Chinese, Canadian central banks agree to 200 billion yuan currency swap

BEIJING (Reuters) - The central banks of China and Canada have agreed to a currency swap worth 200 billion yuan ($32.67 billion) or C$30 billion, according to a Canadian government statement issued at a meeting of Asia Pacific nations on Saturday.

The swap will be effective for three years, according to a separate statement from China’s central bank. The agreement was announced after Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, will also appoint a clearing bank in Canada for yuan - or renminbi, as the currency is also called - as part of a Memorandum of Understanding, said the statement. It did not say which bank would be appointed as the clearing bank, but it is likely to be one of China’s four largest banks.

China’s central bank said in its statement that the yuan clearing bank would be in Toronto.

The currency swap will help set up the clearing bank, and allow the two banks to swap currencies if needed to ease trade and investment. The yuan clearing bank would be the first in the Americas, and allow Canadian financial institutions to use the clearing bank to process payments for their customers in yuan.

The move is in line with Beijing’s ambition to promote its currency to more international investors and eventually turn the “redback” into a global reserve currency, while at the same time expanding China’s already considerable political and economic clout.

“This is a fantastic announcement for Canada and China relations, a terrific move for Canadian businesses to be able to compete more abroad, not only direct-to-China investment but ... as more RMB/CNY activity takes place around the world,” said C.J. Gavsie, managing director of foreign exchange sales at BMO Capital Markets.

China will additionally give Canadian investors the right to invest up to 50 billion yuan initially in China’s capital markets. The quota will be granted under the Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (RQFII) scheme.

That program, launched in 2011, allows financial institutions to use offshore yuan to invest in the mainland’s securities markets, including in stocks, bonds and money market instruments.

(1 US dollar = 1.1325 Canadian dollar)

(1 US dollar = 6.1225 Chinese yuan)

Additional reporting by Adam Rose and Ben Blanchard; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by Koh Gui Qing, Jeremy Laurence and Ian Geoghegan