WASHINGTON—A bipartisan group of seven senators has sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, requesting an update on the Obama administration's efforts to address currency manipulation issues in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
China recently devalued its currency by more than 4 percent, the senators noted in their Sept. 15 letter. Vietnam and South Korea did the same in response to China's actions, each country devaluating its currency by nearly 1 percent, they said.
“We do not expect these devaluations to be the last, even in the near term,” they wrote. “We fear these recent currency interventions could lead to a pattern of competitive devaluation within the Asia-Pacific that would hurt U.S workers and exports for years to come.
“Therefore, it is extremely important that TPP addresses currency issues in meaningful and concrete ways,” they said. Recent comments to Senate staffers by foreign TPP negotiators, however, suggest that very little progress has been made in this area, they said.
The Senate voted 60-38 on June 24 to give President Obama “fast-track” authority in negotiating trade agreements, meaning that the Senate can only make a strict year-or-nay vote on the TPP or any other trade agreement the president submits.
The United Steelworkers union, the Alliance for American Manufacturers and other groups have denounced the TPP as insufficiently protective of the rights of U.S. workers. Currency manipulation by China and other Pacific Rim nations is a key point of their opposition.
The senators who signed the letter were Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).