More than 100 members of the US Congress on Monday called on the Obama administration to label China a currency manipulator, in a move that highlighted the pressure on Washington to take a more confrontational stance towards Beijing. In a letter to Timothy Geithner, Treasury secretary, and Gary Locke, commerce secretary, the 130 Congressmen demanded the administration designate China a manipulator when it issues its regular report on currency manipulation next month. They called for countervailing duties [to offset the alleged currency "subsidy"] to be imposed on Chinese imports.As before, enough bluster. just cut the crap and start fighting already so we can see who wears the pants in the world economy. Heaven knows we'll all be better off when that happens.
“I have not really seen this level of enthusiasm among members of Congress before,” said Tim Ryan, one of the Congressmen organising the bipartisan letter. “There is a heck of a coalition behind this and the time is right.” The letter adds to pressure on the Obama administration, which is trying carefully to manage its relationship with China, one of the largest buyers of US government debt, amid fears a rift could unnerve investors and undermine recovery.
The Obama administration has been reluctant to designate China a currency manipulator at a time when figures including Mr Geithner have sought to work with Beijing. The US has looked for support from China on a range of issues from climate change to United Nations sanctions on Iran. But, with US unemployment at nearly 10 per cent, the administration has also identified the alleged overvaluation of the renminbi as a top priority. Calls from the Democratic party’s base for a tougher line have intensified.
“It’s politically important for Democrats obviously but there are also many Republicans and small business owners that would benefit from this,” said Mr Ryan, who hailed Mr Obama for having taken “a more aggressive approach on enforcing our trade agreements than any president has for 30 years”. The letter adds that, after a formal designation, the US should begin talks with China on its foreign exchange regime and signal its willingness to enter a formal complaint at the World Trade Organisation.
UPDATE: Here is the text of the letter to Geithner. The signatories are in the link as they're too many to mention here.
Dear Secretary Geithner and Secretary Locke:
We write to express our serious concerns about China’s continued manipulation of its currency. By pegging the renminbi (RMB) to the U.S. dollar at a fixed exchange rate, China unfairly subsidizes its exports and disadvantages foreign imports. As we work to promote a robust U.S. economic recovery, it is imperative that we address this paramount trade issue with all available resources. We urge your agencies to respond to China’s currency manipulation with the actions outlined in this letter. Doing so will allow American companies and workers to compete fairly against their Chinese counterparts and will boost U.S. economic recovery and growth.
The impact of China’s currency manipulation on the U.S. economy cannot be overstated. Maintaining its currency at a devalued exchange rate provides a subsidy to Chinese companies and unfairly disadvantages foreign competitors. U.S. exports to the country cannot compete with the low-priced Chinese equivalents, and domestic American producers are similarly disadvantaged in the face of subsidized Chinese imports. The devaluation of the RMB also exacerbates the already severe U.S-China trade deficit. Statistics show that between January 2000 and May 2009, China’s share of the U.S. trade deficit for non-oil goods grew from 26% to 83% -- an untenable pattern for American manufacturers. And finally, China’s exchange-rate misalignment threatens the stability of the global financial system by contributing to rampant Chinese inflation and accumulation of foreign reserves. For these compelling reasons, we ask your agencies to pursue the course of action below.
First, we urge the Department of Commerce to apply the U.S. countervailing duty law in defense of American companies who have suffered as a result of the currency manipulation. The U.S. is permitted to respond to subsidized imports where the elements of a subsidy are met under the countervailing duty law. The countervailing duty law outlines a three-part test to identify the presence of a countervailable subsidy: 1) that it involves a financial contribution from the government; 2) that it confers a benefit; and 3) that is specific to an industry or a group of industries. China’s exchange rate misalignment meets all three parts of this test and therefore merits the WTO-permitted application of countervailing duties.
Second, we ask the Department of Treasury to include China in its bi-annual agency report on currency manipulation. Since 1994 Treasury has not identified China as a country that manipulates its currency under the terms of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 (“Trade Act of 1988”), but Secretary’s Geithner testimony to the Senate acknowledging that fact surely justifies the inclusion of China in the report. After labeling the country as a currency manipulator, Treasury should enter into negotiations with China regarding its foreign exchange regime. These combined actions will signal the government’s willingness to take decisive action against China’s currency manipulation, including the potential filing of a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization.
The recommendations identified above must be done in concert with intense diplomatic efforts, not only with China but also with the IMF and multi-laterally with other countries. Through a combined strategy of legal action and international pressure, it is possible China will revisit its undervaluation of the RMB. If these efforts are not successful, we ask the Administration to consider all the tools at its disposal, including the application of a tariff on Chinese imports, to respond to China’s currency manipulation. The economic impact of the RMB undervaluation on American businesses and workers is too great for the Administration not to pursue a comprehensive effort.
This economic downturn has underscored the pressing need to promote policies that protect U.S. jobs and U.S. businesses. Addressing China’s manipulation of its currency must be a critical part of our strategy to rebuild our economy and establish safeguards against future financial crises. The Administration has the legal ability and resources to protect American businesses in the face of China’s RMB devaluation, and we urge you to exercise this authority expeditiously.
Thank you for your consideration of this letter. We look forward to your response.