Earlier this month, China took a big step to expand the use of renminbi for cross-border payments and trade settlement. The move makes it easier for international corporations to pay more of their Chinese suppliers in RMB and allows those with subsidiaries engaged in manufacturing and exporting in China to include RMB as a strategic currency in their treasury portfolios, says Sam Xu, executive director at J.P. Morgan Treasury Services.

The People's Bank of China announced March 2 that it would extend eligibility to collect cross-border renminbi payments far beyond the 67,000 exporters that were included in the Mainland Designated Enterprises (MDE) list established in December 2010, Xu explains. All companies in China that have import/export licenses will be allowed to settle in RMB with buyers or sellers outside of China unless they appear on an exceptions roster of "enterprises under close supervision," which replaces the MDE list, says Xu, pictured at right.

"That means the eligibility will be expanded dramatically, given the size of China's import/export sector," he says. "It's a huge number."

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