China denies U.S. warning of undervalued currency

BEIJING/WASHINGTON Wed Apr 16, 2014 1:57pm IST

A clerk arranges bundles of 100 Chinese yuan banknotes at a branch of China Merchants Bank in Hefei, Anhui province March 17, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

A clerk arranges bundles of 100 Chinese yuan banknotes at a branch of China Merchants Bank in Hefei, Anhui province March 17, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China rejected on Wednesday a warning from the Obama administration that its currency was too weak, urging the United States to recognise that China aims to "perfect and regulate" the exchange rate system.

The Obama administration on Tuesday warned China that its currency was too weak and expressed doubt over the Asian giant's resolve to let market forces guide the value of the yuan.

In a semiannual report to Congress, the U.S. Treasury stopped short of declaring China a currency manipulator, but singled it out among large U.S. trading partners for its currency practices.

"Recent developments in the ... exchange rate raise particularly serious concerns if they presage a retreat from China's announced policy of allowing the exchange rate to reflect market forces," the Treasury said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China would continue with the "reform of its renminbi exchange rate mechanism". The yuan is also known as the renminbi.

"We aim to perfect and regulate the exchange rate system," Hua said at a daily news briefing.

"We hope the U.S. can correctly recognise this and appropriately deal with the relevant trade issues related to the RMB exchange rate, and take a cooperative and constructive attitude with the Chinese side, making unceasing shared efforts to push forward the trade cooperation between China and the U.S."

The United States sees currency management by China and other developing countries as an impediment to rebalancing the global economy away from a situation in which rich nations borrow heavily to buy goods from poor nations.

Emerging markets often build dollar reserves by keeping their currencies weak to spur more exports, pushing developed economies to borrow to cover their import bill.

GAINING AN EDGE?

The United States initially welcomed a move by China in March to allow the yuan currency to vary more in value.

But in the month prior to China's trading band decision, there were reports of "heavy intervention" by Chinese authorities to keep the yuan's value low, the U.S. Treasury said in its report.

Many U.S. lawmakers and firms have long complained that China deliberately undervalues the yuan to gain an edge in international markets. Some developing countries argue that America's easy-money interest rate policies result in a flood of cash into their markets, pushing them to build up dollar reserves to intervene in their currencies and keep them stable.

In the report, the Treasury said currency interventions and dollar reserve accumulation appeared to have increased globally in the second half of 2013.

"Progress on rebalancing global demand continues to remain inadequate and may, in fact, have worsened," the Treasury said.

While noting a rise last year in the value of the yuan, the report said the increase was too slow and did not go far enough. "Factors indicate a RMB exchange rate that remains significantly undervalued," it said. The turn lower in the yuan this year, however, drew particular scrutiny in the report: "This suggests continued actions to impede market determination."

As has become its custom, Washington called on the stronger economies in Europe to do more to boost domestic demand so as to lift the economic growth in the euro zone.

However, the Treasury did appear to soften its criticism against Germany, dropping language from a prior report that labeled Berlin's economic policy as having a deflationary impact on Europe.

(Additional reporting by Jason Lange in Washington,; Editing by Leslie Adler and Eric Walsh)

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