Russia & China To Extend Currency Swap Agreement As De-dollarization Becomes A Strategic Priority

by Ike Obudulu Posted on October 31st, 2017

Moscow, Russia: As Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev heads off on an official visit to China, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko says Russia are China are set to extend bilateral currency swap agreement aimed at de-dollarization.

“At present, financial regulators of the two countries are working on extending the bilateral currency swap agreement for the next three years,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko said.

Prikhodko added that settlements in national currencies are gradually increasing. “In 2016, the share of national currencies in payments for exports of Russian goods and services amounted to 13 percent, imports, 16 percent. In the first quarter of 2017, these figures rose to 16 percent and 18 percent, respectively,” he said.

China has developed a system of cross-border payments in yuan, the China International Payments System (CIPS), to expand the use of its national currency in international payments, according to Prikhodko. He said some Russian banks have already joined CIPS.

The Russian National Card Payment System (NSPK) and China’s UnionPay have agreed to process domestic Russian transactions using UnionPay cards in NSPK. This year the two countries plan a pilot project of UnionPay and Rosselkhozbank for issuing co-badging cards with Russia’s Mir payment system.

In 2014, Russian and Chinese central banks signed a three-year ruble-yuan currency swap deal worth up to $25 billion, with the aim of boosting trade using national currencies and lessen dependence on the dollar and euro.The deal is valid for 3 years, and can be extended if both Russia and China agree. The draft currency swap was settled in August, but details on the size of the deal were sketchy.

Medvedev and Li signed over 40 other agreements at the meeting, including outlining plans to add another pipeline from Russia to China. Li is in Moscow for a three-day visit.

In 2014, Sberbank, Russia’s largest lender, also becacme the first bank in Russia to start issuing credit guarantees denominated in Chinese yuan. The yuan-based letters of credit ensure payments between buyers and sellers, with the bank acting as a router, making payments for import contracts settled in yuan more seamless. Post-import financing is attracted in Chinese yuan. Starting transitions in RMB allows customers to not only meet current funding requirements and settlements, but also to continue active cooperation with Chinese suppliers.

Letters of credit are considered secure and convenient in international trade, as they are designed to protect both buyers and suppliers, and offer a good alternative to advance payment. This can overall help expedite the entire payment and shipping processes.

“This is a complex transition in which the letters of credit in Chinese yuan (RMB) have been opened on behalf of one of our most major corporate clients,” the bank said in a statement at the bank.

The decision is part of an overall surge in Chinese issuance of letters of credit since 2012, as Chinese investors themselves are partial to using letters of credit in transactions.

In October that year, Moscow’s and Beijing’s central banks signed a three-year ruble-yuan currency swap deal worth up to $25 billion, with the aim of boosting trade using national currencies and lessen dependence on the dollar and euro.

Other Russian banks and lenders have since followed the lead of Sberbank, Russia’s largest lender

Russia turned to China, the world’s second largest economy – and largest by some economic indicators – after the US and EU imposed sanctions on Russia over the events in Ukraine. Cooperation between Russian and Chinese banks is also on the rise, and China’s Import Export Bank, which is 100% state owned, pledged to help Russian banks after it was cut off from Western capital markets, due to sanctions.
The Export-Import Bank (Exim) established a credit line for Russian state bank VTB, and also signed agreements with VEB (Vnesheconombank), and the Russian Agricultural Bank. The credit lines can be used to finance imports from China, from agriculture to high tech equipment

China is Russia’s second-biggest trading partner, after the EU. Trade between Moscow and Beijing grew 2.2 percent last year to $69.52 billion. The countries have set a goal to boost trade to $80 billion by 2018 and $200 billion by 2020.

EARLIER: #PetroDollar : China Launches #PetroYuan In 2 Months In Challenge To Dollar Hegemony – China plans to price oil in it’s own currency, yuan, using a gold-backed futures contract in Shanghai in a major move against the dollar’s global dominance as the world’s reserve currency. The yuan-denominated oil contracts (convertible into gold) is unlike the contracts based on the U.S. dollar that currently dominate global markets.

The contract will enable the country’s trading partners to pay with gold or to convert yuan into gold without the necessity to keep money in Chinese assets or turn it into US dollars.

The new contract would be able to serve as a hedging tool for Chinese corporations, as well as support the government’s broader plans to extend the use of the national currency in trade settlement.

The new benchmark will reportedly allow exporters, such as Russia, Iran or Venezuela to avoid US sanctions by trading oil in yuan.

State-run media reported in September the plan was “moving swiftly.” Yuan pricing and clearing of crude oil futures is the “beginning” of a broader strategic push “to support yuan pricing and clearing in commodities futures trading,” Pan Gongsheng, director of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, said last month.

To support the new benchmark, China has opened more than 6,000 trading accounts for the crude futures contract, Reuters reported in July.

This means that Russia – as well as Iran, the other key node of Eurasia integration – may bypass US sanctions by trading energy in their own currencies, or in yuan. The yuan – according to some – will be fully convertible into gold on both the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges. The key message is the US dollar being bypassed.

Moving away from the dollar is a strategic priority for countries like China and Russia. Both aim to ultimately reduce their dependency on the greenback, limiting their exposure to U.S. currency risk and the politics of American sanctions regimes.

The end of US dollar hegemony has been a consistent message from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Russia shares the BRICS countries’ concerns over the unfairness of the global financial and economic architecture, which does not give due regard to the growing weight of the emerging economies. We are ready to work together with our partners to promote international financial regulatory reforms and to overcome the excessive domination of the limited number of reserve currencies,” Putin said two months ago during the BRICs summit in Xiamen.

“Venezuela is going to implement a new system of international payments and will create a basket of currencies to free us from the dollar,” President Maduro said in a multi-hour address to a new legislative “superbody.” He reportedly did not provide details of this new proposal.

Venezuela President Maduro hinted further that the South American country would look to using the yuan instead, among other currencies.

“If they pursue us with the dollar, we’ll use the Russian ruble, the yuan, yen, the Indian rupee, the euro,” Maduro also said.

China’s longer-term intentions were perhaps made more apparent by an essay by Dr. Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of China’s central bank, in March 2009.

“The outbreak of the current situation and its spillover in the world have confronted us with a long-existing but still unanswered question, i.e., what kind of international reserve currency do we need to secure global financial stability and facilitate world economic growth, which was one of the purposes for establishing the IMF? There were various institutional arrangements in an attempt to find a solution, including the Silver Standard, the Gold Standard, the Gold Exchange Standard and the Bretton Woods system. The above question, however, as the ongoing financial situation demonstrates, is far from being solved, and has become even more severe due to the inherent weaknesses of the current international monetary system.

Theoretically, an international reserve currency should first be anchored to a stable benchmark and issued according to a clear set of rules, therefore to ensure orderly supply; second, its supply should be flexible enough to allow timely adjustment according to the changing demand; third, such adjustments should be disconnected from economic conditions and sovereign interests of any single country. The acceptance of credit-based national currencies as major international reserve currencies, as is the case in the current system, is a rare special case in history. The situation again calls for creative reform of the existing international monetary system towards an international reserve currency with a stable value, rule-based issuance and manageable supply, so as to achieve the objective of safeguarding global economic and financial stability.”

China’s plans for oil futures trading go back more than two decades, with the government introducing a domestic crude contract in 1993 and stopping a year later amid an overhaul of its energy industry.

In 1973  agreement was made between OPEC, Saudi Arabia and the US to sell oil exclusively in dollars.

For the United States  the dollar’s position is of crucial importance.

This is due to its role as petrodollar, its position as a reserve currency and Nixon’s decision in 1971 to no longer make the dollar convertible to gold.

This major shift where the dollar was not linked to gold allows the Federal Reserve to push dollars virtually without limits. Thus, the United States can print paper bills without gold coverage. Washington thus achieves an unprecedented strategic advantage over its geopolitical opponents (originally the Soviet Union, now Russia and China), namely, a practically unlimited spending capability for dollars.

The other factor is that the dollar being the world’s reserve currency has had a dominant role in the IMF’s monetary policy since 1981. The dollar’s role is obviously linked to the petrodollar trade and it almost always holds a share of more than 40% of the Special Drawing Right (SDR) basket, while the euro has maintained a stable share of 29-37% since 2001. The yuan is now included in the SDR, with an initial share of 10% slightly higher than the yen (8.3%) and the pound (8.09%). China yuan currency is increasingly used in global trade.

Global demand for dollars is linked to other countries’ need to own dollars to buy oil and other goods. Virtually all countries have used dollars to trade between each other, even countries that were against US policies.

De-dollarization is important in the Russian-Sino-Iranian strategy to unite Eurasia, thereby reducing the influence of the United States.

De-dollarization for Beijing, Moscow and Tehran has become a strategic priority.

The United States inadvertently accelerated this process by removing Iran from the SWIFT system, which paved the way for the Chinese option, called CIPS, and by imposing sanctions on countries such as Russia, Iran and Venezuela. This also accelerated China and Russia’s mining and acquisition of physical gold.

Beijing has begun to press Riyadh to begin accepting the yuan’s oil payments instead of dollars, as well as other countries such as Russia. China is Riyadh’s largest customer.

In view of China’s agreement with Nigeria and Russia, Beijing can safely stop buying oil from Saudi Arabia if Riyadh continues to insist on being paid in dollars. This would also weaken the petrodollar.

For China, Iran and Russia, as well as for other countries, “de-dollarization” has become a pressing issue. Iran and India, but also Iran and Russia, have often traded fossil fuels in exchange for goods, thereby circumventing US sanctions.

Similarly, China’s economic power has allowed it to extend a 10 billion euro credit to Iran to circumvent the latest sanctions. Even North Korea seems to use crypto currencies such as bitcoin to buy oil from China and circumvent US sanctions. Venezuela (with the world’s largest oil reserves) has just begun a historic step to completely refrain from selling oil in dollars and has announced that it will begin to receive payment in currencies other than the dollar.

Beijing now buys gas and oil from Russia by paying in yuan, which Moscow can quickly convert to gold thanks to the Shanghai International Energy Exchange. This gas-yuan gold mechanism signals a revolutionary economic change by abandoning the dollar as a trading currency.

However, an obstacle standing in the path of China’s ambitions to price oil in yuan is the currency itself. The yuan is not yet fully convertible, it’s fixed daily, prone to intervention and subject to capital controls.

Given the regime of tight control over the currency, many global players are likely to assume a yuan-denominated oil benchmark would be firmly under Beijing’s thumb.

Author

Ike Obudulu

Ike Obudulu

Versatile Certified Fraud Examiner, Chartered Accountant, Certified Internal Auditor with an MBA in Finance And Investments who has both worked for and consulted with some of the world's largest companies on main street and wall street in over 20 countries, Ike brings his extensive reporting and investigations experience to bear on his role as Chief Editor.
Phone
Email

Leave a Reply