The southern shrimp alliance, an industry association based in Florida, is angling for tariffs. It has tried repeatedly to have foreign competitors harpooned with duties. Now some new opportunities have surfaced.
The Department of Commerce is proposing a rule enabling tariffs on imports from currency manipulators. Crustacean-catchers are keen. American businesses disgruntled by what they see as distorted exchange rates may soon have more weapons at hand.
After weeks of fulmination by President Donald Trump on Twitter about countries that keep their currencies artificially weak to America's detriment, financial analysts are speculating that the Treasury might use its Exchange Stabilisation Fund (ESF) to weaken the dollar.
Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential hopeful, has also called for the dollar to be managed to promote exports, referring to proposals by Fred Bergsten and Joseph Gagnon of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a think-tank.
The chatter is odd in one respect: other countries' currency manipulation does not seem to be the reason for the dollar's strength.
Although an IMF report published on July 17th said that the dollar was overvalued by 6-12%, it also said that foreign-exchange intervention had been playing "a much more muted role in recent years".
America's loose fiscal policy—and the tighter stance of countries like Germany and the Netherlands—are more obvious culprits. However misdirected the current ire, the multilateral system for restraining currency manipulation is indeed toothless.
In 2007 the IMF refrained from declaring China a currency cheat,although it was running a current-account surplus of 10% of GDP and buying around $2bn in dollar-denominated assets each business day.
Preparing for a future bout of competitive devaluation might not be a bad idea. But the proposals floating around Washington would be ripe for abuse.