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Senate Passes Bill On Chinese Currency

Update at 6:29 p.m. ET. With a 63-35 vote, the Senate passed a controversial bill that seeks to curb what lawmakers see as a Chinese advantage based on the country's manipulation of its currency.

The bill is mostly symbolic, because the House has said it will not move on its version of the bill until the White House expresses its opinion. The White House has said it is worried about whether the bill might violate international trade rules.

Our Original Post Continues:

This afternoon the Senate is set to vote on a bill that would impose tariffs on imports from countries that deliberately undervalue their currency. The move is aimed at China, which the U.S. has long accused to controlling the price of its yuan to keep its exports cheap.

As ABC News reports, the legislation has its detractors, who say it "could trigger a trade war" with China. ABC reports:

The currency legislation, expected to pass the Senate easily on Tuesday, has both strong advocates, who say it will make American goods more competitive and support more than 1 million new jobs, and critics who warn that will provoke Chinese retaliation and hurt Americans in one of their fastest-growing markets.

The bill could die in the House, where a companion measure has the sponsorship of more than half the members but lacks the support of the GOP leadership.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, like the many large multinational companies that oppose the legislation, has said it would be dangerous to dictate another country's currency policies, and he can prevent the bill from ever being considered.

Reuters reports that China warned if the U.S. passed a law like the one on the table it would hurt relations.

"Should the proposed legislation become law, the only result would be a trade war between China and the U.S. and that would be a lose-lose situation for both sides," China's Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said on Monday. He added that a law like this would "hinder global economic recovery."

The White House, reports ABC News, hasn't come out against the bill, but they have expressed concerns that it "might violate international trade rules."

The Washington Postreports the House has said it will not move on its version of the bill until the White House gives its opinion.

"I think the debate would be well-served by the White House stepping up and detailing where its concerns are," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told the Post. "The (U.S. Trade Representative), the State Department, Commerce Department — they all have an interest in this and certainly the president does. This is a significant trading partner and it would have a tremendous impact, I would imagine, if a bill like this was passed — on consumers and pricing and the rest."

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Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.