From Hayden Briscoe, head of Fixed Income, Asia Pacific at UBS
RMB-denominated oil contracts began trading for the first time in Shanghai on March 26. We believe that in the long term this will ultimately change how oil is traded globally, create a Petroyuan currency flow, increase the role of the RMB as a global trading currency, and compel investors to up their allocations to Chinese financial assets.
From March 26, seven oil grades will be tradeable on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange (INE), allowing Chinese buyers to buy forward in RMB. Since INE is based in Shanghai’s Free Trade Zone (FTZ), foreign traders will be allowed to trade in the market.
China passed the US as the world’s largest oil consumer in 2016. Accordingly, China wants to pay for its huge import bill in its own currency (RMB) rather than USD.
More importantly, however, China wants the new oil trading plan to promote RMB internationalization, i.e. forcing wider adoption of the RMB as a global trading currency, and switching to RMB payments for major imports is part of this process.
The emergence of Petroyuan – RMB-denominated revenues collected by the world’s largest oil producers – is a natural development from this process
Will this new system change the way oil is traded globally?
Probably not in the short term. Traders can’t move RMB freely in and out of the Shanghai commodity exchanges yet. That said, it’s unclear how much of a roadblock this is given that INE will be based in the Shanghai FTZ.
Also, even with exchange convertibility, international investors and resource trading companies need to build up enough confidence in the INE as a trading hub. That requires time and, crucially, the tried, tested, and extensive data infrastructure to support the market, which China doesn’t have right now.
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