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Blockade and Demonetisation by United Naga Council Squeezes Trade among Tribals on India-Myanmar Border

Over 60,000 non-local businessmen at Moreh at one point of time, hardly 10,000 are left behind now

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Imphal, November 27, 2016: The legalised border trade among tribals on the India-Myanmar international border continues to be hit by the blockade the United Naga Council has imposed since November 1 against Manipur, as well as the demonetization by India.

The Naga Council protesters are agitated over the Manipur government’s move to create a Sadar Hills district, fearing that some Naga-dominant lands might be included in the proposed district.

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The traditional trade worth crores of rupees among tribals on either side of the international border was legalised in 1995, bringing in considerable revenue to the exchequer.

The border trade centres are at Moreh in Manipur and Namphalong and Tamu in Myanmar.

The Centre’s November 8 decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes has only added to the border traders’ woes.

Ibopishak, a trader, said: “Myanmarese traders earlier freely accepted Indian rupees for transactions at Namphalong and Tamu (in Myanmar), at the locally fixed (illegal) foreign exchange rate of Rs 100 for 1,900 kyat (Myanmar currency). However, after the demonetisation, it has fallen to Rs 100 for 800 kyat.”

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The banks and the only two automated teller machines at Moreh are dry of cash for the last few days.

A south Indian who has set up his business at Moreh told IANS that he is seriously thinking of shifting out to the Mizoram-Myanmar border as there are no disruptions in business in Mizoram as in Manipur by the Nagas.

He rued that some tribal groups in Manipur are in the habit of imposing blockades and general strikes along the highways to choke the northeastern state.

Another businessman, Lakshman, said: “The border markets are shut down. Apart from shortage of high-denomination notes, one cannot take anything from Moreh to other parts of India due to the Naga economic blockade.”

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Shamir Hussain, a businessman, said of the over 60,000 non-local businessmen at Moreh at one point of time, hardly 10,000 are left behind now. The remaining have gone elsewhere to conduct their trade and business.

A small trader, Rashmi Bib, said: “Extortion is also responsible for declining business. There are over 14 checkposts and police stations on 60-km Moreh-Pallel route, where traders have to pay a percentage of the goods bought from Myanmar. There are some more checkpoints on the remaining 40 km between Pallel and Imphal.” (IANS)

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China And Russia Accused of Manipulating Their Currencies By Trump

Donald Trump to accuse China and Russia as their currency manipulators

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Donald Trump.
To Lower Drug Costs at Home, Trump Wants Higher Prices Abroad. (Wikimedia Commons)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday it is unacceptable that Russia and China are devaluating their currencies, days after the Treasury Department declined to label these countries as currency manipulators in its latest report.

Amid a possible new round of sanctions against Russia and a simmering trade war with China, Trump tweeted Monday morning, “Russia and China are playing the Currency Devaluation game as the U.S. keeps raising interest rates. Not acceptable!

In general, when a country artificially devaluates its currency, its exports become cheaper and more competitive in the global marketplace.

The currencies of U.S, China and Russia.
FILE – The U.S. dollar, Indonesian rupiah and Chinese renminbi currencies are displayed in the poster of a money exchange shop in Jakarta, June 12, 2013. VOA

During his presidential campaign, Trump has repeatedly accused China of lowering the value of its currency and vowed to formally label China as a currency manipulator, but so far has failed to do so.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says the administration is closely watching China’s currency practices. “That’s something that the Treasury Department is watching very closely and we’re continuing to monitor it,” she said Monday.

In a semiannual report titled “Macroeconomic and Foreign Exchange Policies of Major Trading Partners of the United States” released last Friday, the Treasury Department did not designate China as a currency manipulator, but put it as one of the six countries on a monitoring list. The other five countries on the list are Japan, Korea, India, Germany, and Switzerland. Russia is not on the monitoring list. The Chinese currency, the renminbi, has appreciated over 3 percent against the dollar since the beginning of this year, after strengthening by over 6 percent in 2017.

Also Read: Trump: US ‘Being Stolen’ by Illegal Migrants

Brad Setser,a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Treasury Department official said in an interview with VOA he does not think it is an accurate complaint that Russia and China are playing the currency game.

“The Russian ruble was actually quite stable before the sanctions on Russia were intensified. It’s quite clear the volatility in the ruble is a function of the intensification of U.S. sanctions, a sign that the sanctions are biting,” he explained.

Setser said over the past several months, the Chinese yuan has actually appreciated, and China has not been intervening heavily.

“There are plenty of things to criticize China for on trade, but right now, there’s no real basis for criticizing China on currency,” he noted.

Russia's Central Bank Chief.
Russia’s Central bank chief Elvira Nabiullina presents the new 2,000 and 200 ruble banknotes in Moscow on Oct. 12, 2017. VOA

In the past three years, the Federal Reserve raised interest rate six times to a range between 1.5 percent and 1.75 percent, and said they expect to raise the rate two or three more times this year.

Usually, when a country raises its interest rates, the value of its currency rises, making its exports more expensive and less competitive. However, higher U.S. interest rates have not raised the value of the dollar.

“The interesting puzzle that the market has been pondering for the past several months is that the dollar has actually weakened even as the U.S. has raised rates, and even as U.S. passed legislation to expand the fiscal deficit,” Setser said.

Also Read: This Way China Can Help India In The Terms of Artificial Intelligence

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Economic Analysis at the Treasury Department Setser stressed the United States should not label China as a currency manipulator at this moment.

“It would undermine the United States’ credibility to name China at a point in time when there is no plausible case that China is managing its exchange rate in a way that is adverse to the U.S. interest,” he said.  VOA