This is a crucial week for David C. Mulford, the Treasury Department's under secretary for international affairs, and he is thriving with the pressure.

As the nation's point man on international economic policy, Mr. Mulford is responsible for exchange market policies and debt negotiations. Those are the hottest buttons being manipulated in Washington this week, where the world's finance leaders are convening for the annual meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Repercussions Felt Around the Glove

"Three issues we feel will dominate these meetings," Mr. Mulford told reporters last Thursday. "The first is the strengthening of world growth; the second is developments in world currency markets in recent times; and third, how to solidify progress toward implementing market principles in Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union and other developing countries."

The annual meeting, which opens today, comes amid major turmoil in the European currency markets. Though the instability primarily affects the economic future of a unified Europe, its repercussions have been felt worldwide.

"No one wants to see turbulence in currency markets because it can have spill-over effects into other financial markets if it's not addressed," Mr. Mulford said last week. But he added: "Up until now the U.S. has been relatively unaffected by the situation."

Meanwhile, Mr. Mulford has been absorbed with preconference meetings on an array of issues, including plans for dealing with eastern Europe. The United States and other G-7 industrialized countries will meet this week with representatives of Russia to discuss its economic predicament, he said.

Mr. Mulford, 55, has worked in the Treasury Department since 1984. He was sworn in as under secretary for international affairs in May 1989.

But for 20 years before he came to Washington, Mr. Mulford honed his skills by working as an international investment banker. He served for a time as senior adviser at the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency in Riyadh, and from 1974 to 1984 was a director of Merrill Lynch & Co. He began his business career at While, Weld, & Co., a predecessor to Merrill, in 1966.

Academic Specialty in African Studies

Mr. Mulford, a native of Rockford, Ill., also has some interesting academic

credentials. He earned a master's degree from Boston University in 1962, with a specialty in African studies, and spent some time studying at the University of Capetown.

In 1965, when Mr. Mulford earned his doctorate from Oxford University, he began a one-year White House fellowship as special assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury.

Mr. Mulford's combination of Wall Street bluff and political skills has earned him a reputation as a blunt and determined practitioner, one who has been known to upset bankers and government officials.

Command of Intricate Issues

When the IMF criticized the role of the U.S. budget deficit in the world economy a few years ago and asked for a reduction, Mr. Mulford gave a characteristically direct response.

"We need to step back and look over a period of time at exactly how ineffective the IMF has been in determining what is going to happen to world economic developments." he said.

But he is also known for the excellent command of intricate issues. Mr. Mulford help develop a plan in the mid-1980s for resolving the developing country debt crisis, and also worked on the Brady plan that evolved from the original initiative.

He resides in Alexandria, Va., with his wife and two children.

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