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Get ready for yuan in IMF basket

By Mike Bastin (China Daily) Updated: 2015-08-17 11:22

Get ready for yuan in IMF basket

Internationalization of Chinese currency picks up pace with clearing centers around the world

It came as no surprise recently to read that the Chinese yuan, or renminbi, as it is also widely known, is set to replace the Japanese yen to become the fourth international currency within two years.

Such is the rise of the yuan that eclipsing the yen in the short term is an absolute inevitability.

Indeed, since November last year the yuan overtook both the Canadian and Australian dollars to rank as the world's fifth-largest payment currency worldwide.

Breaking into the top five world payment currencies is a milestone and signifies an unstoppable internationalization momentum. This confirms the yuan's transition from an "emerging" to a "business as usual" payment currency.

European industry should be aware of the rapid rise of the yuan and be more prepared than ever to do business in this currency, and not just when dealing and trading directly with Chinese companies.

The global rise of the yuan has been happening for years. Since last year a total of eight new offshore yuan clearing centers have been established, fueling further international growth.

The almost exponential rise in the internationalization of the yuan can be appreciated by the whopping 321 percent leap in the value of yuan-denominated payments since December 2012. During this time, payment growth denominated in all other currencies on the top 10 list grew by less than 50 percent.

But later this year we may well see another major milestone in the internationalization of the Chinese currency. That is when the International Monetary Fund is to complete its customary five-year review of its Special Drawing Rights currency basket. The likelihood of the yuan being added to the currencies already included is high.

If the IMF takes this step and adds the yuan to its SDR currency basket, it will signify the biggest step yet in the internationalization of the Chinese currency, and the entire Chinese economy, for that matter.

European businesses need to be aware of this "new kid on the currency block" and ensure that systems and strategies are in place that accommodate this change in the balance of currency power.

In order to cater to the inevitable growth in demand for the yuan, China's central government has in recent times appointed a grand total of no fewer than 15 clearing banks worldwide outside of the Chinese mainland to accommodate the rapidly rising popularity of its currency. The locations are Hong Kong, Macao, Taipei, Singapore, Seoul, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Bangkok, Sydney, Toronto and Dubai.

But just how significant would SDR inclusion really prove to be?

In order to answer this question it is important to look briefly at the role of the IMF generally and the use of its SDR around the world.

The IMF, founded in 1944 and headquartered in Washington DC, remains a key cog in the global economy with the sole aim of securing financial stability across the world and in so doing, facilitating sustainable global economic growth. The IMF represents an impressive total of 188 countries.

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