RMB ready for currency leadership?

Updated: 2012-10-26 17:04


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SYDNEY -- China's currency, the Renminbi, has begun an 'inevitable'climb into the Asia Pacific's regional reference currency as western quantitative easing intensifies, leading experts say.

Two recent studies by the Petersen Institute for International Economics have highlighted the RMB's ascension over the US dollar in Asia as the reference currency.

Paul Bloxham, chief economist of HSBC Australia New Zealand, told Xinhua that the latest currency movements are only the beginning.

"I think the Yuan is destined to be one of the global reserve currencies, given China's size and wealth,"he said.

"So the wider use of the Chinese currency across the Asian region is just one step along the path towards the almost inevitably large role that the yuan will eventually play."

An HSBC survey released last night revealed widespread confidence in the future of RMB as a major global trade and investment currency among mainland Chinese corporates.

The survey found the vast majority (77 percent) of Chinese corporates surveyed expect one-third of all Chinese trade (circa $2 trillion) to be conducted in RMB by 2015 (against 10 percent YTD) and 30 percent plan to use RMB for investment-related purposes in the next 12 months.

Andrew Skinner, head of Global Trade and Receivables Finance for HSBC Bank Australia told Xinhua that China would be among the top three currencies within three years.

"RMB internationalization is underway and we expect it to be one of the top three global trade currencies by 2015 with half of $2 trillion of Chinese trade being settled in RMB by that time."

The latest PIIE research confirms that Asia is moving much faster than generally understood towards an RMB bloc, despite attempts in the United States and Europe to attack the value of China's currency through increased quantitative easing.

More and more countries are accepting the RMB to settle accounts with China, marking the end of the US dollar domination as a reserve currency.

At the end of March, Australia signed a critical currency swap deal with China's central bank worth 30 billion Australian dollars. This deal and others like it will transform the RMB into possibly the region's primary trade currency in the next years.

The swamp of quantitative easing -- money printing -- in Europe is designed at its crux to shift the embattled Euro even lower -- effectively generating wealth for German, Italian and other European manufacturers just as the US works to keep the greenback artificially low to guard low interest rates.

With China-bashing now an integral part of the US electioneering, the winner, regardless of who it is, will renew pressure on China to lift the RMB beyond its natural evolution as a key domestic agenda and the cost of entrance into the growing American market.

If a global currency war results, Australia and its buoyant dollar will be among the first casualties.

To that point, HSBC has begun encouraging Australian companies to become Renminbi-ready as Renminbi cross-border usage broadens.

"With RMB internationalization moving full steam ahead, we see a clear place for the currency within Australia and the region's trade flows,"Skinner said.

"The role of the RMB in international trade, investment and markets is strengthening because Chinese officials are quickening the internationalization process. Market demand for cross-border use of the RMB and the rapid development of China's trade cooperation globally continues to pick-up speed."

"We've already seen this play out in Australia where authorities supported the RMB via a bilateral currency swap agreement between the Reserve Bank of Australia and the People's Bank of China," Skinner added.

Despite the support from authorities on both sides, HSBC research shows a disparity between the expected use of RMB among Chinese and Australian companies whereby Chinese companies'use of the RMB exceeds that of Australian companies.

Skinner said that HSBC was working to'bridge the gap'by educating Australian companies on the benefits of being RMB-ready in order to tap into China's growth story.

China has well over 20 bilateral local currency swap arrangements with countries in and outside Asia, totaling $157 billion. With positive trade data coming out of the PBOC, hinting at a managed stimulus package, economic growth is predicted for early 2013, suggesting any further appreciation in the RMB is unlikely after it snapped to its highest level in almost 20 years at 6.28 to the US dollar.