Dem calls on Obama to raise currency with Japan

Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) on Thursday called on President Obama to raise the issue of Japanese currency manipulation during his visit to Japan next week.

"Between Japan's reported unwillingness to open up their agricultural and auto markets, and the prime minister's public assertions while running that he would actively work to weaken the yen, it is imperative that you raise currency manipulation with him during your talks," Michaud wrote in a letter to the president.

The White House indicated when announcing the trip that the the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement will be on the agenda when Obama meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Treasury Department's semiannual currency report released on Tuesday said that the yen had depreciated 25 percent since October 2012. It sided with a previous International Monetary Fund review that the Japanese yen was "moderately undervalued."

That was far less critical than Treasury's report from last year, which said pointedly that Japan needs to stop using currency devaluation to gain an advantage in international trade.

Michaud said that a discussion of currency manipulation would be integral to any trade pact that the United States enters into with Japan, like the TPP.

"Currency manipulation remains a serious issue with our existing trade agreements," Michaud wrote.

Members of Congress have exerted various levels of pressure on the last few administrations to get China and Japan to allow the value of their currencies to rise. Pressure from Congress is widely seen as a contributing factor to China's decision to allow its currency, the yuan, to slowly appreciate in value in 2005.

In addition to Japan, Obama will travel to South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines in a trip that starts April 23.

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