Trump admin. declines to brand China a currency manipulator

Asian equities evaded currency manipulator label in the latest report by U.S. Treasury, but still remain wary of possible trade frictions, as U.S. President, Donald Trump maintains his administration will seek to address trade imbalances.

"While China now meets only one of the three criteria for currency manipulation listed in the report, the text makes clear that China's large bilateral trade surplus with the United States is by itself enough to warrant careful scrutiny of China's trade and currency practices", Prasad said.

The administration's first report to Congress on foreign exchange policies of United States trading partners continues the stance of the Obama administration, putting those and four other countries on a watch list, though using a much tougher tone.

No major trading partner of the U.S. was named a currency manipulator in a latest Treasury report on the foreign exchange policies of these countries, though a list including six countries whose polices were deemed to require close monitoring was left unchanged.

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The checklist also includes Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Switzerland.

"No major trading partner of the United States met the standards identified in Section 3004 of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 for currency manipulation in the second half of 2016", the Treasury Department said in a report to Congress.

The Treasury said it "will be scrutinizing China's trade and currency policies very closely".

The Treasury report recognized what many analysts have said over the past year, namely that China has recently intervened in foreign exchange markets to prop up the value of its yuan currency, not push it lower to make Chinese exports cheaper. "Expanding trade in a way that is freer and fairer for all Americans requires that other economies avoid unfair currency practices, and we will continue to monitor this carefully", Mnuchin said.

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On the US-China trade deficit, Lew said the actual bilateral trade deficit number is not always the issue.

The US report said Asia's fourth-largest economy posted US$28 billion in goods surplus with the USA last year, with its current account surplus accounting for 7 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

"The United States can not and will not bear the burden of an global trading system that unfairly disadvantages our exports and unfairly advantages the exports of our trading partners through artificially distorted exchange rates", it said. "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".

"China has clearly embarked on market-oriented exchange rate reform, with the yuan's daily trading band already expanded to 3 per cent from 0.3 per cent", Zhou said.

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