Trump's Treasury pick targets taxes, trade reforms

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.

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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)

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