U.S. lawmakers to again push currency rules for trade deals

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 23, 2015 10:50 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers will press again on Thursday to punish currency manipulators in legislation key to closing a Pacific trade pact, despite warnings from the White House the move could derail a central plank of the administration's outreach to Asia.

Democrats on the House of Representatives Ways and Means committee will offer changes to toughen currency rules in a bill designed to streamline the passage of trade deals through Congress, according to a document seen by Reuters.

A list of Democratic amendments to be offered during Thursday's committee debate includes two requiring stronger currency manipulation measures in the bill, which sets a goal of directing trading partners to avoid manipulating currencies but leaves the Obama administration discretion on how to achieve that goal. Critics say that is not strong enough.

The fast-track bill cleared its first hurdle in the U.S. Congress on Wednesday after a Senate committee backed a package of trade measures, including a compromise on currency rules.

Senators voted down a bid to boost currency rules in fast track but approved two other measures in a separate bill that would allow import duties on goods from currency manipulators and for such countries to be blocked from trade agreements.

Fast track would prohibit Congress from amending trade deals, instead allowing for just up-or-down votes and is vital to closing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement that would link a dozen economies and cover a third of global trade.

The U.S. Treasury has warned that tough currency rules would alienate trading partners and could derail the whole deal, which is close to completion.

(Reporting by Krista Hughes; Editing by Andrea Ricci)