In a time when many nations have gone public with their intention to ditch the dollar in part or in whole, in bilateral trade with non-US counterparts, either to prevent the US from having "veto power" of commerce courtesy of SWIFT or simply in response to Trump's "America First" doctrine, attention has long focused on Russia and China - the two natural adversaries to the US - to see if and when they would accelerate plans for de-dollarization.
To be sure, the two nations wouldn't be the first to reduce their reliance on the dollar, as we have discussed in recent months:
- Europe Unveils "Special Purpose Vehicle" To Bypass SWIFT, Jeopardizing Dollar's Reserve Status
- Russia Says Time Has Come To Ditch The Dollar
- European Powers Prepare To Ditch Dollar In Trade With Iran
- Russia And India Ditch Dollar In Military Deals
- Russia Finance Minister: We May Abandon Dollar In Oil Trade As It Is Becoming "Too Risky"
- Venezuela Ditches US Dollar, Will Use Euros For International Trade
However, when it comes to symbolism and optics, no other pair of nations would have as much an impact in dumping the dollar as (quasi) superpowers China and Russia. Which is why we found it a material development when Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development said on Thursday that Moscow and Beijing are working on an inter-governmental agreement to expand the use of the ruble and yuan in mutual trade settlements.
“The document is currently being prepared, the process is not easy,” said Deputy Minister of Russia’s Economic Development Sergey Gorkov, as quoted by TASS. “Russia and China have had some experience of using national currencies in bilateral trade.”
Gorkov said that Russia and China had been successfully implementing the terms of ruble-yuan currency swap agreement signed in 2014 to boost bilateral trade using national currencies and eliminate dependence on the dollar and the euro. The deal was extended at the end of 2017. Gorkov, however, did not provide information about when the new document will be signed.
Largely as a result of Russian commodity exports to China, trade turnover between Russia and China has grown substantially over the recent years. The volume of mutual trade between the nations rose by 30%, reaching $77 billion from January to September, according to the latest data from China’s General Administration of Customs.
Meanwhile, having been increasingly shunned by the West, China has become Russia’s largest trading partner, accounting for 15% of Russian international trade in 2017. The countries expect bilateral trade to hit $100 billion this year and plan to steadily boost it to $200 billion by 2024.
So how has dedollarization worked out so far in bilateral trade between the two nations? According to RT, in 2017, 9% of payments for supplies from Russia to China were made in rubles; while Russian companies paid 15% of Chinese imports in yuan. While the numbers seem modest, consider that just three years ago, the numbers were 2% and 9% percent, respectively.
And with Trump sure to continue antagonizing Beijing (and Moscow) for the next two years (at least), it would hardly be surprising if by the end of Trump's first term, approximately half of Russian-China trade is denominated in currencies other than the dollar.