Brazil attacks China, US over currency policy

PARIS, July 7, 2011 (AFP) - Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega attacked both China and the United States on Thursday for manipulating their currencies, at the expense of trading partners.

"Of course, China manipulates its currency and it (would be) better that the currency could fluctuate," Mantega told reporters after a meeting in Paris, picking up on a charge made by many of Beijing's trade partners.

At the same time, the minister criticised Washington, accusing it of adopting policies which led to a cheap dollar, crimping exports to the US market.

China and the United States are crucial markets for Brazil, especially of its agricultural products, but it has been increasingly unhappy that its own currency the real has soared in value while the yuan and dollar have weakened to its disadvantage.

"I'm criticising all the manipulation of currencies, not only the United States," Mantega said.

"I don't know if in the United States it's exactly a manipulation. It's the quantitative policy that goes to an undervaluation of the dollar," he said.

The US Federal Reserve introduced a policy of Quantitative Easing, which effectively creates new money, at the height of the global financial crisis in an effort to get the slumping US economy back on track.

While justified as an absolutely crucial stimulus measure, QE in effect creates more dollars, acting to depress the value of the currency.

Washington has long charged Beijing with manipulating the yuan to gain an unfair trade advantage but China has replied in kind, voicing concerns that QE and a weaker dollar could undercut the value of its massive holdings of US government bonds and other dollar assets.

Mantega was asked what his government would do to ensure that the Brazilian real is not permanently overvalued but he declined to go into specifics.

"All the time, we are taking measures to avoid the overvaluation of the real. I can't explain (more) ... because it's a surprise," the minister said.

Brazil has tried to slow the real's gains by limiting fund inflows, among other measures, but to little effect as strong economic growth and high interest rates continue to attract overseas money.

The Brazilian real is currently at around 1.56 to the US dollar, the highest level seen since the unit was floated in 1999 as the economy booms on massive demand for the its goods and raw materials at home and abroad.

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