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Goldman Hires Trump China Trade War, IMF Vet Okamoto

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is tapping the former No. 2 official at the International Monetary Fund and veteran of the Trump administration’s trade wars with China to bolster its ties with international governments.

Geoffrey Okamoto, 37, who stepped down as the IMF’s first deputy managing director shortly after the start of this year, begins work for the New York-based firm in the coming weeks, according to people with knowledge of the matter. He’ll report to Michael Paese, who in his role running government affairs helps strengthen ties between the Wall Street titan and governments and regulators it deals with around the world.

Okamoto took the IMF position in March 2020 after being picked by President Donald Trump’s administration and appointed by Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the IMF. By tradition, the IMF’s No. 2 official, an American, is nominated by the US and named by the fund chief, a European.

Before joining the IMF, Okamoto worked for then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on international affairs, including trade negotiations with China that led to the so-called phase one agreement. Under that deal, China accelerated its timeline to eliminate the foreign equity ownership cap on securities companies.

Goldman Sachs won approval last October to take 100% ownership of its securities joint venture in China, a key step to expand in the country even as growing political tension and a Beijing-led crackdown on the private sector have ratcheted up risks. Global banks are pushing to gain a bigger foothold as China’s market opens, jostling to capture a share of billions of dollars in potential profits.

Under President Joe Biden, the Treasury Department moved late last year to promote Gita Gopinath, then chief economist at the IMF, to second in command. She previously worked with David Lipton, who himself served as the top IMF deputy before Okamoto and is now a counselor to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

Okamoto worked at the IMF through the global economic slump spurred by COVID-19, which led the fund to make more than $100 billion available for emergency borrowing by almost half of its 190 member countries. He also worked to win member country approval for the biggest resource injection in the fund’s history: $650 billion meant to help deal with mounting debt and the fallout from the pandemic.

Okamoto began working for Mnuchin in early 2017 after serving on the Treasury Department’s transition team after Trump’s election. His role in the department’s international affairs unit included trade negotiations with China and India, currency policy and recommending David Malpass to lead the World Bank. Mnuchin himself worked at Goldman Sachs for almost two decades and is a former partner at the firm.

Before joining the Trump administration, Okamoto served as a key adviser to Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, on the Senate Banking Committee. Okamoto holds a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University.

Eric Martin and Sridhar Natarajan report for Bloomberg.

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