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Delay won't derail IMF's RMB internationalization move: economist

Source:   Time:

BEIJING, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- China's currency RMB is very likely to be included in the benchmark currency basket of the International Monetary Fund in its upcoming five-year review, though the time scheme for the process may be extended, a senior economist said on Wednesday.

"We still think it is highly likely that RMB will be included -- though for technical reasons, the actual date of inclusion may be extended to September 30, 2016, to give reserve managers time to adjust," Wang Tao, chief China economist at UBS, said in a research note.

Every five years, the IMF reviews the status of currencies within its Special Drawing Rights (SDR) and opens up a window for inclusion of additional currencies. Created in 1969, the SDR aims at supplementing IMF member countries' official reserves.

Economists see RMB's inclusion as a big step in the currency's internationalization.

"The current SDR basket expires at the end of this year. We are proposing extending the current SDR basket by nine months until September 30, 2016. This is in response to feedback from SDR users on the desirability of avoiding changes in the basket at the end of the calendar year and facilitating continued smooth functioning of SDR-related operations," noted a new IMF article, citing Siddharth Tiwari, Director of the IMF's Strategy, Policy and Review Department.

"The proposed extension, which will be decided by the Executive Board later this month, would not in any way prejudge the timing of conclusion or outcome of the review," he said.

"In fact, the IMF article implies a large likelihood of SDR inclusion -- otherwise the technical preparation would not be necessary," said Wang.

"We thought that RMB had a reasonably good chance of being included in the SDR basket soon, with approval in principle likely this year, and actual inclusion for technical reasons perhaps next year. It now seems that if approved this year, the actual technical inclusion would be by the end of September 2016," added Wang, a former IMF economist.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has said the RMB's inclusion in the SDR basket is not "a matter of if, but when."

The IMF's Executive Board still plans to formally review the possibility of adding RMB to the SDR basket by the end of this year, senior IMF officials told Xinhua after some media had reported the global lender might delay including the RMB in the SDR basket till September 2016.

The international use of the RMB is vital for the IMF to decide whether the RMB is "freely usable," an important criterion for admission into the SDR. At the last IMF review in 2010, the RMB met the criterion of a significant currency in terms of global trade, but was assessed as not meeting the "freely usable" requirement.

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