Article: Currency control is not black and white

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Currency control is not black and white

SCMP Editorial, 18 April 2021

There are myriad ways for a government to affect the direction and value of its national currency. Some are labelled currency manipulation; others not. It depends on one’s definitions. Those of the United States Treasury mean the country cannot engage in such manipulation, an alleged sin only other economies can commit. Therefore it sits in judgment of others and threatens sanctions against those who allegedly game the global “rules-based” trade system.

However, spending trillions of US dollars on bond buying – also known as quantitative easing – for more than a decade and on economic relief packages to support growth and encourage inflation have achieved the same or similar results as manipulation. They have already caused significant depreciation of the US dollar against most major currencies and the slide is expected to continue. It is doubly ironic that in the middle of a trade and ideological war between the world’s two superpowers, Washington has, in its wisdom, declined to label mainland China as a currency manipulator but added friendly Taiwan to the watch list. The political nature of the exercise was exposed when the US Treasury, under former president Donald Trump, designated China as a manipulator in mid-2019, despite not meeting its full criteria, and then abruptly lifted the label five months later as a concession in a trade deal. Continue reading “Article: Currency control is not black and white”

Article: US Treasury says no major trading partner manipulates currency

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US Treasury says no major trading partner manipulates currency

Xinhua, 17 April 2021

WASHINGTON — The US Treasury Department on Friday said that no major trading partner of the United States meets the criteria as a currency manipulator, but Vietnam, Switzerland and China’s Taiwan will be under enhanced monitoring for their currency practices.

In its semiannual Report on Macroeconomic and Foreign Exchange Policies of Major Trading Partners of the United States, the Treasury Department concluded that Vietnam, Switzerland and Taiwan met all three criteria for enhanced currency analysis under the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 during the four quarters through December 2020. Continue reading “Article: US Treasury says no major trading partner manipulates currency”

Article: Bank of Thailand Unfazed by U.S. Currency Watchlist Inclusion

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Bank of Thailand Unfazed by U.S. Currency Watchlist Inclusion

Suttinee Yuvejwattana, 17 April 2021

The Bank of Thailand has responded to the U.S. decision to keep the nation on watch for currency manipulation by asserting it has stepped into the market only to curb volatility in the baht.

The central bank is committed to exchange-rate flexibility, with “interventions limited only to curbing excessive volatility and rapid movements of the baht on both sides,” Assistant Governor Chantavarn Sucharitakul said in a statement Saturday, adding that “Thailand has never used the exchange rate as a tool to gain an unfair trade advantage.” Continue reading “Article: Bank of Thailand Unfazed by U.S. Currency Watchlist Inclusion”

Article: Ever Given Operator Questions $916M Claim Over Grounding

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Ever Given Operator Questions $916M Claim Over Grounding

Martin Croucher, 15 April 2021

The operator of a giant container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for a week after running aground last month has said that the Egyptian authorities “lack any detailed justification” for demanding almost $1 billion in compensation.

Evergreen Line, the Taiwan-based operator which chartered the Ever Given that blocked traffic in the Suez Canal when it became wedged across the busy sea lane on March 23, said on Wednesday that it is investigating the scope of an Egyptian court order for the vessel to be seized by authorities in Cairo. Ever Given caused a logjam of approximately 200 ships in the canal Continue reading “Article: Ever Given Operator Questions $916M Claim Over Grounding”

Article: Being ‘tough on China’ can’t mean harming our own interests

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Being ‘tough on China’ can’t mean harming our own interests

DANIEL L DAVIS, 11 April 2021

Being “tough on China” is politically popular in Washington these days, and Biden has come out of the gate swinging against Beijing. But “being tough” isn’t a policy and reflexively applying it to China doesn’t serve U.S. interests. A logical and realistic approach to Beijing, however, can.

Obama’s “pivot to Asia” in 2011 opened a new chapter in Sino-American relations and turned an always challenging relationship even more tense. From the beginning of his administration, Trump characterized China in starkly adversarial terms, calculating domestic political advantage in starting a trade war. In the early months of the Biden term, it appears the new president has chosen to accelerate this deterioration in relations. Continue reading “Article: Being ‘tough on China’ can’t mean harming our own interests”

Article: U.S. Spy Agencies Warn of Threats From Digital Currency to AI

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U.S. Spy Agencies Warn of Threats From Digital Currency to AI

Joen Coronel, 10 April 2021

The U.S. intelligence community predicts an increasingly leaderless and unstable world in the coming decades as trends such as artificial intelligence, digital currencies and climate change reshape the global arena, according to the National Intelligence Council.

The coming decades will be characterized by a mismatch between global challenges and “the ability of institutions and system to respond,” according to “Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World.” The result will be “greater contestation at every level” — especially between the U.S. and China. Continue reading “Article: U.S. Spy Agencies Warn of Threats From Digital Currency to AI”

Article: Taiwan allows Cargill to repatriate $2 billion frozen in currency speculation case: sources

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Taiwan allows Cargill to repatriate $2 billion frozen in currency speculation case: sources

Ben Blanchard, 29 March 2021

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s central bank has allowed U.S.-based commodities house Cargill Ltd to repatriate around $2 billion that had been frozen as part of an investigation into currency manipulation, four people with direct knowledge told Reuters.

The central bank last month punished four foreign banks, including Deutsche Bank for helping grains firms speculate in the deliverable forwards foreign exchange market, as it moved to slow the Taiwan dollar’s rise.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorised to speak to journalists, sources told Reuters that Cargill was one of the main grains companies involved. The central bank has not named Cargill in its communications on the matter. Continue reading “Article: Taiwan allows Cargill to repatriate $2 billion frozen in currency speculation case: sources”

Article: Think twice before signing ‘2021 Hong Kong Charter’

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Think twice before signing ‘2021 Hong Kong Charter’

SCMP Editorial, 17 March 2021

A campaign seeking to unite Hongkongers based overseas and the international community to fight what it calls suppression of the city’s freedoms and autonomy had barely made a ripple before being branded “illegal” by the Security Bureau.

The “2021 Hong Kong Charter” will not just make its founder, Nathan Law Kwun-chung, and others liable to breaching the national security law, but also whoever else signs up. Such a move is likely to be seen as foreign collusion.

The 25-point document contains statements on Hong Kong, mainland China and the international community and calls for the “liberation” of the city and the end of China’s one-party rule – slogans that are now deemed in violation of the law banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

It also mentions issues in relation to Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan, and urges the international community to “stand together, to safeguard democratic values under the threat of totalitarianism”.

The city’s development has always been at the heart of many overseas Chinese with Hong Kong roots, even more so in the wake of the political and economic turmoils in recent years. It would therefore be unsurprising if the campaign attracts some support abroad and at home.
But people should think twice before signing up to the document. The Security Bureau has warned that it would be an offence for anyone planning or participating in acts that undermine sovereignty or colluding with foreign forces to sanction or engage in hostile activities against Hong Kong and the mainland. The extraterritorial effect of the law makes those participating from overseas also liable.

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Article: The Next ‘Gamestop’: How China or Russia Could Attack Our Financial System

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The Next ‘Gamestop’: How China or Russia Could Attack Our Financial System

Robert Carlson, Gray Gaertner, 16 March 2021

Last week, the dramatic rise and fall in the price of Gamestop demonstrated how vulnerable the stock market is to social media speculation. U.S. regulators should now turn their attention to a greater risk—that in the near future, China, Russia, or another adversary could coordinate an unwitting mob to harm the American financial system.

The potential for financial warfare follows from a playbook that China, and especially Russia, have drawn from repeatedly to meddle in U.S. domestic politics. First, foreign state agents have used social media to spread disinformation or stoke existing grievances. Second, they have counted on naive users to share the original posts, allowing the content to reach a larger audience. Finally, they fan the flames to provoke action.

In 2016 and 2020, Russian propaganda decreased U.S. voters’ trust in their candidates and the political system. During last year’s protests over race and policing, foreign bots amplified instances of both racial discrimination and violent protests, further polarizing American society. Following Joe Biden’s electoral victory in November, Russian agents embraced false allegations of fraud, providing the rationale for an armed mob to assault the Capitol Building. China spends at least $10 billion per year on its own influence operations through the United Front Work Department, which promotes pro-Beijing narratives overseas.

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Article: EMERGING MARKETS-Taiwan dollar shrugs off potential manipulation tag; other Asian FX gain

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EMERGING MARKETS-Taiwan dollar shrugs off potential manipulation tag; other Asian FX gain

Shruti Sonal, March 2021

March 11 (Reuters) – The Taiwan dollar strengthened on Thursday even as the country’s central bank warned of a potential U.S. scrutiny of its monetary policy, while other emerging Asian currencies gained as easing inflation fears and falling Treasury yields hurt the greenback.

The Taiwan dollar, among the best performing currencies in the region this year, added 0.6%. Taiwan’s central bank said it bought a net $39.1 billion to intervene in the foreign exchange market, as it stepped up efforts in November and December to “avoid serious disorder”, possibly putting the trade-dependent island in Washington’s crosshairs to be labelled a manipulator.

Most other currencies also gained as the U.S. dollar languished near one-week lows. The South Korean won climbed 0.6%, while the Thai baht added 0.4%.

However, the long-term outlook for the region’s currencies remained less than rosy.

A Reuters poll showed investors cut long bets sharply on the Chinese yuan, while turning short on most other Asian currencies, as improving prospects of economic growth in the United States and the recent rise in yields have bolstered the dollar.

Bets on the South Korean won, the Singapore dollar and the Malaysian ringgit all turned bearish for the first time since early last summer.

Most equities climbed higher, tracking gains on Wall Street overnight after benign consumer price data for February calmed inflation fears and Congress gave final approval to one of the largest economic stimulus measures in U.S. history.

The South Korean benchmark climbed over 2% after five consecutive sessions of declines, while Taiwan and Singapore added 1.6% and 0.9% respectively.

Thai shares hit their highest in nearly two months as consumer confidence increased for the first time in three months in February, bolstered by an easing coronavirus outbreak, government stimulus and the distribution of vaccines.

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Article: Analysis: A currency manipulator tag for Switzerland may not deter FX approach

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Analysis: A currency manipulator tag for Switzerland may not deter FX approach

Saikat Chatterjee, John Revill and David Lawder, 16 December 2020

LONDON/ZURICH/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The threat of being named a currency manipulator by the U.S. Treasury may be an embarrassment for Switzerland, but even if the country does get the tag, it likely will have little effect on the Swiss National Bank’s monetary policy.

Switzerland is expected to meet all three criteria for such designation in the long-overdue U.S. Treasury report on the foreign currency practices of major trading partners. The Treasury has some discretion on whether to issue such a label, and the coronavirus pandemic, which has thrown trade and capital flows into chaos this year, could be a factor.

There would be no automatic punishment with a label, though U.S. law requires Washington to demand negotiations with designated countries.

Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan this year have also been in violation of the Treasury’s three manipulation criteria: a $20 billion-plus bilateral trade surplus with the United States, foreign currency intervention exceeding 2% of GDP and a global current account surplus exceeding 2% of GDP.

Currency experts expect Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to issue the report within days, just over a month before he leaves office.

“The subtle implication of being put on this list is that you eventually could come under sanctions, and that puts pressure on these countries not to weaken their currencies so much, or to allow strengthening,” said Win Thin, global head of Currency Strategy at BBH.

But he said that in Switzerland’s case, as the exchange rate is its main tool for fighting deflation, “they may say, ‘Well, tough’”.

The Swiss central bank is firmly under the Treasury’s focus after spending 90 billion Swiss francs ($101.50 billion) on foreign currency intervention in the first half of 2020 amid pandemic-driven safe-haven inflows.

The SNB has long argued it is not trying to weaken the franc to gain a trade advantage. Instead, it aims only to stem the appreciation of its currency to head off the threat of deflation, which runs contrary to its goal of price stability.

“Switzerland has always been treated as a special case when it comes to exchange rate policy and even the U.S. Treasury has conceded in the past that Switzerland’s economic situation is “distinctive” and that its monetary policy options are limited by its small stock of domestic assets,” said David Oxley, a senior European economist at Capital Economics.

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Article: U.S. Treasury labels Switzerland, Vietnam as currency manipulators

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U.S. Treasury labels Switzerland, Vietnam as currency manipulators

Reuters Staff, 16 December 2020

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury labeled Switzerland and Vietnam as currency manipulators on Wednesday and added three new names to a watch list of countries it suspects of taking measures to devalue their currencies against the dollar.

In what may be one of the final broadsides to international trading partners delivered by the departing administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, the Treasury said that through June 2020 both Switzerland and Vietnam had intervened in currency markets to prevent effective balance of payments adjustments.

Furthermore, in its semi-annual currency manipulation report, the Treasury said Vietnam had acted to gain “unfair competitive advantage in international trade as well.” Continue reading “Article: U.S. Treasury labels Switzerland, Vietnam as currency manipulators”