Britain and China have agreed to sign a memorandum next week that may turn London into the home of the first yuan clearing center outside of Asia.  This new clearing center will allow London to settle yuan-denominated interbank payments, loans, trades in goods and services, and other transactions.

The new London clearing center will offer a second location for yuan-denominated transactions, which are all currently cleared and processed through Hong Kong. According to Britain’s Finance Ministry, London currently accounts for 62 percent of yuan trading that takes place outside of China, a 54 percent increase from January 2013. For the first half of 2013, London’s average daily turnover of yuan-denominated foreign exchange products totaled $15.6 billion.

Over the past year, Britain’s Finance Minister George Osborne has focused heavily on improving the financial relationship between Britain and China while also seeking to make London the top destination for trading in Chinese currency.

Osborne traveled to China in October 2013 to discuss the possibility of a clearing and settlement bank while also working out several other financial arrangements. The arrangements included initiating direct renminbi-sterling trading in Shanghai, allowing Chinese banks to set up branches in London, and allowing UK-based institutions to invest up to $13.57 billion in Chinese bonds or stocks through the Renminbi Qualified Financial Institution Investor Program. Britain and France are currently the only Western countries that may use Chinese currency to invest in Chinese stocks, bonds, and money market instruments through this program.

Chinese investors are also enjoying greater investment opportunities in London. In January of this year, the Bank of China issued a 2.5 billion renminbi bond on the London Stock Exchange’s professional securities market. In February, GF Financial Markets became the second Chinese member of the London Stock Exchange.

Osborne and British Prime Minister David Cameron are also competing with Germany and Luxembourg to become the top European destination for yuan trading. According to Bloomberg, Germany’s Bundesbank and the People’s Bank of China are also set to sign a memorandum that will allow for yuan clearing and the settlement of yuan trades in Frankfurt, Germany.

Posted by Catherine Matacic