Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday that President Donald Trump respects the independence of the Federal Reserve and the president’s recent comments were simply a reflection of the fact that he favors low interest rates.
“The president has been clear,” Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC. “He likes low interest rates.”
Mnuchin, who praised Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, said the president understands that the Fed is doing its job.
Trump this week has blamed the market’s big sell-off on the Fed’s interest rate increases, saying “the Fed is out of control.”
Mnuchin said he viewed the market turbulence as a natural correction, reflecting that markets often move too far when prices are rising and when they are falling.
“I think the fundamentals (of the economy) are very strong,” Mnuchin said. “Markets tend to go too far in both directions.”
Mnuchin was interviewed in Bali, Indonesia, where he is attending global finance meetings including the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Mnuchin met with Chinese officials on Thursday. “We had a constructive discussion around the currency,” Mnuchin said on CNBC. “I expressed my concerns.”
Mnuchin said he made it clear to the Chinese that it would not be in their interests to allow a further decline in the value of the Chinese yuan against the dollar.
The Chinese currency has been falling in value against the dollar in recent months, raising concerns that China is devaluing its currency as a way to make Chinese goods more competitive against U.S. products.
The United States and China are currently locked in an escalating trade war with the Trump administration imposing penalty tariffs on billions of dollars in Chinese goods and China retaliating by targeting U.S. products including soybeans for penalty tariffs.
Mnuchin did not report any breakthroughs in his discussions with the Chinese but he indicated that Trump may meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 biggest global economies in Argentina in late November.
“We are having discussions about a potential meeting,” Mnuchin said, indicating that the two leaders could meet if the U.S. side felt the trade discussions were moving in a positive direction.
The Treasury Department is expected to issue next week its twice-a-year report on whether China or any other country is manipulating its currency to gain trade advantages.
Mnuchin would not say what the report would reveal, but in the past Treasury has placed China on a watch-list but said it did not meet the requirements to be labeled a currency manipulator.
Concerns have been raised that China, the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury bonds, might start dumping its holdings as a way to bring more pressure on the United States in the trade dispute. But Mnuchin said this possibility did not concern him because it would not be in China’s economic interests to start dumping its Treasury holdings.
“That would be very costly for them,” Mnuchin said. “It is not something I am losing any sleep about.”
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