OKex embraces Brazil’s official fast payments system PIX, as CBDC draws nearer

Increasing numbers of offshore cryptocurrency exchanges are embracing Brazil’s instant payments infrastructure, PIX.

On May 28, OKEx announced a strategic partnership with local payments firm CuboPay, allowing it to facilitate Tether ($USDT) purchases in exchange for Brazilian real via PIX.

The news follows similar moves from rival exchanges, including Crypto.com peer-to-peer platform Localbitcoins.

The integrations come as the Central Bank of Brazil, or BCB, published preliminary guidelines for a central bank digital currency, or CBDC, on May 25.

The announcement emphasizes that the CBDC will operate “as an extension of the physical currency,” and is intended to improve the retail payment system, foster new business models, and bolster Brazil’s participation in regional and global trade through increasing the efficiency of cross-border transactions.

Research into a CBDC was authorized as part of a broader move from Brazil’s central bank to modernize the country’s payments sector, including the launch of PIX in November 2020. The guidelines were compiled by a working group established to explore a CBDC in August 2020. The BCB has previously indicated it hopes to have developed its CBDC by 2022.

With the president of the Central Bank of Brazil, Roberto Campos Neto, previously emphasizing the role of PIX in supporting its CBDC ambitions through providing “an instant payment system that is efficient and interoperable,” the BCB’s response to PIX being adopted by off-shore cryptocurrency exchanges remains to be seen.

In June 2020, the BCB suspended WhatsApp Pay to investigate risks posed to the competitive environment of its payments sector, with the suspension coming just months after the central bank revealed PIX as a response to the growing popularity of crypto assets.

With WhatsApp Pay having only resumed Brazilian operations earlier this month, a crackdown on the use of PIX to access crypto assets may still be a possibility.

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