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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Nelson and Rubio split votes on China currency, Obama's jobs bill



china_yuan_appreciation.jpgThe Senate moments ago approved a bill to sanction China for keeping its currency undervalued. Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson voted yes; Democratic Sen. Marco Rubio voted no.

A short while later, Senate Republicans blocked President Obama's jobs bill from coming up for a vote. Rubio joined in on that; Nelson voted to end debate.

The House is unlikely to take up the currency bill out of fears of a trade war. Republicans faced heavy pressure from business interests to vote no.

The AP summarizes the issue: The Chinese currency, the yuan, is undervalued against the dollar by 25 to 30 percent, according to most estimates, with some economists putting the difference at up to 40 percent. That means that Chinese goods sold in the United States have a 25 to 30 percent price advantage, while U.S. items sold in China become that much more expensive.

The currency legislation would set in motion the imposition of higher tariffs on a country — China is not specifically mentioned in the bill — if Treasury decides that its currency is "misaligned" and the country does not act to correct it. Currently, Treasury must resolve that a country is willfully manipulating its currency, a higher bar to reach, before sanctions can be considered. The bill also makes it easier for specific industries to petition the Commerce Department for redress if they believe an exchange rate is giving a foreign competitor the equivalent of an export subsidy.

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said: "He is against that bill because it sets a trade war into motion with China – a situation that would have detrimental impacts on our economic recovery and job creation in Florida. Evidence shows that China is artificially devaluing its currency, and we should encourage China to move towards a market-based exchange rate, but the best way to do so is through continued bilateral dialogue through the G-20 and IMF that allows us to consider a wide range of issues between the U.S. and China."

Here's Rubio on jobs bill:

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 5:20pm]


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