China’s FTZ may allow Yuan to fully float

London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Abu Dhabi duke it out for Yuan supremacy

With China’s Renminbi currency now solidly enshrined as the world’s #2 trade currency, further reforms to allow the Yuan to float are gaining steam. And, at the same time, the world’s leading financial centers are positioning themselves to become the leading places to trade and clear Yuan outside of China. Even Abu Dhabi is getting into the act, looking for a larger slice of the growing Yuan international trade.

As China contemplates introducing unique financial sector rules and regulations within the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ), on Wednesday the PBOC has issued a statement that provided a timeline for actions for the first time. According to a report by Reuters PBOC Shanghai Chief Zhang Xin said that the plans for financial reform are not a part of the past or the future, but of the present.

The central bank will be formally launching a financial liberalization package in the FTZ in three months with hopes running high that these will be spreading to mainland China soon if the trial run proves successful. The test site for Premier Li Keqiang’s economic reforms has been poised with skepticism since its launch in September as the absence of major party figures has disappointed investors.

The FTZ will become a lab rat for the new Chinese government as it appears to be very committed to change how business is conducted in the country. The ceiling of export led growth is very near, some might argue it even has been surpassed. The only way forward for Chinese policymakers is to promote more economic units to shake hands freely within and outside its borders.

It has already announced the scrapping of the Hukou system (a household registration system dating back to the times of the emperors) that is preventing free movement of labor across the country. So looking outside of its own borders and scrapping its dependence on US treasuries purchases is the next logical step.

Meanwhile the battleground for the next Chinese Yuan financial trading hub is heating up. Current offshore Yuan centers in Hong Kong, Singapore, London and Moscow are already permitting limited quantities of funds to move freely cross borders for trade-related purposes. While Hong Kong has been the undisputed leader clearing about $12-13 billion a day, London has been growing with about $5 billion and the recent visit of David Cameron to China on a trade mission might boost volumes further.

The party will soon be joined by the UAE which signed a $5.5 billion currency swap agreement with Beijing back in January but it hasn’t been activated yet. Abu Dhabi’s The National quoted ADS Securities’ managing director Philippe Ghanem that the capital of UAE is an obvious choice for Middle East Yuan clearing center and will become an indispensable part of the Abu Dhabi Global Market.

The stability and legislation advantages of Abu Dhabi have certain edge over Dubai’s high dependence on its newly reflating property sector, but some Asian banks have already started setting up in the Dubai International Financial Center.

Stay tuned to LeapRate to keep a close eye on developments surrounding future Chinese Yuan liberalization.

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