Snow set to step down as US Treasury Secretary

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The Independent Online

John Snow is expected to resign in the next few days as the US Treasury Secretary, and has informed the White House he will stay in his post no later than 3 July, to allow a replacement to be found.

The departure of Mr Snow, who has been in his job since February 2003, has been the subject of repeated rumour for months, amid news reports that the White House wanted him to go - reports that drew only lukewarm expressions of support from President Bush.

Mr Snow has borne the sniping with stoicism and good grace but, according to the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post yesterday, appears to have decided the ordeal could go on no longer. Questioned about Mr Snow's future at his press conference with Tony Blair on Thursday evening as the rumours started to circulate anew, Mr Bush simply changed the subject.

Heading the list of possible successors is Don Evans, the former commerce secretary and an old friend of the President. Other names are Carlos Gutierrez, the current Commerce Secretary, and David Mulford, the US ambassador to India.

A dark horse is Robert Zoellick, the deputy Secretary of State under Condoleezza Rice, who is expected to leave his post soon. Mr Zoellick, a former US trade representative, has let it be known he would like to take over at the Treasury. But a private sector job in Wall Street currently seems a more likely destination, observers say.

Whoever takes over will do so at a department much diminished since the Clinton era, which saw a string of heavyweight treasury secretaries: Lloyd Bentsen, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers. Under Mr Bush it has been little more than an adjunct of the White House, ultimately subordinate to the strategising of Karl Rove, rather than an important policy-making centre in its own right.

Mr Snow's predecessor, Paul O'Neill, was curmudgeonly and often outspoken - certainly by the buttoned-up standards of the Bush regime - but ineffectual.

His term has seen a period of strong economic growth - highlighted by this week's announcement of revised GDP growth of 5.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2006. But he has had little to say, however, about the huge US current account deficit, running at an annual rate of $800bn (£428bn), more than 6 per cent of GDP.

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