The PBOC and Bundesbank Sign Pact to Turn Frankfurt into Yuan Hub….Meanwhile Obama Heads to Saudi Arabia

I haven’t paid too much attention as of late to agreements between China and other nations intended to expand the use of the yuan (renminbi) internationally, because the near-term implications always seem to be exaggerated by many market commentators. That said, this deal between the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) and Germany’s Bundesbank seems quite significant given the importance of Germany within the global economy generally and the E.U. specifically.

From Bloomberg via BusinessWeek:

Germany’s Bundesbank and the ™People’s Bank of China agreed to cooperate in the clearing and settling of payments in renminbi, paving the way for Frankfurt to corner a share of the offshore market.

The central banks signed a memorandum of understanding in Berlin today, when Chinese President Xi Jinping met German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Frankfurt-based Bundesbank said in an e-mailed statement.

Germany’s financial capital prevailed over Paris and Luxembourg in a euro-area race to win trade in renminbi, which overtook the euro to become the second-most used currency in global trade finance in October, according to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. The U.K. Treasury said on March 26 that the Bank of England would sign an initial agreement with the PBOC on March 31 to clear and settle yuan transactions in London.

“Frankfurt is one of Europe’s foremost financial centers and home to two central banks, making it a particularly suitable location,” said Joachim Nagel, a member of the Bundesbank’s executive board. “Renminbi clearing will strengthen the close economic and financial ties between Germany and the People’s Republic of China.”

China was Germany’s third-biggest foreign trade partner last year, with 140 billion euros in turnover passing between the two countries, according to the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden. China ranks fifth among importers of German goods and is the second-biggest exporter to Germany.

German companies including Siemens AG, the country’s biggest engineering company, and Volkswagen AG are embracing the renminbi internally as a third currency for cross-border trade settlements.

“The potential is vast,” said Stefan Harfich, the Siemens Financial Services manager, who steered the introduction of the yuan at the Munich-based company in October. “The introduction of the renminbi as an official company currency will therefore have a big impact on Siemens’s business in the coming years.”

Daimler AG, the Mercedes manufacturer that sold 235,644 autos in China last year, issued 500 million yuan of one-year notes in Asia’s largest economy on March 14, in the first so-called panda bond by an overseas non-financial company.

With all that in mind, let’s not forget that Obama is currently in Saudi Arabia trying to restore ties with the Medieival Kingdom, i.e., he is trying to figure out a way to arm al-Qaeda in Syria without the American public finding out about it.

From the Wall Street Journal:

RIYADH—Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia on Friday marks a bid to warm relations that the Saudis hope will result in commitments by the U.S. president to boost the supply of sophisticated weapons to Syrian insurgents.

Mr. Obama’s stopover at the end of a European tour will mark his first visit to the kingdom since U.S.-Saudi ties were severely strained last year following the renewal of high-level U.S. contacts with Iran and the cancellation of planned airstrikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Saudi officials also are hoping he will bring word of a breakthrough in U.S. and Jordanian opposition to supplying Syrian rebels with more advanced weapons, including shoulder-launched missiles, known as manpads, capable of bringing down Syrian aircraft, according to Saudis, a Western diplomat and regional security analysts familiar with the situation.

Saudi officials also are hoping he will bring word of a breakthrough in U.S. and Jordanian opposition to supplying Syrian rebels with more advanced weapons, including shoulder-launched missiles, known as manpads, capable of bringing down Syrian aircraft, according to Saudis, a Western diplomat and regional security analysts familiar with the situation.

Jordan also has blocked delivery of the additional weapons through its territory to rebels in Syria, for fear of getting pulled deeper into the Syrian conflict. The diplomat and two Syrian opposition officials said Amman is waiting for the U.S. to approve the deployment of Saudi-bought manpads currently sitting in Jordanian warehouses.

Saudi royals have muted their angry rhetoric since last autumn’s rift. Prince Turki Al Faisal, whose criticism of the Obama administration’s policies on Iran and Syria made front-page news in December, made virtually no mention of the U.S. during a U.S. speech about Iran this month. A Saudi ambassador who wrote of Saudi Arabia breaking with the U.S. in the New York Times in December has been publicly silent since.

It appears that becoming entrenched in a Syrian civil war is still very much on the table…

Lots of moves appear to be afoot on the macro front at the moment. The months ahead should be very interesting to say the least.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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