The IMF will add the yuan to its basket of reserve currencies, an international stamp of approval of the strides China has made integrating into a global economic system dominated for decades by the U.S., Europe and Japan.
The International Monetary Fund’s executive board, which represents the fund’s 188 member nations, decided the yuan meets the standard of being “freely usable” and will join the dollar, euro, pound and yen in its Special Drawing Rights basket, the organization said Monday in a statement. Approval was expected after IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde announced Nov. 13 that her staff recommended inclusion, a position she supported.
It’s the first change in the SDR’s currency composition since 1999, when the euro replaced the deutsche mark and French franc. It’s also a milestone in a decades-long ascent toward international credibility for the yuan, which was created after World War II and for years could be used only domestically in the Communist-controlled nation. The IMF reviews the composition of the basket every five years and rejected the yuan during the last review, in 2010, saying it didn’t meet the necessary criteria.
“The renminbi’s inclusion in the SDR is a clear indication of the reforms that have been implemented and will continue to be implemented and is a clear, stronger representation of the global economy,” Lagarde said Monday during a press briefing at the IMF’s headquarters in Washington. Renminbi is the currency’s official name and means “the people’s currency” in Mandarin; yuan is the unit.
The addition will take effect Oct. 1, 2016, with the yuan having a 10.92 percent weighting in the basket, the IMF said. Weightings will be 41.73 percent for the dollar, 30.93 percent for the euro, 8.33 percent for the yen and 8.09 percent for the British pound. The dollar currently accounts for 41.9 percent of the basket, while the euro accounts for 37.4 percent, the pound 11.3 percent and the yen 9.4 percent.
The yuan weakened in offshore trading Tuesday amid speculation China’s central bank will rein in intervention now that the IMF vote on reserve-currency status is out of the way. The long-term goal is for very few interventions, People’s Bank of China Deputy Governor Yi Gang said at a briefing, adding that bigger two-way fluctuations are normal.
In a preliminary report in July, IMF staff estimated the yuan would have a weight of about 14 percent to 16 percent. The weighting will affect the interest countries pay when they borrow from the IMF. It may also affect the scale of inflows the Chinese currency receives in the coming months.