Hundreds of lawmakers push for focus on currency manipulation

The charge is led by a bipartisan group of lawmakers including Reps. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the House Small Business Committee, along with John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), an auto industry source told The Hill. 

The letter to President Obama comes after the 11 TPP nations agreed to let Japan join the talks despite strong opposition from U.S. automakers. 

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U.S. automakers have argued that the falling value of the Japanese yen will further add to the U.S. auto trade imbalance with Japan and needs to be addressed in the TPP.

"Undervalued exchange rates allow other countries to boost exports of their products and to impede exports of ours," the letter says. 

"They also contribute to trade imbalances and market access limitations that make it difficult for U.S. companies to compete in foreign countries."

The issue could be raised on Thursday when Michael Froman, Obama's nominee to take the helm of the U.S. Trade Representative, testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on his nomination. 

The letter also cites a report from the Peterson Institute for International Economics that shows that a minimum of 1 million U.S. jobs have been shipped overseas as a result of currency manipulation.

"The consequences are not singular to the U.S.; misaligned currencies are distorting the entire global economy," the lawmakers write. 

"Including currency disciplines in the TPP is consistent with and will bolster our ongoing efforts to respond to these trade-distorting policies. It will also raise TPP to the 21st century agreement standard set by the administration."

On the Senate side, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) renewed his call for passage of bipartisan currency manipulation legislation following the release on Tuesday of the latest trade deficit figures that show a 34 percent jump in the U.S.-China trade deficit. 

Obama is set to meet later this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping and trade issues are likely to be a focus. 

“As our trade deficit continues to widen, our need to level the playing field for American manufacturers and workers becomes more urgent,” Brown said. 

“Yet instead of taking action, we’re pursuing trade deals with countries that manipulate currencies. Congress won’t let these agreements move without finally imposing penalties on foreign nations that cheat trade laws by manipulating currency.”