Trump's Treasury pick targets taxes, trade reforms

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WASHINGTON, Nov 30 (Reuters) - President-elect Donald Trump's pick for U.S. Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said on Wednesday the administration would target tax reform and trade pact overhauls as top priorities as they seek to achieve 3 percent to 4 percent economic growth.

Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross, Trump's nominee for commerce secretary, outlined their agenda, including what Mnuchin called the largest tax overhaul since the Ronald Reagan administration, in an interview on CNBC. Both men confirmed they had been tapped for the jobs.

Trump planned to announce the appointments, along with that of Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts as Ross's deputy, later on Wednesday, transition officials said.

Mnuchin and Ross reinforced the sweeping proposals Trump put forth in September to simplify the tax code and slash the corporate tax rate to 15 percent, cutting the top rate for all businesses from the present 35 percent.

"We think by cutting corporate taxes we'll create huge economic growth and we'll have huge personal income," Mnuchin said in the interview.

Check out Trump's cabinet:

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Trump's official picks for cabinet and administration positions
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Trump's official picks for cabinet and administration positions

Counselor to the President: Kellyanne Conway

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Veterans Affairs Secretary: David Shulkin

(Photo credit DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)

Transportation secretary: Elaine Chao

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Energy secretary: Rick Perry

(Photo credit KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson

 REUTERS/Daniel Kramer

Secretary of Defense: Retired Marine General James Mattis

(Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Chief of staff: Reince Priebus

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Chief strategist: Steve Bannon

(EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Attorney General: Senator Jeff Sessions

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Director of the CIA: Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

White House national security adviser: Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Deputy national security adviser: K.T. McFarland

(Photo by Michael Schwartz/Getty Images)

White House counsel: Donald McGahn

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Ambassador to the United Nations: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

(Photo by Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Education secretary: Betsy DeVos

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Commerce secretary: Wilbur Ross

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Homeland security secretary: General John Kelly

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Housing and urban development secretary: Ben Carson

(Photo credit NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Labor secretary: Andrew Puzder

(Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Administrator of Environmental Protection Agency: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Health and human services secretary: Tom Price

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Department of Homeland Security: Retired General John Kelly

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Secretary of agriculture: Sonny Perdue

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Tax experts have questioned Trump's assertion that the proposals would not add to the nation's debt and deficit. Mnuchin and Ross said lower tax rates would be offset by reductions in the number of income tax deductions.

"Taxes are way too complicated and people spend way too much time worrying about ways to get them lower," Mnuchin said.

He also said the administration would cap mortgage interest deductibility but would allow for some deductions.

Trump, throughout his presidential campaign, pledged to redraw trade deals to win back American jobs. He has threatened Mexico and China with punitive tariffs in a move that some economists have warned could spark a trade war that could potentially roll back decades of liberalization.

Mnuchin and Ross said trade reform would be a top agenda item in the new administration. Both men criticized regional trade pacts, saying they favor bilateral agreements with trade partners.

"There's trade, there's sensible trade and there's dumb trade. We've been doing a lot of dumb trade," Ross said.

Trump has vowed to kill the Trans Pacific Partnership, an ambitious Asia-Pacific trade pact linking the United States and 11 countries.

Mnuchin said the Treasury and Commerce Departments have trade enforcement capabilities. With regard to China's foreign exchange policy, he said, "If we determine we need to label them as a currency manipulator that's something the Treasury would do."

Mnuchin and Ross also criticized the financial reform legislation known as Dodd-Frank, passed after the 2007-8 financial crisis, as too complicated and cuts back lending.

In a separate interview with Fox Business Network, Mnuchin said mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must get out of government ownership

Asked on CNBC about Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's performance, both men said they believed she had done a good job. That assessment conflicts with Trump's earlier criticism of Yellen during the campaign.

Ross said he believes it is likely the Fed will raise interest rates at its meeting in December. (Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Dan Burns; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Photos of the Treasury Secretary:

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Steven Mnuchin
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Steven Mnuchin

Producer Steve Bing (L) and Honoree Steven Mnuchin recipient of the Philanthropic Leadership Award attend The Kaleidoscope Ball - Designing The Future benefitting the UCLA Children's Discovery and Innovation Institute at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA at Beverly Hills Hotel on April 17, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California.

(Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for BWR)

 Steve Mnuchin and Lousie Linton arrive at the Premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'Jupiter Ascending' at TCL Chinese Theatre on February 2, 2015 in Hollywood, California.

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Heather Mnuchin and Steve Mnuchin attend The Art Show Gala to Benefit The Henry Street Settlement at The Seventh Regiment Armory on February 23, 2005 in New York City.

(Photo by Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

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