Asian Clearing Union (ACU) is a payment arrangement whereby the participants settle payments for intra-regional transactions among the participating central banks on a net multilateral basis.
The objectives of the ACU are:
(1) To provide a facility to settle payments, on a multilateral basis, for current international transactions among the territories of participants;
(2) To promote the use of participants' currencies in current transactions between their respective territories and thereby effect economies in the use of the participants' exchange reserves;
(3) To promote monetary co-operation among the participants and closer relations among the banking systems in their territories and thereby contribute to the expansion of trade and economic activity among the countries of the ESCAP region; and
(4) To provide for currency SWAP arrangement among the participants so as to make Asian Monetary Units (AMUs) available to them temporarily.
ACU Measures and Achievements
The ACU was established in December 1974 when the countries in the region were facing settlement difficulties, mainly due to resource constraints. The ACU started its operations a year later in November 1975. Over the years, the ACU has displayed a sense of true commitment, consolidated and nurtured throughout its operations. By applying sound strategies, it achieved pre-determined objectives to facilitate settlement on a multilateral basis, to promote the use of participants’ currencies, to improve monetary and banking co-operation, and to expand trade and economic activity among the countries of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) region.
The results of long-term initiatives to raise the Union achievements are evident from the following facts:
(1) Rapid expansion of trade: Since the inception of the ACU, transactions have experienced a remarkable growth. In 2020, volume of transactions (one way plus accrued interest) amounted to USD 9,302.22 million. On a monthly basis, the average transactions stood at USD 775.19 million.
(2) Timely settlement: Under the ACU Procedure Rules, the debtor members should pay up their dues in convertible currencies within four working days of the receipt of the notice of payment from the Secretary General. There has been no default by any member so far in meeting its obligation for the settlement of its net position within the stipulated time.
(3) Establishment of multi-currency settlement system: Based on the approval of the ACU Board of Directors at the 37th Meeting in Myanmar (June 2008), the accounts of the ACU are held in “Asian Monetary Units” (AMUs), comprising ACU dollar and ACU euro with effect from January 1, 2009. Since then, the participants are authorized to settle transactions either in US Dollar or Euro within the ACU mechanism. In July 2019, according to the Board of Directors' approval at the 48th Meeting in Bhutan, the accounts of the ACU were held in AMUs comprising of ACU dollar, ACU euro, and ACU yen with effect from January 1, 2020. As a result, the participants were permitted to commence settlement of Japanese Yen─in addition to US Dollar and Euro─transactions through the ACU mechanism.
(4) Revision of the Agreement Establishing the ACU and Procedure Rules: In tandem with developments and challenges ahead, the ACU Board of Directors amended the Agreement Establishing the ACU and Procedure Rules.
(5) Quality management and information technology: Believing in the fact that developing an online access to information would be a worldwide requirement; the ACU has developed both the quality and quantity of the system. In order to accelerate the process of presenting services and to make dispersion of information smoother, the participants were enabled to access their ACU accounts on a daily basis through the Internet.
(6) Expansion of the ACU: Based on a decision made at the 36th Board of Directors Meeting in Bangladesh (May 2006), the expansion of the Union was put at the top of its agenda. Eligibility to participate in the ACU shall be open to the central bank or monetary authority of each regional member or associate member of ESCAP. However, according to "ACU Membership Application Policy and Procedure" which was approved by the ACU Board of Directors at the 39th Meeting in Bhutan (June 11, 2010), a central bank or monetary authority that is eligible to participate and is not an original participant may apply to the Board
of Directors to become a participant and be admitted as a participant
if the Board so decides by a two-third vote of all the Directors for
each regional member or associate member of ESCAP and by unanimous vote
of all the Directors for each non-ESCAP members and upon such central
bank or monetary authority signing this Agreement and accepting the
rules, regulations and decisions of the Board of Directors.
Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go. The ACU challenges are to strengthen, smoothen, and streamline the mechanism to cope with fast pacing developments in the international markets.
Membership in the ACU does not impose a financial burden (quota) on members as all expenses associated with running the ACU Secretariat are borne by Central Bank of Iran─the Agent Bank of the Union─since the inception of the ACU.
Each participant appoints one director and one alternate director. The Board elects a chairman and a vice-chairman from among its members. The Board meets at least once a year. All decisions of the Board of Directors are taken by a majority of the votes of all Directors unless a special majority is required by the Agreement.
The Board of Directors appoints a Secretary General to conduct the business of the ACU. The Secretary General acts as the representative of the Board of Directors.
The Board of Directors may make arrangements with a central bank or monetary authority of a participant to provide the necessary services and facilities for the operation of the clearing facility. The Board has accepted the offer of the Central Bank of Iran to act as an agent for the Union.