The Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) has released a new report that presents a case for the city of Vancouver to become Canada’s Chinese renminbi currency hub – the first hub of its kind in the Americas.
Currently, Canadian businesses are hampered by the inability to perform business transactions through converting the Canadian dollar into the Chinese renminbi. The renminbi is not traded freely on global financial markets, meaning there are foreign exchange costs for businesses between Canadian and Chinese companies.
A currency hub in the country means Canadian businesses would be able to purchase the renminbi directly by using the Canadian dollar, reducing costs by potentially billions per year with the eradication of the need to go through foreign exchange transactions. It will reduce supply chain costs, increase bargaining power and create more favourable and transparent pricing of goods.
Within the integrated Asian regional economic bloc, the U.S. dollar is increasingly being replaced by the renminbi as the currency of choice for conducting economic and financial activity. The renminbi is in the process of internationalization and becoming a stable global alternative to the U.S. dollar.
A currency hub would also complement continuing efforts to increase trade between both countries, as evident with the recent approval of the landmark Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement. In 2013, Canada-China bilateral trade reached 4.5 per cent or CAD$73.2 billion – approximately 8 per cent of Canada’s total trade.
A financial institution with a presence in either Vancouver or Toronto will be designated as the currency hub. HSBC’s Canadian headquarters and the Agricultural Bank of China’s Canadian representative office are both located in Vancouver while the Bank of China’s Canadian headquarters are located in Toronto.
The report asserts Vancouver is a natural choice for the location of the currency hub given both the provincial and federal government’s long-term plan to strategically place Vancouver as Canada’s economic, transportation and social gateway to the Asia-Pacific realm.
“Vancouver is advantageously positioned as Canada’s Asia Pacific Gateway, and the VEC sees tremendous opportunity to further leverage this advantage as growth in trade with Asia, driven primarily by China, continues to outpace other regions,” said VEC CEO Ian McKay in a statement.
The provincial government has been a major actor with encouraging Chinese businesses to establish a presence and investments in British Columbia. In addition, it has provided Schedule III banks (bank branches of foreign bank institutions) with tax incentives through the B.C. International Business Activity program: as a result it is expected, that more Schedule III banks will open branches in Vancouver within the near future.
For Vancouver, a renminbi currency hub in the city could put Vancouver on the map for both Canadian and Chinese businesses as an advantageous place to locate commercial activities with China. It could also reinforce the B.C.’s financial links with China and assist the natural resource industry.
“Facilitating the settlement of these transactions in RMB via a local hub would provide additional incentive for Chinese companies to do business here, and likewise provide a competitive edge for local companies accessing Asian markets,” McKay added.
However, any decision on the location of a currency hub lies with the federal government’s Department of Finance, which indicated in June 2014 that it is in discussion with the Chinese government on establishing an renminbi currency hub in Canada.
Foreign renminbi currency hubs are relatively new creations. The first hub outside of the Chinese Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau opened at Taipei, Taiwan in 2010. Since then, other hubs have opened in Singapore, London, Frankfurt, Seoul, Paris and Luxembourg.
A currency hub in Sydney serving the Australian market was recently improved and more hubs are also being considered for Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Paris, Zurich and San Francisco.
Feature Image: Renminbi via Shutterstock