Free Renminbi Exchange Rate versus the Dollar

China is allowing banks to set a free Renminbi exchange rate versus the dollar in over the counter trading. This may well be a first step in freeing its currency from state control according to a Reuter’s article reported in the New York Times.

China has permitted banks to freely set their own exchange rates for the renminbi against the dollar in over-the-counter transactions – another step toward freeing the exchange rate from government control.

China has been moving slowly toward a free floating currency although slower than North American and European nations would have liked. Most recently banks were required to set Renminbi US dollar exchange rates within three percent of a government dictated exchange rate. The bottom line to a free Renminbi exchange rate versus the dollar is that China believes that its currency is now fairly priced versus the US dollar. As such a free Renminbi exchange rate versus the dollar or other major currencies will not result in a run on the dollar or a run on the Renminbi.

Renminbi Internationalization

It is a goal of the Chinese government to internationalize the Renminbi. According the Euromoney online the move to a free Renminbi exchange rate versus the dollar is meant to further the Renminbi’s internationalization. A common complaint of companies working in China is managing liquidity with what has been a government controlled currency.

In a survey conducted by Euromoney’s Research Group in association with ICBC on the Renminbi’s rise, close to 3,000 treasury and finance professionals of international companies with exposure to China responded and shared their views on renminbi liquidity management, cross-border trade settlement, inter-company invoicing and some of the main operational challenges corporate treasurers face in the country.

Additionally, China would like to have the clout that the US does in international affairs as seen in the ability of the United States and its Western allies to shut down trade with rogue nations via the international banking system. A free Renminbi exchange rate versus the dollar could be viewed with that aspect in mind as well.

Free Trade, Fair Trade and Central Banks

A seemingly eternal complaint of the North Americans and Europeans is how China manipulates its currency in order to drive up the value of the US dollar and Euro. This practice has made Chinese products more competitive and resulted in the growth of the Chinese industrial machine. Now that there is a move to a free Renminbi exchange rate versus the dollar, one might be naïve enough to think that currency manipulation is over with. Think again. Central Banks are always free to buy and sell currencies and even with a free floating Renminbi the People’s Bank of China can still buy dollars to drive the price up and maintain a competitive advantage in trade. Meanwhile China is poised to pay for Russian oil and natural gas in Renminbi, trade Renminbi in London and is setting up Renminbi clearing bank in South Korea to facilitate a bilateral trade deal and trade denominated in Renminbi.

Chinese and South Korean leaders have pledged to sign a bilateral trade agreement by the end of this year and introduce direct trading of their currencies to spur cross-border renminbi transactions and deepen economic ties in two of Asia’s largest economies.

So much for the USD as the only currency to trade against the minor currencies of the world!