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Exclusive: Obama considering Citi's Sheets for senior Treasury post - sources

By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration is considering nominating Citigroup economist Nathan Sheets to be the Treasury Department's top official for international affairs, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

If nominated and confirmed by the Senate, Sheets would be a key figure in U.S. financial and economic diplomacy and would help lead international discussions on the global economy.

This would include pressing Washington's view that China should let its currency appreciate more quickly and that Europe should act more decisively to boost economic growth.

As the Treasury's undersecretary for international affairs, Sheets would have to field questions from emerging market nations whose markets are reeling from a dramatic reversal of money flows tied partly to the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to curtail its economic stimulus.

He would also get an earful from developing countries frustrated by U.S. intransigence in following through on a promise to give emerging economies a bigger say at the International Monetary Fund.

The Treasury post was previously occupied by Lael Brainard, who stepped down last year and was nominated by President Barack Obama earlier this month to serve on the Fed's board of governors.

The White House and the Treasury Department had no comment, while Sheets did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment.

Sheets has been the global head of international economics at Citi in New York since 2011. He was hired in part to focus on the position of the United States in the global economy.

Prior to joining Citi, which is one of the world's largest banking conglomerates, Sheets spent much of his career as an economist at the Fed. At one point he was an adviser to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke on international economics.

"(He's) highly experienced and well-respected in both the public and private sectors," said Timothy Adams, who held the under secretary for international affairs post at the Treasury during the administration of President George W. Bush.

Adams, who now heads the Institute of International Finance, said Sheets would have "no learning curve."

When Citi announced it had hired Sheets in 2011, the bank said Sheets had been a driving force behind the Fed's efforts to fight the spread of the 2007-09 financial crisis across international borders. At the time, the Fed entered currency swap agreements with central banks around the world.

Sheets also spent time as an adviser to Washington's representative at the International Monetary Fund, serving as a liaison between the international lender and U.S. government agencies.

"He has the right profile to do the job," said Angel Ubide, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Additional reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Dan Grebler and Ken Wills)

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