By Vicki Needham - 04/17/14 04:08 PM EDT
A House Democrat is calling on President Obama to raise the issue currency manipulation with Japanese leaders during meetings in Tokyo next week.
Rep. Mike Michaud (Maine), chairman of the House Trade Working Group, sent a letter to Obama urging him to address fluctuations of the yen with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
"Currency protections that safeguard against manipulation are central to any trade agreement," he said.
"President Obama has an opportunity to directly engage with Prime Minister Abe on his government’s ongoing effort to devalue the yen, and I certainly hope he raises the issue and conveys why it is so unacceptable.”
Obama is slated to begin a four-nation trip to Asia next week with stops in Tokyo, Malaysia, South Korea and the Philippines. He will spend three days in Japan.
While Obama is expected to discuss a broad range of issues with leaders, improving trading relationships is paramount to the U.S. pivot toward the Asia-Pacific and his economic agenda.
To press his point, Michaud cited the Treasury Department’s report to Congress released earlier this week showing that the yen has depreciated 25 percent between October 2012 and February.
The report didn’t conclude that Japan or any other countries are currency manipulators.
A majority in Congress are urging U.S. trade officials to include current manipulation provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and any other trade deal that follows.
The issue has brought together a broad range of groups from manufacturers to labor unions.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has acknowledged congressional concerns but has deferred the issue to Treasury.
There is no expectation that currency manipulation will be brought up in the trade talks over the 12-nation trade deal.
Michaud also reminded Obama about a letter he wrote in 2008 to United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, where he said that as president he would "insist that our trade deals include prohibitions against illegal subsidies and currency manipulation and other trade practices that hurt American workers and firms."