Tuesday, December 10, 2013

More research on exchange rate mainpulation

For those following the currency exchange manipulation debate, a recent Congressional Research Study (CRS) analyses some of the important issues involved. Pointing out the debate on possible intervention in the WTO, the author states:
"Given the relationship between exchange rates and trade, some have argued that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has a role to play in responding to currency disputes. Some analysts and lawyers have examined whether WTO provisions allow for recourse against countries that are unfairly undervaluing its currency. 
One aspect of the debate is whether WTO agreement on export subsidies applies to countries with undervalued currencies. The WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures specifies that countries may not provide subsidies to help promote their national exports, and countries are entitled to levy countervailing duties on imported products that receive subsidies from their national government. Some economists maintain that an undervalued currency lowers a firm’s cost of production relative to world prices and therefore helps encourage exports. Some argue, then, that an undervalued currency should count as an export subsidy. It is not clear, however, whether intentional undervaluation of a country's currency is an export subsidy under the WTO's specific definition of the term, and thus is eligible for recourse through countervailing duties under WTO agreements. For example, the subsidy must be, among other things, specific to an industry and not provided generally to all producers. There is debate over whether intentional undervaluation of a currency is “industry specific” because it applies to everyone.  
Another aspect of the debate relates to a provision in the GATT (the WTO agreement on international trade in goods), which states that member countries “shall not, by exchange action, frustrate intent of the provisions” of the agreement.Some analysts argue that policies to undervalue a currency are protectionist policies, and thus should count as an exchange rate action that frustrates the intent of the GATT. Others argue that the language is too vague to apply to undervalued currencies. Specifically, they argue that the language was written to apply to an international system of exchange rates that no longer exists (the system of fixed exchange rates, combined with capital controls, that prevailed from the end of World War II to the early 1970s).  

No dispute over exchange rates has been brought before the WTO, and whether currency disputes fall under the WTO's jurisdiction remains a contested issue."
I have blogged on this quite a bit. For the moment, there seems to be no immediate appetite for a WTO intervention, either at the negotiating table or at dispute settlement. However, one can never rule out possibilities in international law and politics.

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