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Singapore added to USA watch list for currency manipulation

29 May 2019

China said Wednesday a decision by the Trump administration to not label Beijing a currency manipulator is "in line with common sense" and warned Washington against "unilateral claims".

The treasury department, however, did not remove China from the list.

Singapore's "large current account surplus and net foreign currency purchases of at least US$17 billion [approximately S$23.5bil]" a year ago were among the factors that compelled the US Treasury to place the Republic on its currency manipulation watchlist, adding that Singapore's foreign currency purchases in 2018 accounted for 4.6 per cent of its GDP.

Malaysia is among nine countries in the list, alongside China, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Vietnam.

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"No trading partner was found to have met the 1988 legislative standards during the current reporting period", the report concluded.

Treasury's analysis could become even more critical after the Commerce Department last week announced it intends to change its rules in order to impose duties on countries that "act to undervalue their currency relative to the dollar, resulting in a subsidy to their exports". Other thresholds include persistent intervention in markets for a nation's currency, and a trade surplus of at least $20 billion.

Countries with a current account surplus with the US equivalent to 2 per cent of GDP are now eligible for the list, down from 3 per cent. "Consequently, the current account turned into a surplus position", MAS explained.

The Chinese spokesman added China has always called on the United States to take de-escalating steps.

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"Relevant multilateral organizations have long had authoritative assessments of countries exchange rates".

While being listed as a currency manipulator does not come with "immediate" sanctions, it may "rattle financial markets", Bloomberg observed.

Malaysia's inclusion in the list comes as President Donald Trump slapped tariffs on US$200 billion (RM838 billion) worth of Chinese imports and has begun imposing tariffs on another US$300 billion of Chinese goods.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said his agency "takes seriously any potentially unfair currency practices", and "is working vigorously to achieve stronger growth and to ensure that trade expands in a way that helps United States workers and firms and protects them from unfair foreign trade practices".

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Based on trade in 2018, that standard covered 21 countries with almost $3.5 trillion in goods trade with the United States, according to the report. "Unfortunately, this would not be enough to offset the China-US trade tensions weighing on currencies", said Philip Wee, forex strategist at DBS Group Research.

Singapore added to USA watch list for currency manipulation