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Stronger Renminbi Finally Wins over Hongkongers
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Mainland tourists no longer have to seek out money exchange outlets or banks before they visit Hong Kong.


A growing number of small-sized street eateries and cabbies in the special administrative region now accept yuan notes, as large shopping malls and hotels have been doing for years.


Against the backdrop of a stronger yuan and the further integration of the two economies, the yuan has virtually become the second most popular currency in this international financial hub.


This situation prompted a local official and some economists to say the renminbi would, in the long run, become an international currency like the US dollar and the euro.


Though that is far from being a reality, Hong Kong could help expedite the cause with its financial expertise and unique role in the Chinese economy.


In a predictable future, the special administrative region could enhance its role as a "testing ground" for a free-floating yuan. Indeed, Hong Kong's success in conducting yuan business has paved the way for it to ultimately become an offshore renminbi trading center.


From February 2004, four types of yuan business deposits, withdrawals, exchange and remittance were allowed in the city. Nearly 40 banks began offering these services in less than a year.


That saw current accounts in renminbi, which track the flow of transactions such as goods, services and interest payments, opened outside the Chinese mainland for the first time.


And another significant deregulation was announced yesterday banks are allowed to issue yuan bonds in Hong Kong.


Hong Kong Financial Secretary Henry Tang said Hong Kong would negotiate with the mainland on details of the bond-issuance mechanism and some market watchers said the business could be launched in a few months.


If so, that will mark the first overseas opening of the capital account in yuan, which tracks the movement of funds for investments and loans.


Hong Kong could then become the first overseas host of a fully convertible yuan.


David Li, a veteran Hong Kong banker who has close ties with the central government, boldly predicted that Hong Kong would follow Tianjin to become China's second area able to convert yuan freely.


(China Daily January 11, 2007)


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