The Chinese renminbi (Rmb) is now the most widely-used currency in trade between Greater China and Asia Pacific, in value terms.

The latest data from payments company Swift shows that its usage has increased by 327% over the past three years, and that it now accounts for 31% of payments between China and Hong Kong and the rest of Asia Pacific.

The soaring use of Rmb emphasises its growing importance as a global currency (it has maintained its position as the fifth most used currency in global settlements), and also highlights the more active role China is taking in regional trade. Furthermore, it shows the impact of the Chinese government’s ongoing efforts at liberalising the currency.

“Asia Pacific is clearly paving the way forward when it comes to Rmb adoption. Big trading partners like Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea have adopted the Rmb for the majority of their payments with Greater China,” says Michael Moon, head of payments Asia Pacific at Swift.

The IMF will hold an SDR review in late 2015. It is not yet clear-cut whether the Rmb will be added to the basket already this year, Arjen van Dijkhuizen, ABN Amro

It promises to be a pivotal few months for the currency. Later this year, the IMF will decide whether to include it in its special drawing rights (SDR) basket of currencies, which is akin to being named as an officially recognised reserve currency. This would go some way to announcing the Rmb’s arrival on the world stage, but question marks remain over how far along the road to liberalisation the currency actually is.

“The IMF will hold an SDR review in late 2015. It is not yet clear-cut whether the Rmb will be added to the basket already this year, although IMF managing director Christine Lagarde recently stated that this is a question of ‘when, not if’. There seems to be quite some element of judgment in assessing whether a currency is ‘freely usable’ enough. There is also political factors at play in the decision process. What will for instance be the position of the US?” Arjen van Dijkhuizen, senior economist at ABN Amro tells GTR.

Meanwhile, Citi has announced the first intercompany, cross-border Rmb netting solution, in conjunction with Samsung Electronics. The global tool will help manage Samsung’s liquidity and optimise its working capital, allowing as it will the company to manoeuvre its Rmb reserves to multiple locations around the world.

China and South Korea are expected to confirm the finalisation of their free trade agreement imminently. The deal edged closer in March, with Seoul being announced as the latest Rmb clearing hub. Shortly after, Samsung began trading Rmb directly with South Korean won.

The solution with Citi is the next step in the company’s plans to utilise a swiftly-internationalising Rmb around the world.

Amol Gupte, Citi’s head of treasury and trade solutions for Asia Pacific, says: “In-house banks and netting structures are an increasing trend for our clients as they take treasury centralisation to the next level. With the rise of Rmb as a global currency, and as the leading international bank in China, Citi continues to bring breakthrough Rmb cross-border treasury centre solutions to market.”

Citi has been one of the most active international banks in the Rmb’s liberalisation, launching a number of first solutions, most notably in and out of the Shanghai free trade zone.