A step toward RMB internationalization

By Bob Gay
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, October 16, 2013
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As one can see from the list, "widely used" entails far greater dimensions than "widely traded" and requires China to move much closer to an open capital account in which foreigners can gain access to RMB-denominated bonds and Chinese savers can gain access to foreign securities. Development of a sovereign yield curve and domestic corporate debt and derivatives markets will take time and will require a well-honed regulatory framework. The PBOC has been actively engaged in these initiatives for several years and one can expect a steady stream of reforms to be announced in the months and year ahead.

In a way, the self-inflicted wounds of the US Congress and quantitative easing by Western central banks have provided a golden opportunity for China to pursue its strategy to internationalize the RMB. China has no other choice if it wants to remain a dominant player in international trade, which of course it does now that almost half the economy is oriented toward exports.

The hard part is to manage the consequences of opening the capital account in the context of legacy issues at home namely the crawling peg for the currency and the overhang of structured products in the shadow banking sector as well as conditions abroad where interest rates are much lower than domestic rates and are likely to remain so for quite awhile, thereby raising the specter of unwanted "hot money" inflows.

The PBOC must deal with the transition issues but can move no faster than its internal regulatory and market reforms that underlie the liberalization of capital flows. Hence, the complex issues related to access and "widespread usage" of the RMB are likely to take longer than the blinding speed at which the RMB has become the world's eighth most actively traded currency, but the end result no doubt will be the same. We are expecting the IMF to name the RMB as an official reserve currency sometime within the next four or five years.

The author is an economist at Stratton Street Capital, a London-based fixed income manager with a renminbi bond fund.


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