UN think tank calls for caution on yuan

10:52, March 17, 2010      

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As the value of China's currency, the yuan, has become a major sticking point in relations between China and the United States, a voice from an independent organization might deserve a minute of serious thinking, for Chinese and Americans alike.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, a think tank, said in a report which was published on Tuesday that exposing the yuan to the fluctuating money markets would pose grave global risks.

"Expecting that China will leave its exchange rate to the mercy of totally unreliable markets and risk a Japan-like appreciation shock ignores the importance of its domestic and external stability for the region and for the globe," said the report.

Most economists believe that stability of exchange rates among the major world currencies is good for global revival from a deep recession.

Some Chinese analysts believe that if Beijing allows the yuan to rise in value by a margin the same as Japan did in appreciating the yen in the 1980s, China would be shocked by a suddenly precipitating export and a subsequent stagnation of its economy, just like Japan's "lost decade" in the 1990s, which is very likely to wreck the boat of global economic growth.

China's Premier Wen Jibao told world press on Sunday in Beijing that he did not think the yuan is undervalued, and his government will continue to push for currency exchange rate formation system reform that fits well with market demands.

Wen rejected outside interference in China's exchange rate policy decisions, and said that a stable yuan had helped not just China, but also the world, emerge from the worst global recession since the Great Depression.

The premier indicated that China is not to appreciate its currency under any pressure. He said: "We are opposed to the practice of engaging in mutual finger-pointing among countries or taking strong measures to force other countries to appreciate currencies."

Pressures Build up

A group of 14 American senators unveiled legislation on Tuesday that seeks to increase pressure on Beijing to let the yuan to rise in value against the dollar, alleging Chinese "currency manipulation" is hurting the US.economy.

The bill calls for stiff trade sanctions if China does not act.

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the legislation is a sign of how strongly China's trading partners feel about the issue. In an interview on Fox Business Network, Geithner said that he believes Chinese officials "ultimately will decide it is in their interests to move."

Geithner declined to respond directly to a question of whether the Obama administration would support the bill backed by Senators Charles Schumer, Lindsey Graham, Debbie Stabenow, and 11 other senators.

"We are sending a message to the Chinese government," Schumer said in a statement. "If you refuse to play by the same rules as everyone else, we will force you to."

But Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Yao Jian said Tuesday the low rate of the yuan was not the reason for China's trade surplus.

"The United States... cannot ask others to (raise) their currency for the sake of its own export expansion -- that would be an egotistical practice," the spokesman added.

"Politicizing the exchange rate issue will not help the world to tackle the crisis," he said, adding that China hoped Washington would be "an advocate of free trade, not an obstructer."

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