Former Goldman Sachs chief executive Henry Paulson was sworn in as the 74th U.S. Treasury secretary on Monday, inheriting challenges that include pressuring China on its currency and soothing worries about trade and budget deficits.
Paulson was sworn in in brief ceremony at the Treasury Department, officiated by Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts and attended by President George W. Bush.
Paulson's nomination earned high marks for President Bush at a time when the president's low approval ratings are among the worst poll numbers of any president facing midterm congressional elections.
Paulson, in remarks prepared for delivery, said he would build on the achievements of his predecessor John Snow.
"I am 100 percent committed to building on these past achievements and to doing my best to ensure that our economy remains a model of strength, flexibility and openness," he said.
"One of my first priorities will be forging a close working relationship with Treasury's career professionals," Paulson said.
Paulson was confirmed by the Senate on June 29th, without opposition, but his swearing-in was delayed to give him additional time to settle his affairs and comply with government conflict-of-interest rules.
In his confirmation hearings before a Senate panel, Paulson voiced support for the administration's tax cuts and premised to keep pushing China toward increased currency flexibility.
Bush, at the swearing-in ceremony, said of Paulson: "He will work to keep this economy of ours competitive and growing, and he will work to ensure fair treatment for America's goods and services across the world."
Paulson, 60, takes over at Treasury at a time when the U.S. economy is moving gradually to a period of slower growth as higher energy prices and a cooling housing market crimp consumer spending. The U.S. economy grew at a 5.6 percent annual rate in the first quarter, the fastest pace of growth in two-and-a-half years.
Paulson told lawmakers that shrinking a nagging U.S. trade deficit would depend on stronger growth and exchange rate flexibility on the part of trading partners. Reversing tax cuts would be a mistake, he said.
The White House had announced that Paulson, estimated to be worth more than $700 million, was selling his extensive holdings in Goldman Sachs. The company said in a regulatory filing that it was awarding Paulson an $18.7 million cash bonus for his work during the six months ending in May, a time when the company's profit doubled to $4.79 billion.
Paulson, who worked for Goldman Sachs for 32 years, owns 3.23 million shares of Goldman Sachs stock, which would be worth around $480 million.