April 27, 2020 / 5:36 AM / 3 months ago

U.S. Treasury currency report on trade partners delayed, Taiwan central bank sources say

TAIPEI (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury’s latest semi-annual report on trade practices of its major trading partners which was due this month has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, two sources with direct knowledge at Taiwan’s central bank told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: A woman runs on a nearly empty street in the coronavirus outbreak near the Treasury Department in Washington, U.S. March 30, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The report, which decides whether or not to designate trading partners as currency manipulators, is normally released every October and April. The one in October was only released in January this year due to on-going China-U.S. trade talks.

The sources at Taiwan’s central bank told Reuters that the U.S. Treasury had informed them that the report would be delayed.

“The U.S. said that because of the epidemic, it will be postponed,” said one source, speaking on condition of anonymity, adding a new date had not been confirmed.

The second source told Reuters that they did not know whether the U.S. Treasury had informed other U.S. trading partners about this delay.

Taiwan’s central bank declined to comment. The U.S. Treasury did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside of normal business hours in Washington.

Taiwan was last labelled a currency manipulator by the United States in December 1992 and was later put on the U.S. Treasury monitoring list in 2016 and 2017.

The Treasury’s January report said that Taiwan, along with Thailand, were close to triggering thresholds to be added to the currency monitoring list.

Two sources told Reuters in November that Taiwan’s central bank and Ministry of Economic Affairs had set up a group to coordinate stepped up purchases of U.S. goods, as its seeks to reduce its trade surplus and head off being labelled a currency manipulator.

In the January report, the Treasury dropped its designation of China as a currency manipulator days before top officials of the world’s two largest economies were due to sign a preliminary trade agreement to ease an 18-month-old tariff war.

Taiwan’s 2019 trade surplus with the United States hit $23 billion, exceeding a threshold of $20 billion - one of the criteria Washington uses for putting trade partner nations on the monitoring list.

Taiwan’s current account surplus was 10.5% of GDP last year, which also matches another criteria in which it could be labelled a currency manipulator, as the threshold is 2%.

Reporting by Liang-sa Loh; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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