Trump admin. declines to brand China a currency manipulator

In its semiannual report to Congress, released on Friday, the Treasury department said no major trading partner met all three criteria, which would earn them the label of a currency manipulator, for the current reporting period.

Instead, the administration's first twice-yearly currency review singled out China and five other countries as needing to be monitored for their currency practices.

"Treasury finds that six major trading partners warrant being placed on the monitoring list for special attention: China, Germany, Japan, Korea, Switzerland and Taiwan", the report said.

In its exchange rate report to Congress, the treasury said that in spite of China's large trade surplus with the U.S., it was not acting improperly to depress the value of its currency.

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In a Wall Street Journal interview, Trump said China hasn't manipulated the yuan for months, but accused some nations that he didn't identify of devaluing their currencies and saying the dollar is getting too strong.

"Fixing trade imbalances will be an issue for the U.S. in its dialogues with China and Japan, while the manipulator threat has been put on the backburner", a Japanese government official told Reuters.

The report said that China remained on the list because of its "disproportionate share of the overall US trade deficit", despite that China's current account surplus was only 1.8 percent of GDP in 2016, sharply down from 2.8 percent of GDP in 2015.

The report uses three criteria - a significant bilateral trade surplus with the USA; a material current-account surplus; and involvement in persistent one-sided intervention in the foreign-exchange market - to determine whether a trading partner is to be named a currency manipulator.

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It also noted Korea's track record of "asymmetric foreign exchange interventions".

Germany, as part of the Eurozone, can not act unilaterally to change the value of the euro.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said ensuring a level playing field for U.S. businesses is an "essential component of this administration's strategy".

The two countries' trade imbalance is easing as middle-income Chinese generate a huge demand for imported products, according to both United States and Chinese official data. "China steals our intellectual property, doesn't let American companies compete in China, and has manipulated their currency causing the loss of millions of jobs", said Senate minority leader Charles E Schumer. "Treasury places significant importance on China adhering to its G-20 commitments to refrain from engaging in competitive devaluation and not to target China's exchange rate for competitive purposes". "Treasury urges Korea to enhance the flexibility of the exchange rate and will be closely monitoring Korea's currency intervention practices".

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  • Kelly Blake