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Photo by Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday night declared China to be a currency manipulator, just hours after the Chinese government allowed the yuan to slip below a 7-to-1 dollar ratio for the first time in over a decade.

Why it matters: This is a further ratcheting up of trade tensions between the two countries, and also marks the first time any U.S. president has used the currency manipulator label since 1994.

How it works: Under a 2015 law, in order to be a currency manipulator, a country needs to spend 2% of GDP on currency manipulation over a 12-month period. China is not doing this. If anything, China was keeping the yuan artificially strong until Trump ratcheted up the trade war on Thursday.

Why now: Trump campaigned on labeling China a currency manipulator, but was persuaded not to on the grounds that it would not be helpful. Today, however, voices from both the right (Lou Dobbs) and left (Chuck Schumer) have been urging the president to take this step.

What’s next: The currency manipulator designation does not come with particularly harsh remedies. First comes a year of negotiations, and after that even the Trump administration's proposed beefed-up penalties are small, amounting to no more than about $20 million per year. The move will certainly annoy the Chinese, however, and make any trade deal harder to achieve.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

Driving the news: James and Jennifer Crumbley were each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

3 hours ago - World

Putin to demand legal guarantee against NATO expansion in call with Biden

Biden and Putin meeting in Geneva in June. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding a legally binding guarantee that NATO will not expand east — including to Ukraine — and plans to raise the issue in an upcoming phone call with President Biden, according to the Kremlin.

Why it matters: Russia has massed more than 94,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and could be preparing for a large-scale invasion at the end of January, Ukraine's defense minister said Friday.

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