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Foreign Currency

Published: 17 Apr 2013 23:30:02 PST
A buyer and a seller who are in different countries rarely use the same currency. Payment is usually made in either the buyer's or the seller's currency or in a third mutually agreed-upon currency.
One of the risks associated with foreign trade is the uncertainty of the future exchange rates. The relative value between the two currencies could change between the time the deal is concluded and the time payment is received. If the exporter is not properly protected, a devaluation or depreciation of the foreign currency could cause the exporter to lose money. For example, if the buyer has agreed to pay 500,000 French francs for a shipment and the franc is valued at 20 cents, the seller would expect to receive US$100,000. If the franc later decreased in value to be worth 19 US cents, payment under the new rate would be only US$95,000, a loss of US$5,000 for the seller. On the other hand, if the foreign currency increases in value the exporter would get a windfall in extra profits. Nonetheless, most exporters are not interested in speculating on foreign exchange fluctuations and prefer to avoid risks.
If the buyer asks to make payment in a foreign currency, the exporter should consult an international banker before negotiating the sales contract. Banks can offer advice on the foreign exchange risks that exist with a particular currency. Some international banks can also help hedge against such a risk, by agreeing to purchase the foreign currency at a fixed price in dollars, regardless of the currencies value at the time the customer pays. Banks will normally charge a fee or discount the transaction for this service. If this mechanism is used, the bank's fee should be included in the price quotation.
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