The Treasury’s report on major trading partners may have spared Taiwan the currency manipulator label but it hinted that U.S. officials could exert greater pressure on Taipei’s central bank to allow the local currency to appreciate further.
The U.S. will initiate “enhanced bilateral engagement” with Taiwan to address what the report called the “structural undervaluation” of the currency. It also reiterated calls for Taiwan’s monetary authority to refrain from intervening in foreign-exchange markets except in exceptional circumstances.
Six of the report’s 60 pages were devoted to analysis of and recommendations for Taiwan, more than any other trading partner, signaling the importance the Treasury attaches to the value of the Taiwan dollar. The report cites research published in November 2018 that assesses the Asian currency to be undervalued by as much as 21%, giving a rough guide to the scale of appreciation the Treasury would deem appropriate.
Taiwan’s central bank pushed back against aspects of the U.S. assessment in a statement Sunday, saying the Treasury used Taiwan dollar’s spot rate versus the greenback to determine how much it was undervalued by, rather than the real effective exchange rate it used for other partners. The Taiwan dollar is close to being at a balanced level based on the International Monetary Fund’s valuation model, the central bank said.
It also urged the U.S. to suspend its three criteria for designating major trading partners currency manipulators while the world battles the coronavirus, saying it disagrees with the Treasury applying the same model as used previously to determine whether the Taiwan dollar is undervalued.
Taiwan’s central bank doesn’t deny intervening in currency markets. It operates a managed floating currency mechanism which governor Yang Chin-long insists is intended to moderate market volatility rather than give the export-dependent economy an unfair competitive advantage.
Taiwan made net foreign-exchange purchases of $39.5 billion in 2020, equivalent to 5.9% of its gross domestic product, according to the Treasury’s analysis.
The Treasury refrained from labeling any economy a currency manipulator in the Biden administration’s first report published Friday, despite acknowledging that Taiwan, Switzerland and Vietnam all met the threshold. But it insisted that it would maintain pressure on its trading partners to redress trade imbalances with the U.S.
“As the global economic recovery path continues to stabilize, it is critical [for trading partners] to adopt policies that allow for a narrowing of excessive surpluses and deficits,” the report said.
Taiwan’s central bank said it would continue to communicate with the U.S. on the issue.