Treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin was questioned more than once on his trade policies during his confirmation hearing, as senators asked for his thoughts on Trump’s tariff threats, currency manipulation and the TPP.
China currency: Mnuchin will be in charge of carrying out Trump’s orders to label China or any other country a currency manipulator. In an exchange with Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Mnuchin said he would commit to naming China a manipulator if Beijing were found to be intentionally devaluing its currency to gain export advantages. The entire conversation, however, was premised on the idea that China is not currently manipulating its currency – a position at odds with Trump’s campaign promise that he would, on his first day in office, direct his Treasury secretary to label China a currency manipulator.
Strong dollar: The former Goldman Sachs banker also said he would pursue policies aimed at supporting a strong U.S. dollar, and downplayed Trump’s recent comments that the U.S. dollar is already too strong. “I think when the president-elect made a comment on the U.S. currency, it wasn’t meant to be a long-term comment,” Mnuchin said in an exchange with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). “It was meant to be that perhaps in the short term the strength in the currency … may have had some negative impact on our ability in trade. But I agree with you that the long-term strength [in the dollar] over long periods of time is important.”
Tariffs: Trump’s plan to hit specific companies with a 35 percent tariff for moving production overseas should be closely examined, Mnuchin said. “I have heard [Trump] specifically say, ‘Well, if companies want to move their jobs, we’re going to specifically put a tariff on them,'” Mnuchin said at the hearing. “I think that’s something that needs to be looked at, and I don’t think that that’s a plan that’s going into action.”
TPP: The TPP should serve as the starting point for the renegotiation of NAFTA, Mnuchin said. He supported Trump’s call to reopen the agreement. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said the decades-old trade deal was revisited in the context of TPP. “I would hope that the starting point is the work that you’ve done,” Mnuchin said. “I’m optimistic that we can renegotiate a deal that’s both advantageous to us and advantageous to Mexico.”