China announced another modest easing Thursday of its currency controls, saying banks will be allowed to set their own exchange rates in dealings with customers.
The change adds to a series of moves aimed at making China’s government-controlled financial system more market-oriented and efficient.
The United States and other countries have criticized Beijing’s controls on the yuan, also called the renminbi. They say the government-set exchange rate is too low, giving Chinese exporters an unfair price advantage and hurting foreign competitors.
Under the rule change, banks allowed to handle foreign currency “can set exchange rates for the renminbi by themselves for customers based on market demand and price-setting ability,” the Chinese foreign currency regulator said in a statement.
Until now, Beijing has set an exchange rate for the yuan each day and then allowed it to fluctuate in a narrow band against the U.S. dollar and other currencies in tightly controlled trading. In March, that band was widened, though to only 2 percent.
Under the latest change, banks that make a profit by buying foreign currencies at one price and selling at another could offer some customers a better deal by narrowing the margin between those two levels. The regulator’s statement gave no indication whether they would be allowed to go outside the state-set trading band or by how much.