A Practical Approach to International Monetary System Reform: Building Settlement Infrastructure for Regional Currencies

Publication | March 2013

The global financial crisis has once again stimulated discussions to reform the international financial architecture. This paper proposes that establishment of regional settlement currencies can contribute positively to this reform agenda.

The squeeze in US dollar liquidity that emerged with the global financial crisis highlighted the risks associated with the current global financial system. Asia was adversely affected by the crisis not only because of its dependence on trade, but also because of its heavy reliance on the US dollar for regional and international transactions. As Asia's role in the global economy expands further, its dependence on the US dollar is bound to increase, raising even more its vulnerability to future liquidity shocks. The use of regional currencies for bilateral trade settlement could reduce such vulnerability. As demonstrated by the renminbi trade settlement scheme piloted between the People's Republic of China and Hong Kong, China, the existence of appropriate financial infrastructure could reduce the relatively larger costs of bilateral currency transactions compared with triangular transactions through the US dollar. As most central banks are securities depositories of government bonds, combining trade settlement with government bond securities settlement can also have large synergy effects without much extra costs.

This proposal does not require full liberalization of the capital account or full deregulation of capital markets, and is more politically feasible in transition. As such, extending the trade settlement scheme to the rest of Asia and appending a government bond payment and securities settlement system could be a practical solution to international monetary system reform and the diversification of settlement currencies.


  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • The RMB Trade Settlement System
  • Background
  • Expanding and Deepening the Regional Currency Settlement System
  • Relation with Other Initiatives
  • References