Ford CEO Mulally calls Japan currency manipulator

Top U.S. officials have told Japan that it is closely watching the trajectory of the yen, which has fallen against every major currency since mid-November.

Concerns over Japan's market access issues, combined with the devaluation of its currency have escalated in recent months, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stepped up efforts to kick-start his nation's long-sluggish economy. 

Automakers have been one of the most vocal critics of Japan's economic policies, which they argue keep Japan's market largely closed to most U.S. exports, especially autos. 

Their criticism accelerated after Japan gained entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks, which they strongly oppose. 

"It’s just the most closed market in the world,” Mulally said.

The United States and Japan are holding parallel negotiations in an effort to open the market to autos and a range of other U.S. products. 

Newly confirmed U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has suggested to lawmakers that he would aim to gain more access. 

There also is growing frustration among House and Senate lawmakers over the currency issue. 

Earlier this month, 230 House lawmakers sent the bipartisan letter to President Obama calling on the Obama administration to address currency manipulation in Asia-Pacific trade deal negotiations. 

They argued that despite U.S. efforts to address the issue in other global arenas, many countries are still undervaluing their currencies, costing jobs and hurting the U.S. economy.

Leading manufacturers, including the American Automotive Policy Council (AAPC), the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) and the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), are supporting the effort. 

On the Senate side, a bipartisan group of senators has reintroduced currency manipulation legislation spurred by the widening trade deficit with China.

The bill would use trade law to counter any economic harm encountered by U.S. manufacturers because of currency manipulation, while providing consequences for countries that fail to change their policies that cause the undervaluing problem.