hit especially hard.

If confirmed, Adeyemo, 39, a former senior adviser at asset manager BlackRock Inc, would be the first Black deputy secretary of the Treasury. He served as a deputy national security adviser under former Democratic President Barack Obama and later headed the foundation that is working on the former president’s library.

Adeyemo is expected to be questioned on his views on US policy towards China, currently the subject of a comprehensive review by the Biden administration.

“We need to work with Congress and strategically use the Treasury Department’s tools to protect our citizens from threats, foreign and domestic,” he said in the testimony, which was seen by the Reuters news agency.

“Treasury’s tools must play a role in responding to authoritarian governments that seek to subvert our democratic institutions; combating unfair economic practices in China and elsewhere; and detecting and eliminating terrorist organisations that seek to do us harm.”

Treasury oversees a host of sanctioning tools, including a ban on US investment in alleged Chinese military companies that was introduced by former President Donald Trump.

The ban, which has spurred deep confusion among market players since it was unveiled in a November executive order, takes effect in November 2021 and investors are eager to learn whether Biden will revoke it or further clarify its scope and use it to go after top Chinese companies.

Hardline stance

Adeyemo also called for selected investments in US critical industries and technologies and policies that protected American workers and companies from anti-competitive trade practices, signalling a hardline stance on trade issues.

Adeyemo, 39, who was born in Nigeria and came to the US with his parents as a baby, mapped out his domestic and international policy objectives, promising to work to ensure equal access to economic opportunity for all Americans.

“Taking steps to ensure that all Americans share in our prosperity is not only a moral imperative, it is essential to our long-term economic growth,” he said in the testimony.

Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden has called Adeyemo “eminently qualified” for the job and promised to get the nomination through the committee as quickly as possible.

The hearing will start at 10:00am Eastern US time (15:00 GMT), the committee said.

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