Aug 5, 2019

Trump administration designates China as currency manipulator

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.

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Chinese yuan weakens past key milestone as trade war heats back up

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The Chinese yuan was allowed to weaken past 7-to-1 against the dollar for the first time ever in offshore markets and the first time in more than 10 years in its onshore market.

What it means: The move is seen as a response to President Trump's threat on Thursday to add 10% tariffs to $300 billion of Chinese imports. Wall Street extended its multi-day sell-off after the news: the Dow is down more than 500 points, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are off as much as 2% early on Monday. Meantime, the yield on the U.S. 10-year note fell to multi-year lows.

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The scared planet

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The big picture: Sometimes, as in 2008, a global crisis feels like an exogenous shock — something that hits the world unexpectedly and requires a unified and coordinated response. This time is different: Insofar as the world is headed for recession, it's a recession where government actions are the problem rather than the solution.

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Trade war: Trump says China wants to restart negotiations

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President Trump said on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, Monday that China has contacted his administration to request for trade talks to resume.

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