By Vicki Needham - 05/01/14 01:12 PM EDT
A top Senate Democrat expressed concern on Thursday that negotiators of a massive Asia-Pacific trade deal haven't broached the subject of currency manipulation.
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) told U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael FromanUS confirms China has ended tax breaks for domestic airplanes House lawmakers call on Obama administration to oppose Iran joining global trade body Overnight Finance: Trump spurs tax reform talk | Feds release banks' revised 'living wills' MORE that he regretted that the issue “hasn’t been discussed given the level of importance” during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on President Obama's ambitious trade agenda.
“Strong language on currency manipulation is a vital first step to earning Democratic support to pass TPP in the Senate," he said.
“It matters a whole lot."
Schumer said currency provisions would aim to define and punish those countries that deliberately devalue their currency to gain an international trade advantage.
"No other provision could give TPP a fighting chance better than strong currency reforms," he said.
A majority of Congress has urged the Obama administration to make the issue a priority in trade talks and has been joined by a broad range of business groups and organized labor in their push.
"We’re continuing to consult with you and stakeholders to determine how best to deal with the underlying issue of currency manipulation,” Froman told the panel.
Froman said the Treasury Department has the lead on the issue and noted that countries like China, which is not yet part of the TPP, is letting the yuan increase in value, albeit too slowly.