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商业 - 金融

将人民币纳入SDR,就会“请神容易送神难”?

Jerry Nickelsburg 2015年11月18日

虽然中国已是全球第二大经济体,但人民币在货币篮子中的占比较小,对特别提款权效率的影响可以忽略不计。

最近,国际货币基金组织(IMF)主席拉加德明确宣布支持工作人员将人民币纳入特别提款权(SDR)篮子的建议之后,市场一致认为人民币成为储备货币已指日可待。作为一种记账单位,特别提款权的作用是稳定货币汇率。虽然它只是高深莫测的国际货币交易体系的一部分,但这可是一条重大新闻。

要成为储备货币既不像看上去那么简单,也不像表面上那么复杂。说它复杂是因为这是一场政治较力,一方是在全球经济领域处于优势地位的中国,另一方则是主导各个国际组织的美国。说它简单的原因是成为IMF储备货币后,人民币在世界经济中发挥的作用可能较小。

表面上看,IMF未采取任何行动是为了“确保特别提款权相关业务的顺利进行”,并在何时调整的问题上考虑到了特别提款权使用国的反馈。这种说辞有些言不由衷,因为继续使用目前的四种储备货币,也就是美元、日元、欧元和英镑,并不会带来任何干扰。显然,所有这一切都和人民币有关。鉴于人民币的价值和流动性尚不明朗,在尘埃落定前使用“拖字诀”是谨慎的做法。

IMF表面上有一套选择储备货币的客观程序。第一条评判标准是用某种货币结算的国际贸易额。IMF规定,合格货币“由成员国或货币联盟发行,并在全球经济中发挥核心作用。”用人民币结算的国际贸易额占全球贸易总额的2.8%(2015年8月),在所有货币中排名第四。因此,在这方面人民币无疑是合格的。

第二条标准是这种货币必须“可以自由使用”。虽然IMF章程就此进行了说明,但在这一点上仍可做出多种解释,而这就是争议所在。要进入储备货币篮子,某种货币必须在特别提款权使用国稳定自身货币的过程中发挥作用。采用固定汇率制、有管理的浮动汇率制或者自由浮动汇率制的国家都可能符合这条标准,实施有限资本管制的国家也是如此。显然,有些货币未达到这项要求,但“自由使用”和非自由使用货币之间的界限最多也只能说是模糊不清。

客观上讲,这个问题很难解决,原因是成为储备货币会改变对某种货币的需求。同样的,非储备货币身份也许会影响持有某种货币的意愿。对于当前和今后IMF成员国为调整外汇储备而产生的人民币需求量,人们可以探讨这项数据是否支持人民币进入储备货币篮子;但说到底,这样的讨论既依赖于经济证据,也取决于政治风向,二者的影响不相上下。

如果把人民币纳入储备货币篮子,但事后发现它并不符合“自由使用”标准,就会出现“请神容易送神难”的局面。如果一些国家由于担心流动性或者今后的汇率而不愿持有人民币,发生汇兑危机时,储备货币中含有人民币(使用国必须接受整个货币篮子)就会降低特别提款权在提供流动性方面的效率。不过,人民币在这个货币篮子中的百分比将较小,它对特别提款权效率的影响也许可以忽略不计。

今年12月份,IMF将作出重大决定,那就是基于中国和大多数国家的贸易关系、中国巨大的经济体量以及主要贸易国地位来判断让人民币在储备货币篮子中获得一席之地是件好事,还是说人民币成为储备货币的条件尚未成熟。目前来看,这两种选择在政治层面上都会有影响。就像中国发起设立的亚洲基础设施投资银行表明的那样,这样的选择将影响到国际汇兑制度框架。

或者,IMF也许还可以通过建立另一种储备货币篮子调整机制来解决这个难题,具体做法是设立第一特别提款权(SDR1),并沿用现有储备货币篮子,只是可能基于某些标准来改变各储备货币所占的比例;同时设立第二特别提款权(SDR2),其中囊括一些新的货币。IMF可以把人民币纳入SDR2的首个货币篮子之中。在一定时间段内,这两个货币篮子可以同时存在。如果使用国的偏好表明SDR2优于SDR1,前者实际上就会取代后者。

在进行下一次阶段性评估时,更受欢迎的那种特别提款权就会成为SDR1,而且还可以根据届时的环境来决定是否要设立新的SDR2。这样的机制可以把政治屏蔽在储备货币选择程序之外,并让市场来决定储备货币篮子的构成。这样一来,在这个问题上,就不会出现目前通过地缘政治手段来增强或削弱一国的威信和经济实力,从而使另一国受益的情况。IMF应该尽可能地远离政治,而特别提款权改革显然正是朝着这个方向迈出的一步。(财富中文网)

杰瑞•尼克斯伯格是加州大学洛杉矶分校安德森管理学院经济学兼职教授。

译者:Charlie

Earlier this fall, the IMF postponed a scheduled update of the designated basket of reserve currencies, a basket that is used by member countries for Special Drawing Rights (SDR). Though SDR’s, a form of borrowing for purposes of currency stabilization, are part of the arcane mechanism of international currency transactions, this was big news. It was seen as a rebuff of China in the wake of last summer’s intervention in the Shanghai Stock Exchange and devaluation of the Chinese Yuan. However, being a reserve currency is both more and less than meets the eye. The more is the political struggle between Chinese ascendency in the world economy and US dominance in international organizations. The less is the relatively minor role that the yuan as an IMF-designated reserve currency would play in the world economy.

The ostensible reason for the IMF inaction was to “ensure the smooth functioning of SDR-related operations,” and to respond to SDR users feedback on the timing of any changes. This is a bit disingenuous as a continuation of the current four currencies; the US dollar, Japanese Yen, Euro, and UK Pound Sterling, would not have caused disruption. Clearly it is all about the yuan. At a time when the yuan’s value and liquidity were uncertain, a postponement until the dust settled was prudent.

The IMF ostensibly has an objective process for being designated a reserve currency. The first criterion is based on the volume of international transactions cleared in the currency. The IMF specifies that currencies qualifying are those “issued by members or currency unions that play a central role in the global economy.” The yuan is fourth among currencies used in transactions at 2.8% (August 2015). Thus, there is no doubt on this basis it qualifies.

The second is that currencies must be “freely usable.” While there are clarifying statements in the IMF Charter, they are subject to interpretation. Herein is the crux of the debate. To be part of the market basket of currencies, each currency has to be useful to those who borrow SDR’s to stabilize fluctuations in their own currency. A country with a fixed, managed float or freely floating exchange rate may qualify as may one with limited capital controls. It is clear that some currencies do not meet the definition, but the dividing line between those that are “freely usable” and those that are not is fuzzy at best.

This is a difficult nut to crack objectively because the designation of “reserve currency,” changes the demand for that currency. As well, not being a reserve currency might be a disincentive for holding the same currency. One can argue whether the data on the current and future demand for the yuan as a useful currency for members’ foreign exchange portfolios support inclusion or not, but in the end the discussion is based on political perspective as much as economic evidence.

The consequence of designating the yuan as a reserve currency if in fact it does not ex-post meet the criteria of “freely usable” is that once in, removal is difficult. If countries do not want to hold the yuan due to concerns about its liquidity or concerns about its future value, then its presence in the basket of currencies (one has to take the entire basket) will make SDR’s a less efficient mechanism for providing liquidity in the event of an exchange crisis. However, the yuan’s percentage of the basket will be relatively small and this efficiency cost might be negligible.

In December, the IMF will make a leap of faith and decide that either because China has trading relations with most countries, has a large economy, and is a major trading economy, having the Chinese yuan as a small part of the basket would be a good thing, or that the conditions are not yet ripe for the yuan to be in the SDR basket of reserve currencies. Either choice currently has political implications, and as the Chinese-sponsored Asian Insfrastructure Investment Bank demonstrated, implications for the institutional framework for international exchange.

Alternatively, the IMF could cut the Gordian Knot with a mechanism to decide changes in the basket of currencies by having an SDR1, which maintains the old basket, perhaps with changes in the percentages based on some criteria, and an SDR2, which includes some new currency(ies). The first SDR2 basket would contain the yuan. These baskets can run parallel for a set period of time. Based on the preferences of countries using SDR’s, SDR2 would, if better than SDR1, replace SDR1 de facto.

At the next periodic evaluation, the more popular of SDR1 and SDR2 would then become SDR1 and the environment of the day would determine if a new SDR2 be created. Such a mechanism would take the politics out of reserve currency determination and let the market decide the basket. The current geopolitical maneuvering to enhance or diminish the prestige and economic power of one country in favor of another would not enter the equation. The IMF ought to be as apolitical as possible, and a reform of the SDR is an obvious step in that direction.

Jerry Nickelsburg is an adjunct professor of economics at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

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