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China off US 'currency manipulator' list

By ZHAO HUANXIN in Washington and SCOTT REEVES in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-01-14 11:45
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The United States on Monday removed the label of "currency manipulator" from China, a move experts said is "just recognizing reality" and will be welcomed by investors.

The US Treasury Department said in a report to Congress that no major US trading partner currently meets the relevant legislative criteria for currency manipulation.

Noting that the department assessed developments over the last several months with China and its currency practices, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement that "China has made enforceable commitments to refrain from competitive devaluation, while promoting transparency and accountability."

The announcement came five months after the Trump administration designated China a "currency manipulator" in August.

A report released by the International Monetary Fund in early August did not support the designation, saying that China's real effective exchange rate in 2018 was estimated to be at the same level as warranted by fundamentals and desirable policies.

"China has not been manipulating its currency, so this is just recognizing reality," said David Dollar, senior fellow at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution.

Mark Sobel, US chairman of the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum, an independent think tank, also said China shouldn't have been designated to start with.

"Designation was blatant/errant political act," Sobel tweeted Monday.
In a recent statement, the People's Bank of China, the central bank, said China will continue to let the market play a decisive role in exchange-rate formation and keep the renminbi's exchange rate generally stable at a reasonable and balanced level.

Yi Gang, the central banker, said in Washington in late October that the exchange rate of China's renminbi, or yuan, is "at an appropriate level", judging both from economic fundamentals and from market supply and demand.

The US' dropping of the currency manipulator designation came the same day that a Chinese trade delegation, led by Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He, arrived in Washington for the signing of a phase one trade deal at the White House, scheduled for Wednesday.

Andrew Karolyi, a professor of finance at Cornell University, said investors will welcome the action largely because it appears to be tied to an impending agreement set to normalize trade relations with China.

"These steps individually and together help to reduce global trade policy uncertainty, something markets have been craving for months," Karolyi told China Daily.

"It is more than just symbolic, as lower trade policy uncertainty likely means more trade flows and greater cross-border portfolio and corporate investment flows, all of which stimulates more economic growth," he said.

Following the US Treasury announcement, the central parity rate of the renminbi reached a five-month high on Tuesday.

The central parity rate strengthened 309 pips ("point in percentage", or a single-digit move in the fourth decimal place in a currency pair) to 6.8954 against the US dollar, which was its strongest level since Aug 1, according to the China Foreign Exchange Trade System.

The US Treasury Department under the Trump administration previously released five semiannual reports on major trading partners' exchange-rate policies — including one in May 2019 — none of which labeled China a currency manipulator.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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