With Chinese President Xi Jinping due at the White House next week, seven senators are making a new push against currency manipulation.
The lawmakers, led by Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio, want to see currency devaluation addressed as part of the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks, citing recent moves by both Vietnam and South Korea in response to China's adjusting the value of its currency, the yuan.
"We fear these recent currency interventions could lead to a pattern of competitive devaluation within the Asia-Pacific that could hurt U.S. workers and exports for years to come. Therefore, it is extremely important that TPP addresses currency issues in meaningful and concrete ways," the senators wrote to Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, obtained first by CQ Roll Call.
The senators express concern that Senate aides are hearing there has not been significant headway made in addressing currency as part of the trade talks, though the White House said on Sept. 3 that it was seeking currency enforcement legislation. The most likely vehicle for that would be a customs bill that's still pending on Capitol Hill that was passed in different forms as part of the Trade Promotion Authority debate earlier this year.
The group behind Tuesday's letter is a mix of supporters and opponents of the "fast-track" trade authority that became law earlier this year. It provides an expedited process for considering TPP if and when a final agreement is reached among the participating countries from the Pacific rim.
Portman, a former trade representative, has faced perhaps more criticism than any other Republican senator for his support of the expedited process for considering trade deals, from the Ohio Democratic Party and others. Brown has been an outspoken opponent of the trade agenda of President Barack Obama, which moved through Congress with largely Republican votes.
Portman and Brown were joined in the effort by GOP Sens. Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, as well as Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
"[A]s China's recent devaluation demonstrated, these interventions can have significant and immediate global economic impacts. Thus, currency issues must be addressed seriously, aggressively, and promptly. Recent comments by foreign TPP negotiators to Senate staff members suggest very little progress has been made on this issue," the senators wrote. "We would appreciate your perspective as to the impact these devaluations are having on US workers and your efforts to address them in the continuing TPP negotiations."
Last week, Stabenow joined the two Ohio senators on a separate letter to Froman calling for the TPP agreement to address needs of U.S. automakers.
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