U.S. Lawmakers See Action on Yuan in Two Weeks

Vow to launch legislation to punish China for failing to revalue its currency

U.S. lawmakers said Wednesday they will launch legislative action in two weeks to punish China for refusing to revalue its currency.

They said they were disappointed with President Barack Obama's administration for not being able to push the Chinese leadership to let the yuan appreciate to reflect market rates.

"We are going to move," Sen. Charles Schumer declared at a hearing of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a panel appointed by Congress to monitor China's policies.

"In the next two weeks, my colleagues and I intend to move forward with legislation to provide specific consequences for countries that fail to adopt appropriate policy to eliminate currency misalignment," Schumer said.

He pointed out that Congress cannot waver on the issue, saying it was time for lawmakers to "put up or shut up."

Lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties say any action on the currency issue would sail through Congress.

In March, lawmakers were united in their call to Obama to brand China a currency manipulator, charging that Beijing kept the yuan undervalued against the U.S. dollar to gain a trade advantage.

They also introduced a bill merging previous legislative efforts that would punish currency manipulation as an unfair subsidy and trigger a set of actions, including imposing stiff duties on Chinese imports.

The duties are expected to be calculated based the market value of the yuan against the U.S. dollar, congressional aides said. Some economists say the yuan is undervalued against the greenback by about 40%.

Obama had asked U.S. lawmakers for virtually a three-month grace period from April to give him room to prod the Chinese leaders into action, putting off the release of a U.S. Treasury report that could have branded China a currency manipulator.

But Chinese President Hu Jintao stressed last month that his country would adjust its exchange rate policy at its own pace -- "under the principle of independent decision-making, controllability and gradual progress."

It was reported that Chinese leaders had reached a consensus in early April to allow the currency to be more flexible but action was put off due to the mounting eurozone debt crisis.

"I think the case to be made against China has gotten stronger, not weaker," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, who with Schumer has been leading the legislative efforts. "If they are not manipulating currency, who the hell is," he asked reporters after testifying at the hearing.

Graham blamed both Obama and his Republican predecessor George W. Bush for "not being forceful enough" against China on its currency policy.

He said deep divisions in Congress on other policy actions between the Republican and Democratic lawmakers would not deter any action against China on the yuan issue. "We live in a time where Republicans and Democrats cannot agree what day it is, but you will be amazed by the bipartisan support we have when it comes to insisting that China stop currency manipulation," he said.

The House of Representatives was also supportive of proposed actions against China, Graham said. "The House is in almost open rebellion over this. There was lot of pressure from the Obama administration to stop legislation from moving forward.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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