U.S. puts China, Japan on new watch list for unfair foreign-exchange practices
The U.S. put economies including China, Japan and Germany on a new currency watch list, saying that their foreign-exchange practices bear close monitoring to gauge if they provide an unfair trade advantage over America.
The inaugural list also includes South Korea and Taiwan, the Treasury said Friday in a revamped version of its semi-annual report on the foreign-exchange policies of major U.S. trading partners.
The five economies met two of the three criteria used to judge unfair practices under a February law that seeks to enforce U.S. trade interests. Meeting all three would trigger action by the president to enter discussions with the country and seek penalties.
The new scrutiny of some of the world’s biggest economies comes amid a bruising presidential campaign in which candidates from both the Democratic and Republican parties have questioned the merits of free trade.
Republican front-runner Donald Trump has promised to declare China a currency manipulator.
The Treasury had already been monitoring countries for evidence of currency manipulation under a 1988 law. In the latest report, the department concluded that no major trading partner qualified as a currency manipulator; the last country it labeled a manipulator was China, in 1994.
Under the new law, Treasury officials developed three criteria to decide if countries are being unfair: an economy has a trade surplus with the U.S. above $20 billion, has a current-account surplus amounting to more than 3 percent of that economy’s gross domestic product and has repeatedly depreciated its currency by buying foreign assets equivalent to 2 percent of output over the year.
China, Japan, Germany and South Korea were flagged as a result of their trade and current account surpluses, the department said. Taiwan made the list because of its current account surplus and persistent intervention to weaken the currency, according to the Treasury.
If a country meets all three criteria, it could eventually be cut off from some U.S. development financing and excluded from U.S. government contracts.
The Treasury said China’s yuan “should continue to experience real appreciation over the medium term.” In the department’s last report, in October, it said the yuan was “below its appropriate medium-term valuation.” Before that, the department had said the yuan was “significantly undervalued,” a description it avoided again Friday.
The Treasury said more clarity from China on its exchange rate goals, including on its commitment not to devalue its currency to boost growth, would help stabilize the market.