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花旗CEO潘伟迪罕见谈论中国外汇管制

花旗CEO潘伟迪罕见谈论中国外汇管制

Sheridan Prasso 2011年05月17日
历来在中国问题上出言谨慎的潘伟迪开始直言不讳(特别是针对个人投资和消费方面)

    这是比较罕见的:一家美国大银行的现任首席执行官——特别考虑到其曾敦促中国贯彻世贸协定,目前正努力推动公司在中国市场自由竞争——居然会毫无保留地谈到中国的外汇管制和通胀问题。很少在公开场合谈论此类跨国热点问题的潘伟迪(Vikram Pandit)上周四在纽约的确这么做了。这位花旗集团(Citigroup)的首席执行官是在华尔道夫酒店(Waldorf-Astoria)的一场午餐会上说这番话的,午餐会由关注中美关系发展的知名美籍华裔组织百人会(Committee of 100)举办。

    在这场本来或许会谈论中美关系重要性的平淡演讲中(是的,潘伟迪,我们都知道),潘伟迪表示,上周初他在华盛顿参加了中美战略与经济对话,与美国国务卿希拉里•克林顿、财政部长蒂姆•盖特纳、商务部长骆家辉一起会见了中国副总理王岐山、国务委员戴秉国等高级官员以及知名的中国商界领袖。这次对话一开始还是讨论中国外汇政策、人权纪录等老问题,但最终中国首次同意允许美国商业银行在华销售共同基金以及承销公司债。

    潘伟迪在演讲中没有提到这些突破,而是对外汇问题举起了大棒——当然很温和,因为在中国花旗仍不能将零售网络扩张至已获批的13个城市以外,而且也不能提供完整的系列银行服务。目前,花旗在华有5,000名雇员;花旗的亚洲管理人士已表示,希望三年内将雇员数扩大至12,000人,分支机构超过100个。

    “实现人民币可自由兑换,对解决流动性问题和通胀将大有帮助,”潘伟迪表示,但承认这“也可能恶化失业率,放缓经济增速。”

    潘伟迪还指出了中国外汇管制的负面影响,表示限制资本跨境流动阻碍了中国庞大的私人储蓄走出国门,在境外寻找更高效的投资产品和相关机会。“如今,只有中国政府能在国际市场投资。因此,我们对正在进行的投资的效率无法有信心,”潘伟迪告诉听众,“更重要的是,由于在国内市场有太多钱追逐太少的投资机会,资产价格通胀不可避免。所有这些钱都必须投到其他地方。”4月份,中国消费者价格指数同比增长超过5%,中国官员再次承认中国大城市房价存在泡沫。

    潘伟迪呼吁美国加大对华出口,并呼吁储蓄率高达53%的中国消费者增加消费。“迄今为止,全球主要经济体中最不发达的消费市场就是中国,”他说。

    不过,潘伟迪对中美关系仍持乐观态度。“倒退至贸易战——或更糟的状况那是历史模式,”他说,“但我认为现在不会出现这种情况,真的不会。”

    中国贸易战、汇率操纵和资产价格通胀都是潘伟迪日常演讲中不会出现的词。比如,在瑞士达沃斯世界经济论坛上,潘伟迪谈论的是增加向贫困人群提供金融服务。在经济危机期间,他的言论主要围绕金融管制和改革。

    那么,这意味着出生于印度的潘伟迪要在全球舞台上打造一个全新的自我形象?也许。但更大的可能是,这说明在美国房地产抵押贷款危机期间弥漫在金融业界的重重顾虑终已消散,现在是时候关注世界其他地区了。敬请期待吧。

    It's rare that a sitting CEO of a top U.S. bank -- particularly one pushing China to abide by its WTO agreements while angling to let his firm compete freely in the Chinese market -- will speak out on China's currency controls and troubles with inflation. But Vikram Pandit, who rarely discusses such cross-border, hot-button issues in public, did just that on Thursday in New York. The CEO of Citigroup (C) was addressing a lunch crowd at a conference organized by the Committee of 100, a prominent group of Chinese Americans focused on U.S.-China relations, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

    During what otherwise might have been a tame speech about the importance of U.S.-China relations (yeah, Vikram, we know), Pandit said that he had been in Washington earlier this week taking part in the U.S.-Strategic and Economic Dialog with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, and meeting senior Chinese officials, including Vice Premier Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo, and a number of prominent Chinese business leaders. The confab had started out with the same old clashes over China's currency policies and human rights record, though it ended with a Chinese agreement to allow U.S. banks to sell mutual funds and underwrite corporate bonds in China for the first time.

    Pandit didn't mention those breakthroughs, but he did pick up the cudgel to hammer the currency issue -- rather gently, of course, as Citi is still can't expand its retail branches in China beyond the 13 cities where it is allowed and isn't permitted to offer its full range of banking services. The company currently employs 5,000 people in China; Citi execs in Asia have said they would like to have 12,000 employees, and more than 100 branches, within three years.

    "Making the currency convertible would go a long way toward solving the liquidity problem and addressing inflation," Pandit asserted, but conceded that "it might also exacerbate unemployment and slow growth."

    Pandit also noted the negative impact of China's currency controls, saying that the constraints on cross-border capital flows hinders the nation's high level of private savings from flowing out of the country to find productive investments and opportunities abroad. "Today, only the government lends to international markets. As a result, we can't be confident that what investment that does take place is happening efficiently," Pandit told the crowd. "More importantly, as too much money chases too few opportunities in the domestic market, asset price inflation is inevitable. All that money has to be invested somewhere." In April, consumer prices in China rose more than 5%, and Chinese officials have repeatedly acknowledged a housing bubble in major cities.

    Pandit called for the U.S. to increase exports to China, and for Chinese consumers, who have an extraordinarily high savings rate of 53%, to pick up their spending. "By far, the most underdeveloped consumer market among the world's major economies is China's," he said.

    Still, Pandit remained optimistic about China-U.S. relations. "Devolution into trade wars -- or worse -- would fit the template of history," he said. "But I don't see that happening here, I really don't."

    Trade wars, currency manipulation and asset price inflation in China are part of a vocabulary that departs from Pandit's usual scripts. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, for example, Pandit spoke about expanding financial services to the poor. During the economic crisis, most of his public comments centered around financial regulation and reform.

    So does this signal a new coming-out on the global stage for the Indian-born Pandit? Perhaps. But it might be more a sign that the angst that had seized the financial sector during the mortgage meltdown is finally over, and that it's now time to focus on the rest of the world. Let's hope.

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