Lawmakers Seek Action Against China Currency Manipulation

Bill receives mixed reaction from industry groups.

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a bill Sept. 22 aimed at creating jobs by cracking down on China's alleged currency manipulation.

Democratic Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Charles Schumer of New York, along with Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Olympia Snowe of Maine unveiled the currency-manipulation legislation called the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011.

The legislation is identical to the Brown-Snowe measure passed in the House of Representatives last year and the Schumer and Graham proposal that moved through the Senate Finance Committee in 2007.

The bill includes new and updated provisions that would make it easier for the U.S. Treasury Department to identify instances of currency manipulation and enforce current laws.

The lawmakers say China's currency manipulation has cost the United States more than 2.8 million jobs since 2001.

"How much longer is Congress willing to stand by and watch thousands of jobs move to China? said Senator Brown in an earlier-released statement. "We know that 2 million jobs hang in the balance when it comes to currency manipulation. It's time to put American jobs and American workers first."

The American Iron and Steel Institute applauded the move, saying it addresses job losses "caused by China's protectionist undervaluation of its currency."

"This legislation would give U.S. manufacturers the ability to use the existing countervailing duty law to obtain a remedy for injury caused by goods benefiting from a currency manipulation export subsidy," said AISI President and CEO Thomas Gibson in a prepared statement.

But other trade groups criticized the bill as a potential jobs killer. A group of some 40 associations, including the American Chemistry Council, Business Roundtable and Aerospace Industries Association, wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asking them to oppose the bill.

The group claims cost increases related to China currency appreciation will force the country to shift production to other low-cost nations rather than the United States.

"Unilateral legislation on this issue would be counterproductive not only to the goals related to China's exchange rate that we all share, but also to our nation's broader objectives of addressing the many and growing challenges that we face in China," the coalition wrote.

The group cited several other issues that must be addressed, including inadequate protection of intellectual property, restrictions on market access and restrictions on rare earths exports from China.

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