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RMB appreciation positive for economy, trade
Updated: 2005-07-24 10:09

China's long-awaited but unexpected decision to appreciate its currency sent shock waves to the international financial market.

Economists hold that the new RMB rating system will have a positive effect on the country's economy in the long run.

The RMB yuan, which had been pegged to the US dollar for over a decade at a rate of one dollar for 8.27 yuan, began to be traded at 8.11 starting 19:00 Thursday, according to the announcement released by China's central bank, with pegging system being switched to refer to a basket of foreign currencies.

"The 2 percent appreciation of RMB may weaken exports and boost imports," Wang Zhao, a research fellow with State Council Development Research Center Marco-economy Department, said, "in other words, the net exports will see a decline."

However, the move helps China build a healthy and sustainable development structure. The export-oriented policy of RMB being pegged to the US dollar, which made made-in-China commodities less expensive, provoked a series of trade conflicts in the latest years."

Many overseas firms moved to China to take advantage of China's cheap labor force. The appreciation of RMB squeezes the profit margin of labor-intensive and heavily-polluted firms, Wang said.

"For example, some tennis rackets are made of carbonic material, which is heavy-polluted. The appreciation might force these companies to leave China," he said.

"According to the purchasing power parity evaluation, the RMB was really undervalued," said Zhao Yumin, a research fellow on the international market from the Ministry of Commerce. "The appreciation pushes RMB closer to its real value."

"The key factor to a product is technology instead of foreign exchange rate," Zhao said, " some low-end producers will be washed out. However, the appreciation will not have much impact on high-end companies."

Foreign manufacturers whose products target China's market, such as Motorola, would not feel much pressure. Yet those targeting overseas market might need a second thought, Zhao said.

Tang Min, deputy resident representative of the Asia Development Bank's PRC Resident Mission, said the pegging system reform would have a limited effect on foreign trade in the short term.

"The reform indicated that China's foreign exchange system is developing towards a more flexible, mature, and market-oriented direction. Summing up the reform experiences of other developing countries, China should push for the reform slowly to fence off unexpected risks," Tang said.

Tang's remarks were echoed by Zhao Yumin. "The appreciation and reform are a wise decision," she said, "first of all, the appreciation could help rub off trade conflict pressure from China's trade partners. Second, the modest movement of RMB will not result in big fluctuation in the financial market. Third, the pegging reform leaves enough space for the continuous reform on the yuan's rate."

"More importantly, referring to a basket of currencies can hedge off more financial risks than to a single currency," Zhao said.

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