U.S. Treasury official floated for No. 2 job at IMF to replace Lipton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration is considering filling the No. 2 job at the International Monetary Fund with Geoffrey Okamoto, a 35-year-old acting assistant secretary at the U.S. Treasury, three people familiar with the selection process said.

The move could strengthen the Republican administration’s influence over the IMF, an institution Trump officials view as an ally in their efforts to rein in China’s trade and economic practices.

If appointed, Okamoto would replace David Lipton as the IMF’s longest-serving first deputy managing director, whose departure was announced on Friday, 19 months before the end of his official term.

Lipton, 66, started his career as an economist at the IMF and later served as a top U.S. Treasury official under President Bill Clinton and as a White House adviser under President Barack Obama, both Democratic administrations.

Okamoto has worked at the Treasury since 2017 and been involved in U.S.-China trade negotiations, planning and negotiations for the G20 and G7 meetings in addition to other international finance and development issues including debt relief for Somalia.

His former boss at Treasury, David Malpass, became president of the World Bank Group last April.

An IMF spokesman referred questions to the Treasury, where a spokeswoman declined comment. News of Okamoto’s consideration was first reported by Bloomberg.

A person familiar with the process said Okamoto, who has a masters degree in public policy from Georgetown University, lacks Lipton’s long record of international economics experience but is well regarded inside IMF and the World Bank.

The United States, which is the IMF’s largest shareholder, has traditionally chosen the second-ranking official at the Fund, while European countries have chosen its managing director.

Kristalina Georgieva, a Bulgarian economist who became the IMF’s top official in October, announced Lipton’s departure as part of management changes she is making at the institution. She would have to accept the Trump administration’s nomination and present it to the IMF’s board.

Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Tom Brown