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Pudong to sample forex sales
(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-02-06 18:31

China's central bank plans to remove restrictions and allow the sale of small amounts of foreign currency on a trial basis in Shanghai's Pudong New Area this year.

The test plan was reported by the Shanghai headquarters of the People's Bank of China as part of the bank's work plan for 2006. Details such as maximum conversion limits were not announced, however.

At present, China imposes strict regulations on converting its yuan into hard currency.

Chinese citizens cannot buy foreign currency unless they show visas or other documents indicating they need the money for overseas travel or education.

Expatriates who earn yuan have to produce job contracts and salary certificates to change their salaries into foreign currency. And even in those cases, limits apply.

The restrictions have fostered a thriving black market in foreign currencies.

Zhao Wei, a foreign exchange analyst at China Merchants Bank, said the central bank's trial program signals China is getting ready to further open its forex market.

The government, which has pledged to relax controls gradually, took several important steps to do so last year.

The State Administration of Foreign Exchange raised maximum limits for foreign currency transactions by individuals last August.

For travelers abroad, the top limit was increased to US$8,000 or its forex equivalent from US$5,000 for people holding visas valid for more than a half year. For visa periods less than six months, the exchange limit was raised to US$5,000 from US$3,000.

Foreign currency exchange volume surged 45 percent over the Spring Festival holiday, the Shanghai branch of the Bank of China said yesterday.

China's forex reserves hit a record US$818.9 billion last year, a year-on-year growth of 34.3 percent.