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Russia moots yuan convertibility

THE yuan could become a world reserve currency after it becomes fully convertible, a process that might take about 10 years, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said yesterday.

The Chinese currency is still not fully convertible.

"I think the shortest route would be if China liberalised its economy and allowed the convertibility of the yuan," said Kudrin at a panel discussion at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

"This could take 10 years but after that the yuan would be in demand and it is the shortest route to the creation of a new world reserve currency and I think China needs to think about this," Kudrin said

China and Russia, the world's No. 1 and No. 3 biggest holders of foreign exchange reserves, have expressed unease about the volatility of the US dollar and called for discussions on ways to create rival reserve currencies.

But response from developed countries has been cool. The European Union's economic chief, Joaquin Almunia, who took part in the same panel session as Kudrin, played down the prospect of the dollar being supplanted from its leading position in the world economy any time soon.

"The dollar is obviously the main currency in our global economy as a reserve currency and this position of the dollar will not be changed in the short term by any kind of political decision or political will," he said.

"These are decisions adopted by the market and I think the markets in these kinds of issues evolve gradually."

Moscow and Beijing have pushed the idea of using Special Drawing Rights, the International Monetary Fund's unit of account, as a way to reduce reliance on the US dollar.

The Kremlin has said the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) may discuss the idea of a supranational currency when they meet in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg on June 16.

A Brazilian official said last month the summit would discuss the dominance of the US dollar as well as ways to reshape the world trade system and nuclear disarmament. It will be the first BRIC summit since the international crisis struck their economies.


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