WASHINGTON, June 28 (AFP): Henry Paulson, the nominee to be the next treasury secretary, pledged Tuesday to work to keep the US economy competitive and to help Americans keep faith in the system if confirmed in the key cabinet post.
"As the steward of the US economic and financial systems, the Treasury has helped lay the groundwork for the American economy to become a model of strength, flexibility, dynamism and resiliency," Paulson told the Senate Finance Committee as it began his confirmation hearing.
"If confirmed, I will be active in affirming America's leadership role in the global economy, where we continue to be a constructive and stabilising force."
Paulson said he would strive for lower and fairer taxes in the US and "a level playing field with the rest of the world."
"The US economy will be stronger if we can continue to foster an entrepreneurial spirit and culture which generates innovation, risk-taking, and productivity growth, that raises living standards to keep America the economic envy of the world," he said.
"America is the land of opportunity. We need to be vigilant in ensuring that each and every American has the opportunity to acquire the skills to compete, and to see those skills rewarded in the marketplace."
Paulson, questioned by senators about the bulging US budget deficit, said he believes the best way to reduce the deficit is to maintain economic growth.
"Like all of us, I wish our deficit was lower," he said.
"But, as I look at it, I am actually encouraged by the fact that, despite the bursting of the bubble, and, recession in 2001, despite the war on terrorism and, Afghanistan and Iraq, and the corporate scandals, we're in a situation right now, where our economy has been growing ... I think, we're better prepared to do something about it when we have a growing economy."
Paulson, 60, has served as chief executive of the Goldman Sachs Group since 1999, after working his way up the ranks in the prestigious investment firm, which he joined in 1974.
Before joining Goldman Sachs, Paulson served as an aide in the White House, working as a staff assistant to Republican president Richard Nixon.
President George W Bush nominated him to replace Treasury Secretary John Snow in late May.
Paulson's nomination was expected to see little resistance, especially since he has strong support from Senator Charles Schumer, a key Democrat on the finance panel, who reiterated his endorsement at the hearing.
"I've known Hank for 15 years," Schumer said. "I recommend his nomination wholeheartedly and without reservation. He's an extraordinary leader, financial thinker, businessman and father."