Cryptos have had a rough time of it – but then again, there are some signs the digital tokens are making inroads across borders.
To that end, in recent days Ripple’s cross-border payments offering, known as xRapid, has brought on Bittrex, acting as the preferred digital asset exchange for the transactions that move through U.S. dollars. The goal is to help establish what Ripple has called a “healthy ecosystem” of exchange partners that will help bring currency into XRP and then into another currency.
As noted by Ripple, a financial institution that has accounts with Bittrex initiates payments through xRapid, and that payment is instantly converted to XRP on Bittrex. Payment would be initiated via xRapid in U.S. dollars, converted to XRP on Bittrex and eventually settled in fiat in a destination bank account.
The firms have said that the partnership with Bittrex, as well as Coins.ph and Bitso, will be enlisted for transactions across Philippine pesos and Mexican pesos. Ripple has also stated that firms that piloted xRapid were able to save 40 percent to 70 percent of transaction costs on cross-border efforts as compared to traditional FX brokers. And there have been time savings, too, as the transactions settled within two minutes, a favorable timeframe when compared to the two to three days it took otherwise.
Dispute in Europe over Sanctions … and Payments
Elsewhere, and even amid news here and there of individual company linkups, there may be some tensions brewing, between governments and across borders. As noted by Business Insider this week, Germany’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas has said, via an article in a daily German newspaper (Handelsblatt), that “it is indispensable that we strengthen European autonomy by creating payment channels that are independent of the United States. It is high time to reevaluate our partnership.”
Amid those concerns, the minister said there should be a European Monetary Fund and an independent SWIFT system, the latter of which claims to have political neutrality. The controversy comes as the continent and the U.S. are in a standoff over sanctions levied by the latter on Iran. Though the U.S. has said it will not do business with firms in Iran, some firms in the EU have tried to exempt European firms from such strictures under what is known as a “blocking statute.” Some firms have indeed pulled out, such as the French energy firm Total. The German minister has said the EU firms must stick to the deal that says there would be no sanctions if Iran would give up its nuclear enrichment programs.
In cross-border initiatives announced last week, with an eye on retail – specifically, retailers and businesses joining together to tap into the power of the Chinese consumer – CITCON stated that it is helping merchants at the Mall of America to offer cross-border payments to Chinese tourists. The feature will be offered in merchandise shops, Nickelodeon Universe and guest services, CITCON said in an announcement. Through the system, merchants can facilitate payments through WeChat and Alipay.
As has been noted, Chinese consumers are slated to spend roughly $80 billion in the U.S. in 2020 alone.
“Chinese consumers have become accustomed to the idea of doing everything on mobile,” CITCON Founder and CEO Chuck Huang said in the announcement. “Accepting the familiar and preferred mobile payment options has become a necessity for retailers to deliver an exceptional customer experience that matches with the changing behavior of today’s Chinese consumers.”
Blockchain, Once More Around the Block
Separately from the terms of individual company initiatives, SAP said it has created a consortium of partners across a variety of verticals – ones notably global in scope, and where blockchain can help track far-flung supply chains, automating them and tracking every step, from creation of goods to delivery of items such as food and medicines. The consortium includes companies such as Intel, UPS and Airbus. SAP noted that 63 percent of cloud customers see blockchain as holding potential for the supply chain.