Nearly 160 House lawmakers warn Obama on currency provision

Nearly 160 House lawmakers warn Obama on currency provision
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A bipartisan group of lawmakers is leading the call in the House for the Obama administration to include enforceable provisions against currency manipulation in a sweeping Asia-Pacific agreement.

As talks continue heading into this weekend on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Morgan GriffithHoward (Morgan) Morgan GriffithThe 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran Overnight Energy: Senate Dems introduce Green New Deal alternative | Six Republicans named to House climate panel | Wheeler confirmed to lead EPA Six Republicans named to House climate panel MORE (R-Va.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Dave Brat (R-Va.) warned in a call with reporters on Friday that the 12-nation pact faces failure in the House without provisions to crack down on currency manipulation.

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The four lawmakers were joined by 154 other House members — a combination of Republicans and Democrats, although a heavy portion of the minority — in signing a letter sent to President Obama on Friday.

Trade issues face an uphill battle for Democratic votes, as seen with the passage of trade promotion authority, which squeaked through Congress in June after months of intense lobbying from both sides. 

Currency manipulation has attracted bipartisan majorities in the past in the House and Senate and maintained a steady head of steam through the debate over fast-track authority for trade deals. 

"In just the last month, three of our trading partners — China, Korea, and Vietnam — have each taken steps that have caused their currencies to weaken, disadvantaging American businesses," the lawmakers wrote.

Of those three countries, only Vietnam is a current partner in the trade deal. But South Korea has expressed strong interest in eventually joining the agreement. China is expected, sometime down the road, to sign onto the deal as well.

"These steps have raised significant concerns and highlighted the importance of enacting strong, enforceable protections against currency manipulation,” they said.

The letter was sent to the White House with chief negotiators from the 12 TPP nations set to meet in Atlanta on Saturday in hopes of finalizing a deal in the next week or so.

It also comes as the president meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the White House on Friday with currency and a host of economic issues on the agenda.

Dingell called currency manipulation the “mother of all trade barriers” and said that the letter, which many lawmakers were eager to sign amid flurry of news about Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBoehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader Scaramucci compares Trump to Jonestown cult leader: 'It's like a hostage crisis inside the White House' MORE’s departure, reaffirms what Congress will be looking for in any final TPP deal.

She told reporters on a Friday conference call that currency manipulation has the potential to cancel out any benefits of the TPP, such as more jobs.

"We want to make sure we’re not being had and manipulating currency is one way countries try to do that," said Griffith, who argued that his Southwest Virginia district has lost jobs because of the practice.

DeLauro said that any side deal to the TPP won't be good enough to help sway many minds if enforceable currency provisions are left out.

"The currency issue is so directly related to the loss of jobs, which is something we all really care about," she said. 

There was some talk in the last batch of TPP negotiations in Hawaii in July that the leaders would create a task force to closely examine currency practices. 

She said there are still plenty of Democrats and probably more Republicans who are willing to join the effort to crack down on currency.

She urged TPP negotiators to seize the opportunity to rein in currency practices that hurt workers in the United States and elsewhere around the world.  

"If we let this go by, we're putting American workers, their jobs and their wages in jeopardy and we don’t want to do that," she said.

It is estimated that currency manipulation has led to up to 5 million lost American jobs, and many more could be at risk as a result of a trade agreement that fails to include strong, enforceable protections against currency manipulation, they wrote in the letter.

"Therefore, as you work to conclude negotiations of the TPP and pursue the principal negotiating objective on unfair currency practices, we urge you to incorporate strong and enforceable currency rules within TPP,” they wrote.