Senators Push Bill to Crack Down on China Currency

September 22, 2011
The Detroit News

Washington— A bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including Michigan's Debbie Stabenow, said they expect legislation aimed at tackling Chinese currency practices that undercut U.S. businesses to pass next month.

Many senators have complained for years that China manipulates its currency by intervening with its large foreign reserves to keep the value of its currency artificially low. That makes Chinese exporters cheaper in dollar terms.

A group of 20 senators, including Stabenow, D-Lansing; Carl Levin, D-Detroit; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Olympia Snowe, R-Maine Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.; Robert Casey, D-Pa.; and Richard Burr, R-N.C., on Thursday introduced the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011.

"We have momentum to be able to get this bill passed," Stabenow said. "We want to export our products — not our jobs."

She said Michigan auto suppliers are being undercut by Chinese currency practices, which make it impossible for many parts to be produced at competitive prices in Michigan. It's putting workers "at a severe disadvantage and it's costing us real jobs."

Many large Michigan auto suppliers like Delphi Corp. and Visteon Corp. have shifted most of their work overseas — with much in China.

"We've all had enough," Stabenow said. "We are requiring the U.S. government to act."

Levin praised the bill in a statement. "Currency manipulation makes Chinese and Japanese exports unfairly cheap and U.S. products more expensive in China and Japan, displacing U.S. production and jobs. This is nothing short of a government subsidy, and we should be doing all we can to fight back against such harmful unfair trade practices," he said.

The bill would require the Commerce Department to evaluate currency manipulation as an unfair subsidy. U.S. firms and workers hurt by the practices could ask for countervailing duties to be slapped on Chinese products. The senators say the provision would comply with U.S. obligations under the World Trade Organization.

The Obama administration has opposed legislative efforts, preferring to lobby China to gradually let its currency value rise.
The steel industry praised the bill.

"This bill is common-sense legislation that adds no additional cost to the federal government but does provide the U.S. with a legal tool to use in addressing the job loss caused by China's protectionist undervaluation of its currency," said American Iron and Steel Institute President and CEO Thomas J. Gibson. "Given our current fiscal situation, we clearly cannot keep giving China a free pass on this critical issue."

A new study released Tuesday by the Economic Policy Institute said 2.8 million U.S. jobs between 2001 and 2010 were lost as a result of China's undervaluation of the renminbi to the U.S. dollar. Of those, 79,800 were lost in Michigan.

"This report offers conclusive evidence that immediate action by the administration is needed to curb China's currency manipulation, which, along with China's blatant trade violations, are now having the same devastating impact on high-tech production that they've already had on the nation's longstanding industrial base," said Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a partnership of America's manufacturers and the United Steelworkers union.

Burr said North Carolina has been "in the crosshairs" of Chinese trade practices — especially in the textile and furniture industries. "We increase our oversight of manipulation," Burr said, saying it gives the administration "the whole toolbox" to respond.