Canada has become the first country in the Americas to become an offshore clearing and trading centre for the renminbi (Rmb).

On Monday, it joined financial centres in Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei, Singapore, London, Frankfurt and Seoul in being granted permission by the Chinese authorities to directly convert its currency to Rmb without first converting to US dollars.

It’s hoped that the move will usher in an increase in bilateral trade, with China already Canada’s second-biggest trading partner. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce estimated that the move could save local exporters some C$6.2bn over the next decade and add an extra C$32bn to the country’s exports value.

It is also often the case that Chinese exporters offer discounts to those trading partners that settle in the Chinese currency, which could act as a further boon to Canada’s exports sector.

Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the announcement, Export Development Canada (EDC – the country’s export credit agency), signed an agreeement with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) to promote the use of the Rmb in settling trade.

Peter Hall, chief economist at EDC welcomed the initiative in a blog post: “By adopting the Rmb as a payments currency, Canadian traders will have access to a wider universe of Chinese clients, and at the same time, improve their bottom lines. This is because the vast majority of China’s traders are SMEs, most of which do not have US dollar liquidity.

“As such, they need to rely on foreign exchange agents to access dollars, who in turn charge service fees and impose conversion ceilings. At the end of the day, this system creates bottlenecks and costs, not to mention manifold frustration. However, if payment was made in Rmb, life would become a whole lot easier and cheaper for everyone involved — except, of course, the foreign exchange agent.”

The move came after an announcement in November 2014 that the state-owned ICBC would be the bank used for clearing in Canada.

In the past year, the list of countries signing currency swap agreements with China has grown exponentially, with the likes of Sydney, Paris, Doha and Luxembourg also set to become clearing hubs later in 2015.

China harbours ambitions for making the Rmb an international reserve currency to rival the US dollar, and although this is a long way down the line, this latest move represents the aggressive approach the Chinese government has taken to growing the Rmb’s influence abroad, even if many involved in trade in Asia still question the actual volumes of trade that are done in Rmb.

Payments company Swift announced in February that the Rmb had entered the world’s top five payments currencies for trade.

“Letters of credit and documentary collections are widely used instruments to finance trade flows across Asia. China’s position as one of the main exporting and importing countries in the world is supporting the increasing use of the Chinese currency. However, many of these Rmb transactions are still mostly driven by China and Hong Kong, even though the Rmb is nearly 10% of traditional trade finance flows globally in terms of value,” said the company’s global head of corporate and supply chain markets, André Castermann.

Banks are falling over each other to broadcast their latest “Rmb first”, with a range of new solutions designed to make the currency more international trade-friendly being launched this year already.

And while large-scale material benefits may not come immediately, stakeholders have been keen to talk up the benefits of their respective countries building such bridges with China.

Speaking to GTR, the head of HSBC’s Rmb internationalisation business in Hong Kong Vina Cheung explained the People’s Bank of China’s approach to currency liberalisation: “China has an established a three-pronged approach to Rmb internationalisation: expanding the currency’s role in cross-border trade settlement, developing offshore Rmb centres and encouraging a wider use of Rmb in cross-border investment.”