Currency manipulation remains prickly issue for Congress

Congressional lawmakers are ramping up pressure on the Obama administration to add currency manipulation provisions into any future trade agreements. 

Democrats and some Republicans — in fact, last year it was a bipartisan majority in both chambers — are pushing for the addition of language in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact that would create a framework for detection and enforcement of currency policies  designed to give countries a global trading advantage.

ADVERTISEMENT

Addressing currency concerns could help smooth the path for trade promotion authority (TPA) and any agreements that reach Capitol Hill, even among lawmakers who already are pledging their support for the trade agenda. 

While currency remains a hot topic, the Obama administration has essentially ruled out adding currency provisions, especially with the TPP nearing completion. 

But that isn't stopping the dialogue on Capitol Hill. 

Three House Democrats — Reps. Dan Kildee (Mich.), Debbie Dingell (Mich.) and Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) — on Friday invited their colleagues and their staffs to a Tuesday briefing with outside experts on the issue.

Later in the week, Matt Blunt, president of the American Automotive Policy Council, who has been outspoken on currency manipulation policies, will hold a panel discussion on the issue, too.

Kildee, who is from the heart of auto-manufacturing country, told The Hill last week that currency manipulation is one of the most important trade issues because it affects the value of imports and exports.

He is opposed to TPA and the TPP because of currency and other nagging issues. 

But President Obama told House Democrats last week that it would be complicated to add those provisions into a trade agreement. 

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUnscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration MORE (R-Wis.), who is ratcheting up his push for TPA and eventual passage of an ambitious trade agenda this year, said he agrees that adding currency into the agreement could complicate their completion. 

But he said Congress and the White House must work together to find the best way forward. 

Ryan said he would make the case to his party that the answer to stemming currency manipulation policies is greater access to foreign markets for the United States through trade deals.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael B.G. FromanUS trade rep spent nearly M to furnish offices: report Overnight Finance: Trump hits China on currency manipulation, countering Treasury | Trump taps two for Fed board | Tax deadline revives fight over GOP overhaul | Justices set to hear online sales tax case Froman joins Mastercard to oversee global business expansion MORE deferred the issue to the Treasury Department, which is in charge of overseeing currency policies. 

To that end, Treasury Secretary Jack LewJacob (Jack) Joseph LewOvernight Finance: US reaches deal with ZTE | Lawmakers look to block it | Trump blasts Macron, Trudeau ahead of G-7 | Mexico files WTO complaint Obama-era Treasury secretary: Tax law will make bipartisan deficit-reduction talks harder GOP Senate report says Obama officials gave Iran access to US financial system MORE fielded questions from a handful of lawmakers from both sides of the dais during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Thursday. 

"The challenge in the context of a trade agreement is how to address the issue in a way that helps and doesn't hurt," Lew said.

"I would be concerned that the effectiveness we have dealing through the existing channels could be diminished in some ways if some approaches were taken."

Lew said there are efforts through the Group of 7, G-20 and International Monetary Fund as well as working directly with countries like China to clamp down on currency problems.

In the last Congress bipartisan majorities, as well as business and labor groups, teamed up to push for better currency policies.