BEIJING: China announced a currency swap with Pakistan on Saturday in a new step to gradually expand use of its tightly controlled yuan abroad.
Beijing has begun allowing limited use of yuan in trade with Hong Kong and Southeast Asia in a move that could help to boost exports. It has signed swap currency deals with central banks in Thailand, Argentina and some other countries.
The Chinese central bank said it agreed Friday with its Pakistani counterpart to swap 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) for 140 billion Pakistani rupees. It said the money would promote investment and trade but gave no details of how it would be used.
Such agreements give central banks access to each other's currency but commercial banks still need to create systems to issue letters of credit and handle other transactions in those currencies before companies can use them.
The United States and other trading partners complain Beijing's controls on the yuan keep it undervalued, giving its exporters an unfair price advantage and hurting foreign competitors at a time when the global economy is struggling.
Some American lawmakers are demanding punitive tariffs on Chinese goods if Beijing fails to move more quickly in easing its controls.
Expanded use of the yuan abroad would reduce costs for Chinese traders who do most of their business in dollars and euros. It also might increase the appeal of Chinese goods for foreign buyers who have yuan to spend.
Beijing also has created a market for yuan-denominated bonds in Hong Kong. It said last week that some foreign investors who obtain yuan abroad would be allowed to invest them in China's stock markets.
The Chinese central bank announced a currency swap agreement with Thailand this week and has carried out swaps with Argentina and Kazakhstan. It has pledged to lend yuan to some other countries' central banks in case of emergencies.
Chinese leaders say they plan eventually to allow the yuan to trade freely abroad but analysts say it might be decades before that is completed.