Monday, 3 August 2009

China is rapidly accelerating its efforts to internationalise its currency

The following article from the Times caught my eye.

China is rapidly accelerating its efforts to internationalise its currency with a series of manoeuvres that could see the renminbi soar to become one of the top three traded monetary units in the world.

By 2012, say analysts in Shanghai, as much as $2 trillion (£1.69 trillion) worth of trade flows may be settled using the “redback” as China stretches its commercial tentacles throughout the commodity-producing world and the emerging economies of Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

The radical change in attitude may arise from a desire to protect China from the “dollar trap” — the problem that emerges when exporting countries are effectively forced to shovel large chunks of their reserves into the US treasury and suffer the consequences in times of high volatility.

The rising financial power of the renminbi may also prove to be the salvation of Hong Kong in its intensifying rivalry with Shanghai for international relevance.

The former British colony, say economists at Barclays Capital, may be able to secure its status as a premier global financial hub by rebranding itself as China’s offshore renminbi banking centre. Renminbi internationalisation is essential if Hong Kong “is to have any long-term hope of being like London or New York,” according to the bank.

Political analysts believe full international currency status for the renminbi could take some time to become politically acceptable to the full spectrum of views within the Communist Party, warning that there would be significant policy hurdles surrounding the perceived loss of currency control.

However, China’s soaring economic growth and global financial turmoil could be pushing the process ahead faster than the market expects. Recent measures, including currency swap agreements with several central banks and the allowing of renminbi-denominated crossborder trade, have significantly changed the environment, HSBC said in a research note.

If, as some predict, China overtakes Japan to become the world’s second biggest economy next year, the pressure for the renminbi to internationalise will mount faster. Wensheng Peng, chief China economist at Barclays Capital, believes that market turmoil and the Wall Street crisis has changed the terms of a debate on the renminbi that has been brewing for years.

“The global financial crisis, and along with it increased concern from the Chinese perspective on the reliance of the global monetary system on the US dollar has brought to the fore the importance of increasing the use of the renminbi in international trade and finance,” he said.

A consensus among policymakers has grown from the grudging acceptance that one of the fundamental reasons the country has fallen into the dollar trap is that China’s currency is not international and the global crisis has made the dollar less predictable.

Others believe that raw economic growth makes the globalisation of the renminbi inevitable. “If the history of sterling and the dollar’s ascendancies as international currencies are any guide, said Hongbin Qu, HSBC’s chief China economist, the internationalisation of the renminbi is “long overdue” because of China’s rising economic power relative to the limited use of the renminbi overseas.

Most significant are the policy gambits in the past few months as the global financial crisis has given motive and opportunity for Beijing to test out renminbi internationalisation. China has signed bilateral currency swap agreements with Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Belarus and Argentina worth 650 billion renminbi (£57 billion). Last month, China selected five mainland cities — accounting for 45 per cent of the country’s foreign trade — that can trade with Hong Kong and Macau in renminbi. The programme, said Mr Qu, could be rolled out to cover all of China’s trade with Asia except Japan.

No comments:

Post a Comment