Is this a new Trump? Abrupt reversals may reflect experience

The Trump administration didn't label any country, including China, a currency manipulator in its Friday report on exchange rates sent to Congress.

The semi-annual U.S. Treasury currency report, however, did keep China on a currency "monitoring list" despite Beijing's progress in reducing its global current account surplus, citing its unusually large trade surplus with the United States.

New language in the Treasury report citing a history of currency intervention in China, South Korea and Taiwan is in line with what experts say could be eventual changes to the criteria aimed at deterring future manipulation.

South Korea met only two out of three criteria to become a currency manipulator - trade surplus, current account surplus and market intervention.

"While China now meets only one of the three criteria for currency manipulation listed in the report, the text makes clear that China's large bilateral trade surplus with the U.S. is by itself enough to warrant careful scrutiny of China's trade and currency practices", Prasad said.

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President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that his administration will not label China a currency manipulator, backing away from a campaign promise, even as he said the United States dollar was "getting too strong" and would eventually hurt the economy.

"They're not currency manipulators", Trump told The Wall Street Journal earlier Wednesday, saying the country hadn't been cheating on its currency for months.

Trump's dramatic reversal on China's currency follows a cordial meeting between the president and Chinese leader Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago on April. 6 and 7.

As if insulting China and President Xi wasn't enough, when Xi arrived in Florida for his visit with the "most powerful man in the world" (i.e. someone called Trump), that man wasn't even there to meet him. Washington has not branded any country a currency manipulator since 1994.

"When our trading partners engage in currency manipulation, they impose significant, and often long-lasting hardship on American workers and businesses", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a press release that accompanied the report.

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Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the development "bodes well for cooperation between the USA and China".

The US report said Asia's fourth-largest economy posted US$28 billion in goods surplus with the USA last year, with its current account surplus accounting for 7 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

"When the President fails to label them a currency manipulator, he gives them a green light to steal our jobs and wealth time and time again", he said.

"In this status, China will have to prove that the lack of intervention to curb the growth rate of the national currency within three years has been a sustainable policy", the U.S. Treasury Department emphasized.

"China has clearly embarked on market-oriented exchange rate reform, with the yuan's daily trading band already expanded to 3 per cent from 0.3 per cent", Zhou said.

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