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ECONOMY | 26-01-2022 13:48

Argentina asks China to expand yuan swap to strengthen reserves

Argentina has already requested the increase and the topic will be discussed next week in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping when President Alberto Fernández travels there for the Winter Olympics, a second person said.

Argentina’s government is asking China for an expansion of its bilateral currency swap in yuan as it seeks to strengthen reserves ahead of payments due to the International Monetary Fund, people familiar with the request said.

South America’s second-largest economy is looking to ask China to increase its 130 billion yuan swap (US$20.6 billion) by an additional 20 billion yuan, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

Argentina has already requested the increase and the topic will be discussed next week in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping when President Alberto Fernández travels there for the Winter Olympics, a second person said.

Expanding the swap, which was originally agreed to in 2009, would allow Argentina to bolster its international reserves at a time when negotiations with the IMF to refinance over US$40 billion from an outstanding loan have stalled. 

The crisis-prone country has over US$4 billion due to the lender in the first quarter, including interest and principal payments, and net reserves stand at just US$1.8 billion, according to estimates by Buenos Aires-based consulting firm Anker Latinoamerica.

Argentina’s presidential office declined to comment. A Central Bank spokesperson said that the organisation is constantly talking to peers, declining to comment further. The Economy Ministry’s press office didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

The China swap, which was most recently renewed in 2019, currently represents more than half of the total stock of Argentina’s gross reserves.

The swap is an agreement between both central banks, by which the People’s Bank of China has an account in renminbi at the Argentine Central Bank, and the latter has an account in pesos based in China. The banks have the option of drawing that money for eventual needs, and if they use it must return it with interest to the counterpart.

An interest payment to the IMF for over US$700 million is due before the end of the month, according to data from the Budget Affice of the Argentine Congress. Fernández has said the government can’t pay with international reserves at razor-thin levels.

by Ignacio Olivera Doll, Bloomberg

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