Australia, China set to start direct swaps

Australia, China set to start direct swaps

SHANGHAI – Agence France-Presse
China and Australia will begin direct conversion of their currencies in a sign of growing business links, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said yesterday on an official visit.

“The Australian and Chinese currencies will be directly traded on the Chinese mainland for the first time,” she told Shanghai’s China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong, a Communist Party school. China is Australia’s largest trading partner according to Canberra, spending billions on resources it needs to fuel its growth, while Australia is China’s seventh largest partner.

The currency move allows the Australian dollar and Chinese yuan to be directly swapped without using the US dollar as an intermediary, making foreign trade settlement more convenient and cutting transaction costs.

“This reflects the rapid growth of our bilateral trade and the value of two-way investment - and it also creates opportunities for new financial integration,” Gillard said in a speech.

Analysts said the agreement marked an important step towards China’s gradual moves to make the yuan freely convertible, with an eye towards rivaling the U.S. dollar as a global currency. “It’s a necessary step towards internationalization of the yuan,” Jiang Shu, a Shanghai-based foreign exchange analyst at Industrial Bank, said.

“It can reduce the dependence of Sino-Australian trade on the U.S. dollar... which will further lift the yuan’s global status and influence,” he added.