U.S. President Donald Trump handed China the gold medal for currency manipulation on Thursday, a statement that contradicted White House staff just hours prior. In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Trump was candid about his views the currency debate. "Well they, I think they're grand champions at manipulation of currency. So I haven't held back," Trump told Reuters. "We'll see what happens."
This statement came hours after incoming Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin hinted there was no hurry to tag China as a currency manipulator. "We have a process within Treasury where we go through and look at currency manipulation across the board. We'll go through that process," Mnuchin told CNBC in an interview. (See also: Under Trump Will China or Mexico Fare Better?)
Currency manipulation is the art of keeping a countries currency low to benefit on trade. Trump routinely cites U.S. exporters having a hard time dealing with, what he says, an inflated U.S. dollar. A higher currency deters countries from purchasing your goods. Another risk of currency manipulation is unwanted volatility. If a currency is not left to fluctuate via market forces, it can lead to severe shocks. The Swiss National Bank (SNB) found out the hard way when it attempted to peg the Franc to the Euro. After accumulating masses of Euro's without the Franc moving lower, the SNB gave up, which lead to an immediate 30 percent decline in the Franc. (See also: The Swiss Currency Shock Explained)
Growing discrepancies in trade balances is something Trump hammered on the campaign trail saying these imbalances were the result of other countries devaluing their currency. Trump had vowed he would label China a manipulator on day one - which he has yet to do.
In October 2016 the Chinese Yuan traded above 6.83 against the U.S. dollar, a level not seen since it was pegged from 2008 and 2010.
However, if Trump and the Treasury decide to formally label China a currency manipulator, the likelihood of anything substantial happening is low. A 2015 law states that it requires the U.S. Treasury to begin formal negotiations to resolve the issue - something Trump has yet to prove he manage.