Is Trump now launching a currency war, too?


The United States is casting its currency manipulation net wider. PHOTO/iStock

The US Treasury Department added Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam to its watchlist. China, Japan and South Korea are there too

As if Xi Jinping didn’t have enough to worry about, China’s president is now obsessing over currency speculators.

Xi’s lead banking and insurance official Guo Shuqing says traders “shorting the yuan will inevitably suffer from a huge loss.” If that isn’t drawing a line in the foreign-exchange sands, what is?

Yet Beijing’s troubles may be bigger than that if Donald Trump adds a currency front to his trade war.

The US president stepped up to that line Wednesday. His Treasury Department added Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam to its watchlist for currency manipulation. China is there, of course, as are Shinzo Abe’s Japan and Moon Jae-in’s South Korea. But Wednesday signaled a scaling up of Washington’s ploy to win a more advantageous trade position.

It’s also the last thing the global economy needs as the trade war slams growth from Seoul to Jakarta and from Beijing to New Delhi.

Hypocrisy is breathtaking

It’s one thing, arguably, for say, Indonesia to go the beggar-thy-neighbor route. Quite another for the world’s biggest economy, and printer of the reserve currency, to go that way.

The hypocrisy is rather breathtaking. Trump arguably has done more over the last two years to weaken the dollar than Xi. The yuan is basically unchanged since Trump’s election in November 2016 even as China’s growth has lost considerable altitude.

Nor has Xi browbeaten the People’s Bank of China to devalue the yuan, unlike Trump, who’s practically fired his Federal Reserve chairman for not going the way of the Bank of Japan. Xi, frankly, has a plausible case that Trump’s Washington is doing more manipulating than Beijing.

Even so, adding Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam to the list seems somewhat gratuitous.

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