The Obama administration declined to brand China a currency manipulator, while saying the yuan “remains significantly undervalued.”
China “has substantially reduced the level of official intervention in exchange markets since the third quarter of 2011,” the Treasury Department said in a statement in Washington today. Still, further appreciation of the yuan “against the dollar and other major currencies is warranted.”
Critics of China’s exchange-rate policies, including former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, say China deliberately suppresses the value of its currency, making its goods cheaper in overseas markets and costing jobs in the U.S.
Central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan said on Nov. 17 that full convertibility of the yuan will be the next step in the overhaul of the exchange-rate system. Signs Asia’s largest economy is starting to recover after a seven-quarter slowdown is also supporting the Chinese currency.
The U.S. ran a $295.4 billion trade deficit with China last year, about an 8 percent increase above the 2010 level. Allowing the yuan to appreciate would make Chinese goods more expensive for American consumers than they are now, reducing U.S. imports of the merchandise.
The yuan climbed to a 19-year high today after European officials reached an agreement on Greece and on signs China’s seven-quarter economic slowdown is nearing an end.
The yuan climbed 0.05 percent to 6.2223 per dollar in Shanghai, a 1 percent premium to the daily fixing, the maximum it’s allowed to fluctuate, according to the China Foreign Exchange Trade System.