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'Our allies are looking for US leadership in the Asia-Pacific region,' fmr. deputy Treasury secretary says

Robert Kimmitt in 2007
Michael Urban | AFP | Getty Images
Robert Kimmitt in 2007

It will be the United States' responsibility to lead its allies in the Asia-Pacific region on a number of matters including trade, former Deputy Treasury Secretary Bob Kimmitt told CNBC on Monday.

"I think our allies are looking for U.S. leadership in the Asia-Pacific region ... that is political, military and economic," Kimmitt, who was deputy secretary under President George W. Bush, told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."

Kimmitt said Donald Trump's negative stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership will not yield the isolationist result many are expecting, noting that the president-elect is likely to set up a number of bilateral trade agreements rather than one broader multilateral accord.

"I think the U.S. has an important leadership role to play on trade," Kimmitt said. "I don't think the president-elect is going to shrink from that leadership role."

With U.S.-China relations coming into focus this weekend after Trump circumvented cornerstone foreign policy protocol, speaking with the president of Taiwan and accusing China on Twitter of a number of misdeeds, Kimmitt said that the president-elect should be picking his Cabinet with China on his mind.

"The China relationship is one of most important bilateral relationships," said Kimmitt, who is also a former undersecretary of State.

"Whether State, Defense or Treasury, it certainly should figure into the calculus when the president makes his final personnel decisions … not just at Cabinet level, but the sub-Cabinet level," he said.

Kimmit said the leader of the Treasury will have particularly close encounters with China, "from the currency report to cases that come before the Committee on Foreign Investment, which he will chair, to activities in the G20," an international summit for government officials from 20 of the world's leading economies.

The former deputy Treasury secretary said China was also a key player in the effort to uphold economic sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

Trump has nominated Steve Mnuchin for the role of Treasury secretary in his administration, and Ret. Gen. James Mattis for secretary of Defense.