Tag Archives: renminbi

Obama In China: Breaking The Exchange Rate Deadlock

President Obama leaves next week for a high profile trip that includes meetings with other “Asia-Pacific” countries (in the APEC forum) and a visit to China.  The President has had considerable diplomatic success on the economic front to date, including at the G20 summit in April and – to a lesser degree – at the follow-up September summit in Pittsburgh.

But the issues facing him now in Asia are particularly difficult, primarily because of China’s exchange rate policy.  China essentially pegs its currency (known as the yuan or renminbi) against the US dollar, which means that it rises and – most recently – falls in tandem with the greenback.

Many countries operate de facto pegs of this nature, but China is problematic for three reasons: it is a large economy (10 percent of world GDP, if we adjust for purchasing power), it runs a big current account surplus (exporting more to the world than it buys from the world, in the range of 6-12 percent of the Chinese economy), and it consistently has a bilateral surplus with the US that is galling to many on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill (and their constituents). Continue reading

Mr. Geithner Goes to China

At his confirmation hearing in January, Tim Geithner nailed the China Question.  China prevents its exchange rate from appreciating through intervention (buying foreign currency), and this allows it to sustain a large current account surplus.  Geithner said, as plainly as you can expect from a senior official: this is not in accordance with international rules and should stop.

Not only is this sensible economics and correct on the rules, it is also good politics.  If you want to head off the considerable inclination towards protectionism in Congress, it would help greatly for the Chinese renminbi to rise in value (e.g., review the discussion at this House hearing).

But almost as soon as Geithner spoke on this issue, there was slippage.  By late February, Hillary Clinton was asking the Chinese nicely to continue holding US Treasury securities and, it now seems, punting the exchange rate issue.  Above all else, China wants to be left alone on the renminbi – variously arguing that any appreciation would jeopardize jobs, derail growth, and plunge the country into chaos.

So what should we expect from Geithner’s upcoming China trip? Continue reading