* Bipartisan group says China keeping yuan artificially low
* Similar legislation died in Congress in 2010, 2011
By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON, March 20 A bipartisan group of U.S.
lawmakers began a new attempt on Wednesday to pass legislation
that puts pressure on China to change its currency practices,
reviving an effort that previously failed to make it to the
The legislation, which has 101 co-sponsors, is similar to
bills that passed the House of Representatives in 2010 and the
Senate in 2011, but ultimately failed to win final congressional
It came as U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was wrapping up
a two-day visit to China, where he pressed Beijing to allow the
yuan to rise further against the dollar.
"China's exchange rate should be market-determined. That's
in our interest and China's interest. They recognize the need to
do it for internal reasons as well," Lew told reporters.
Although China's yuan has appreciated 16 percent in real
terms against the dollar since June 2010 and hit an all-time
high against the dollar on Wednesday, many lawmakers believe
Beijing keeps it at an artificially low value to give Chinese
companies an unfair trade advantage.
Representative Sandy Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on
the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced the currency bill
with fellow Democrat Tim Ryan of Ohio and Republican lawmakers
Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania and Mo Brooks of Alabama.
"Currency manipulation by our trading partners has been
going on for far too long, with American workers feeling the
impact through lost jobs and lower wages," Levin said.
It is supported by U.S. labor groups and domestic textile,
steel and other manufacturers that compete in the U.S. market
against Chinese imports.
"It's clear the administration is not going to do enough to
really press China on currency. That's why congressional action
is so important," said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for
But some business groups such as the U.S.-China Business
Council have fought the legislation, fearing it would worsen
The bill would allow U.S. companies to seek countervailing
duties against Chinese goods on a case-by-case basis to offset
any exchange rate advantage.
After the Senate passed a similar bill in 2011, Republican
House Speaker John Boehner blocked a vote in the House because
he said he was worried it could start a trade war.
"This is the year that Speaker Boehner and (Ways and Means
Committee) Chairman (Dave) Camp should free the currency bill,
or they will show they are completely out of step with the
American people, Republicans in Congress, and the vast majority
of Republican voters," Paul said.
Many U.S. lawmakers also believe Japan is unfairly driving
down the value of its yen to help the country export its way out
of decades of slow growth.
That has increased pressure on the Obama administration to
use talks on a proposed free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific
region to craft rules against currency manipulation,
particularly if Japan is allowed into the talks in coming
At a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Tuesday, acting
U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis avoided taking a
stand, but said the administration was exploring the costs and
benefits of including currency in the Asia-Pacific trade talks.
Aluisio de Lima-Campos, a Brazilian trade scholar, has
proposed that countries such as Brazil and the United States
bring a number of countervailing duty cases against China to
pressure it into negotiations on new currency rules.
In a visit to Brasilia this week, acting U.S. Commerce
Secretary Rebecca Blank played down the idea of using
countervailing duties to try to correct currency imbalances.
"Our countervailing duties efforts have a very different
focus. They are really designed to enforce fairness, a leveled
playing field for U.S. companies and to make sure that everybody
is abiding by the (World Trade Organization) rules," Blank told