Sun, Jul 17, 2005 - Page 11 News List

US believes China will float yuan soon

`LIKELIHOOD' Expecting a revaluation within the next few months, US senators have delayed a bill that would impose penalty tariffs on cheap Chinese imports

AP , WASHINGTON

The Bush administration and members of Congress believe China is likely to begin revaluing its currency in the coming months, Senator Charles Schumer said on Friday.

Schumer, a Democrat, and Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, have delayed a bill that would impose penalty tariffs on Chinese imports if the Asian giant does not change its currency system soon.

The senators met last month with US Treasury Secretary John Snow and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Schumer said on Friday the lawmakers were told that China would soon change its current policy of linking the yuan at a fixed rate to the dollar.

US manufacturers contend that Beijing's practice of linking its currency to the dollar has undervalued the yuan by as much as 40 percent, making Chinese goods cheaper in the US and American products more expensive there.

"The reason that Graham and I delayed our bill is because the administration told us they thought there was a darn good chance China will begin the revaluation process in the next few months, and I said fine," Schumer said.

"Is there a guarantee? No, it is a likelihood. I believe it is a likelihood, and the administration believes it is a likelihood," he said.

Tony Fratto, Treasury's chief spokesman, said on Friday that Snow has not provided a specific timetable to the senators on when China will revalue.

"Secretary Snow did not provide an assurance on a specific time frame for when China would reform its currency regime. Targeting a specific date or time frame is counterproductive," Fratto said.

"That said, it is clear that China is prepared to move now. It would be in the best interests of China, and the global financial system, if these reforms came sooner rather than later," he said.

The timing of a change in currency policy may hinge on a September visit to the US by Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).

Schumer said he is ready to pull the trigger on his bill in October.

"If China does nothing, obviously we're going to move," he said.

The proposed legislation would impose across-the-board penalty tariffs of 27.5 percent on goods imported from China.

Some argue that a drastic across-the-board tariff could have a negative impact on both economies.

The National Trade Federation has warned that such a tariff would hurt US consumers, and Greenspan has argued that it would save few if any jobs.

The Schumer-Graham legislation gained sudden attention after it gained 67 votes -- two-thirds of the Senate -- on a test vote this year.

Following that vote, the administration took a tougher line, saying China could move immediately to a more flexible currency system.

Snow has warned that if China does not act by October, the administration probably would brand it a "currency manipulator" in a report to Congress.

In the House, Representative Mike Rogers said he won't delay his own proposed legislation to pressure China on a trade and currency issues.

Rogers is seeking to bolster the enforcement of trade rules and require a tougher stance by the Bush administration toward Chinese currency manipulation.

"We have waited long enough," Rogers said.

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