By  on March 1, 2007

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of House lawmakers, looking to capitalize on momentum on Capitol Hill to restrain China's growth, reintroduced a bill Wednesday that would add currency manipulation to the list of unfair trade practices actionable under U.S. law.

The legislation would pave the way for U.S. manufacturers to file currency complaints against China and seek sanctions against the country's imports.

Reps. Duncan Hunter (R., Calif.) and Tim Ryan (D., Ohio) said they had received strong support from key Democrats in the House for the bill, which was first introduced in 2005, but didn't go anywhere. Proponents said a companion bill was expected to be introduced next week in the Senate.

Called the "Fair Currency Act of 2007," the measure would define "exchange rate misalignment" by any country as an illegal subsidy, allowing U.S. firms to file illegal subsidy cases against nonmarket economies, such as China's, which is not allowed under current law.

"Clearly, China is cheating on trade," said Hunter, who added that its undervalued currency was "sweeping American products off the shelves around the world."

A growing number of critics of China's currency policies, including manufacturers, economists and lawmakers, charge that China's undervalued yuan lowers the price of goods by 15 to 40 percent on the world market. They claim depressing the value of the yuan acts as an export subsidy, putting U.S. companies at a disadvantage and leading to American job losses and a record trade deficit with China.

China has raised the value of its currency by about 6 percent since July 2005, when it first began to peg the yuan to a basket of currencies rather than just the dollar. The Bush administration has shied away from declaring China a currency manipulator and has opted to pursue a dialogue with Chinese officials to prod them into reforming their policies.

With control of Congress for the first time in 12 years, Democrats have escalated debate on China's trading and currency policies. In the House, Rep. Sander Levin (D., Mich.) has said he was considering moving China legislation this spring and was building a consensus on what should be included in the bill.Pressed on the bill's prospects, Ryan said its 55 sponsors were "getting a better response" from House Democratic leaders — Ways and Means committee chairman Charles Rangel and Levin.

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