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China, Currency Manipulation, and Trump’s Day One

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 11:43
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(Before It's News)

Brad Setser:

China, Manipulation, Day One, the 1988 Trade Act and the Bennet Amendment: President-elect Trump has said that he plans to declare China a currency manipulator on day one.

I am among those who think this is a bad idea. This isn’t the right time to signal that China’s long-standing exchange rate management has crossed over the line and become manipulation. If China responded by ending all exchange rate management—no daily fix, no band, no intervention, a true float—the renminbi would certainly fall, and potentially fall by a lot.

Uncomfortable as it is to say, right now it is in the United States’ economic interest for China to continue to manage its exchange rate. …

I guess you could argue that that China’s reserves sale have been persistent and one-sided, and thus fit the letter of law. But China has sold foreign exchange in the market to keep the yuan from depreciating. The monthly data suggest has China not bought foreign exchange in the market to keep the yuan from appreciating in the past 6 quarters or so… Its intervention in the market has worked to prevent exchange rate moves that would have the effect of widening China’s current account surplus over time. Every indicator of intervention that I track is telling the same story.

I can see how a case could be made that China’s broader exchange rate management—notably its use of the fix to guide the CNY—could meet the 1988 law’s definition of manipulation. … I have consistently argued that China’s currency is still tightly managed. …

But that doesn’t mean naming China is a good thing to do right now. …

The goal of the United States right now, in my view, should be to encourage China to manage its currency in a way that doesn’t give rise to strong expectations of further depreciation that could fuel potentially unmanageable outflows—while encouraging China to put in place the bank recapitalization and social safety net needed to more permanently wean China off external demand. …

There's much more in the full post.

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