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Yuan Has Real Shot at IMF Blessing on Reserve Status

Published: December 11, 2014
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Source: Bloomberg

In late 2015, the IMF will conduct its next twice-a-decade review of the basket of currencies its members can count toward their official reserves. Including the yuan in this so-called Special Drawing Rights system would allow the IMF to recognize the ascent of the world’s second-biggest economy while aiding China’s attempts to diminish the dollar’s dominance in global trade and finance.

China would need to satisfy the Washington-based lender’s economic benchmarks and get the support of most of the other 187 member countries. The Asian nation is likely to pass both tests, said Eswar Prasad, who until 2006 worked at the IMF, including spells as heads of its financial studies and China divisions.

“It will certainly help China’s objective of making the renminbi a more widely-used currency,” said Prasad, a professor of trade policy at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Renminbi is China’s official name for the yuan.

Reserve-currency status for the yuan would make central banks, particularly those in developing economies, more eager to hold yuan assets and “diversify at the margin away from dollars,” as well as euros, yen and Swiss francs, Prasad said.

Approval hinges partly on whether the IMF reverses its 2010 decision that the yuan wasn’t “freely usable.” There’s growing evidence that the currency may now pass this test, after already qualifying on the IMF’s other condition of being a large exporter.

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