By Vicki Needham - 07/09/14 12:09 PM EDT
Two Senate Democrats said Wednesday that the Obama administration’s ambitious trade agenda is in jeopardy without action on China’s currency policies.
Sens. Bob Casey (Pa.) and Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew pressing the Obama administration to “decisively confront the issue of currency manipulation” at the Strategic & Economic Dialogue (S&ED) that started in Beijing on Wednesday.
“We strongly urge Secretary Lew to make currency manipulation a major topic of discussion, and to seek real commitments from the Chinese government to abandon its efforts to rig the international markets in China’s favor.”
The senators point to a recent Treasury Department report sent to Congress showing that China’s efforts to raise the value of its currency, the yuan, has slipped this year after making some progress in 2013.
“It’s time for the administration to finally take real and tangible steps to address China’s currency manipulation,” Casey said.
“It’s impossible for our businesses and workers to get ahead when China is allowed to flaunt international law and intentionally devalue its currency,” he said.
Lew said currency issues are on the broad agenda for the the two-day meeting in China this week.
He recently expressed concern that China’s efforts to raise the value of the yuan have fallen off during the past several months and “it’s fundamentally not fair in terms of trading practices, which is why we press on it so hard.”
The Treasury report said that through the first few months of this year, the yuan depreciated by “marked” 2.68 percent, the senators noted.
“Time and again, we have heralded progress only to see it eroded by China’s aggressive actions,” the senators wrote.
The said the issue has been slighted by both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.
On a tangential issue, the senators continued their push for the inclusion of currency provisions into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
So far, the issue hasn’t been raised in the trade talks.
While the lawmakers said they understand that the issue rests with the Treasury and not with the U.S. Trade Representative, they “would like to make clear that without inclusion of strong and enforceable currency manipulation disciplines in any future trade agreement, the president’s trade agenda, including the passage of the TPP, is in jeopardy,” they wrote.
“Therefore, we urge you to use this week’s S&ED to demand clear and measurable policies to address currency undervaluation that can serve as a template for TPP and other agreements."