US will remove China from currency manipulator list ahead of trade deal signing

The United States will remove China from a list of countries considered currency manipulators just two days before top trade negotiators for Washington and Beijing sign a key “Phase One” trade deal, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC.

The decision to strike China from the currency manipulator list comes more than five months after the Treasury Department formally made the designation. President Donald Trump and China Vice Minister Liu He are scheduled to sign a preliminary trade agreement in Washington on Wednesday.

The world’s two largest economies for nearly two years have been levying tariffs back in forth while trying to work out the terms of a permanent trade resolution. Trump, in particular, has been critical of the U.S.-China trade deficit as well as Beijing’s previous moves to devalue its currency, which tends to boost its exports.

Treasury’s move in August to call China a manipulator raised tensions in the trade war and was the first such formal designation since President Bill Clinton’s administration. It came as the Chinese yuan weakened beyond 7 yuan to the dollar for the first time since 2008.

China’s central bank governor Yi Gang maintained at the time that Beijing doesn’t use its currency as a tool to cope with external disturbances such as trade disputes. The yuan has since returned to a pegged range considered normal — in line with China’s economic fundamentals and market demand and supply and not weak enough to anger its trading partners.

And while largely symbolic, the Treasury Department’s summertime decision to label China as a manipulator could have left Beijing open to additional scrutiny through the IMF.

The White House and the Treasury Department declined to comment on this story. The S&P 500 rose to a record high following reports that the Treasury Department will no longer list China as a manipulator.

Washington’s move to striking China as a currency manipulator comes two days ahead of a hotly anticipated Phase One trade deal signing between the two nations.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in an interview with Fox News on Sunday reiterated the importance of the pending deal and said that Beijing has agreed to purchase some $200 billion in U.S. goods over the next two years.

Bloomberg News first reported on the Treasury Department’s decision to delist China as a manipulator. (Courtesy CNBC)

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