Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 24.2017
2017.06.05 — 2017.06.11
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Russia says BRICS states need embracing security measures to switch to digital economy (Россия заявляет, что БРИКС должны принять меры безопасности для перехода на цифровую экономику) / Russia, June, 2017
Keywords: cybersecurity

Russia says BRICS states need embracing security measures to switch to digital economy

Recent experience demonstrates the vulnerability of the digital medium to global threats

KHANTY-MANSIYSK, June 6. /TASS/. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) grouping of the world's leading emerging market countries need to implement comprehensive security measures to switch over to a digital economy, a senior Russian Interior Ministry official said on Tuesday.

"The problems of crime are inherent in all countries of the world, including BRICS countries. The transition to a digital economy should, of course, be accompanied by the provision of all-embracing security measures, Alexei Moshkov, head of the Russian Interior Ministry's K Department, said at the 9th international IT-forum in Khanty-Mansiysk in West Siberia.

The experience of recent years demonstrates the vulnerability of the digital medium to global threats, Moshkov said.

This primarily relates to targeted attacks on credit and financial institutions or the threats related to the spread of malware, he noted.

"Perpetrators assimilate advanced technologies quickly and effectively, develop complex criminal schemes and use imperfections of electronic services to search for new methods of obtaining criminal incomes," he stressed.

BRICS reaffirm commitment to energy efficiency (BRICS подтверждают приверженность энергоэффективности) / France, June, 2017
Keywords: IPEEC, event, energy

BRICS countries this week renewed their commitment to progress energy efficiency, conserve resources and tackle climate change at the second meeting of the BRICS Working Group on Energy Saving and Improvement of Energy Efficiency. Held in Beijing, China, under China's 2017 Presidency of the BRICS Summit, the event represented an important step in facilitating cooperation on energy efficiency between BRICS countries, which was set out in the "Memorandum on Mutual Understanding in Energy Saving and Governmental Agencies of BRICS Responsible for Energy and Energy Efficiency" and the "Joint Statement on Energy Saving and Energy Efficiency amongst BRICS Countries", previously agreed to by members.

Vice-Minister Yong Zhang of China's National Development and Reform Commission and Vice-Minister Anton Inyutsyn of Russia's Ministry of Energy called on BRICS countries to play a leading role in improving energy efficiency and designing a better, energy efficient future in a collaborative manner. Discussions also centred round energy efficiency policies, key energy efficiency collaboration projects, best energy efficient technologies and practices, and energy saving and energy efficiency databases.

The BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – are all members of the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency (IPEEC).
China: BRICS parties should work together and lead (Китай: Страны БРИКС должны работать вместе и лидировать) / China, June, 2017
Keywords: event, speech

A Chinese minister appealed for cooperation and strategic communications during an address to a BRICS political parties' forum in Fuzhou, Fujian Province, on Saturday.

In his keynote speech, Song Tao, minister of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, said political parties of the BRICS countries should exhibit their advantages in dealing with domestic and foreign issues and perform well their political guiding role and influence.

It was the first time for representatives from political parties of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) countries to sit down and exchange views in a forum specifically designed by China, which will chair the Ninth BRICS Summit in Xiamen, Fujian Province, in September.

The political party represented the core of decision-making and the main source of policies in most of countries in the world, so its advocacy and decisions not only affected a country's policies, but also influenced a region's peace and prosperity, he said, urging in-depth communications among the governing parties of BRICS members and learning from one another.

"BRICS parties can have strategic communication in top level design for [our] cooperation, which will enhance mutual understanding and trust, and help the five countries to work together with the same faith and direction to push cooperation to a new level."

The minister hoped BRICS parties could look beyond self-interest and protectionism so as to guide people to see the real developmental trends of the world while designing and pushing forward BRICS cooperation at a higher place in a community of shared future for mankind.

He also believed the parties, as the representatives of billions of people, could boost and guide public opinions on BRICS cooperation and enhance peoples' communication through party-level dialogue. At the same time, political parties should carry forward cooperation in a pragmatic way and turn thoughts into actions with higher cooperative efficiency, which would drive governments, enterprises and social organizations to actively participate in promoting BRICS.

"President Xi Jinping once said about BRICS cooperation, 'Our efforts today relate to the welfare of three billion people in the BRICS countries and also relate to the prospect and future of the whole world and the entire human race,'" Song said, "As political parties, we should stand at the highest level, and mastermind and guide BRICS cooperation with vision based on our historic responsibilities. The Communist Party of China would love to make contribution to this aspect and expects to work with parties of other countries to better develop the BRICS family."

The BRICS Political Parties, Think-Tanks and Civil Society Organization Forum is being held from Saturday to Monday under the theme of "Pooling Wisdom and Strength for Common Development and A Brighter Future."

Representatives will discuss ways to cement cooperation, aiming to build consensus and boost stronger BRICS cooperation through in-depth exchanges, to offer proposals and create a sound environment for the 9th BRICS Summit.

The event has drawn over 400 participants from BRICS and other developing countries. It is hosted by the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.

SCO summit highlights potential for expanded cooperation (Саммит ШОС подчеркивает потенциал для расширения сотрудничества) / China, June, 2017
Keywords: SCO, event, Russia_China, India_China

Expanded economic cooperation among members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will benefit the region, according to remarks made at the organization's yearly summit.

Speaking at the annual summit of the SCO in Astana, Kazakhstan, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for deepening practical cooperation, as regional integration and economic globalization are the trends of the time, and it is important for them to bring benefits to all countries and peoples.

To mobilize more resources and driving force for practical cooperation under the SCO framework, China supports the establishment of a mechanism for sub-national cooperation and has vigorously promoted SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) cooperation by its initiatives of economic think-tanks alliance and e-commerce alliance of the SCO, Xi said.

Bilateral trade relations have grown closer between China and other SCO member countries, as trade facilitation has improved, with China becoming the largest trading partner of Russia and Kyrgyzstan.

Meanwhile, mutual investment has grown steadily, with China's non-financial direct investment in other SCO members as of April 2017 amounting to 74.2 billion U.S. dollars and investment in the opposite direction totaling 1.09 billion U.S. dollars, according to Zhong Shan, minister of commerce.

Zhong highlighted achievements in establishing economic and trade cooperation zones, noting that China has built a total of 21 such cooperation zones within other SCO countries, helping to expand local employment and increase tax revenue.

The potential for deeper and more expansive SCO economic cooperation remains huge as regional cooperation starts to expand from project development to synergy in economic strategy, especially over the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.

Belt and Road cooperation is aimed at building an infrastructure and trade network to improve the interconnectivity of Asia, Africa and Europe along and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes.

China and other parties are exploring ways to coordinate the Belt and Road Initiative with regional cooperation initiatives such as the Eurasian Economic Union and national development strategies, including Kazakhstan's "Nurly Zhol" strategy.

The inclusion of India and Pakistan in the SCO expanded room for development of the Belt and Road Initiative in the region, whose GDP volume accounts for about one fifth of the global total.

In addition to enhanced transport connectivity, an SCO trade facilitation agreement will be an ideal first step to deepen regional economic cooperation.

The SCO will see its total GDP increase by 98.8 billion U.S. dollars if member countries exempt import tax, according to a report released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Exports would increase 20 billion U.S. dollars while imports would grow 19.8 billion U.S. dollars in the region if member countries cut customs clearance time by 25 percent, benefiting all member countries, especially Central Asian nations and Pakistan, the report added.

Last month, the Ministry of Commerce and more than 80 international organizations and government agencies from other countries jointly launched the Initiative on Promoting Unimpeded Trade Cooperation along the Belt and Road during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

"We are willing to work with other SCO countries to implement the initiative to expand regional trade and investment, facilitate market integration and benefit local people," Zhong added.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks and answers to questions at Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal State University, Kaliningrad, June 6, 2017 (Выступление и ответы на вопросы Министра иностранных дел России С.В.Лаврова в Балтийском федеральном государственном университете им. И.Канта, Калининград, 6 июня 2017 года) / Russia, June, 2017
Keywords: Official_visit, Russia_world, SCO

Mr Alikhanov,

Mr Klemeshev,



I am sincerely glad to have an opportunity to revisit Baltic Federal University whose history is marked by many outstanding events and glorious names. Based on its rich traditions, the university, which, as I understand, is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, keeps abreast of the times and has by right gained a reputation as one of the leading higher educational centres in Russia that trains highly skilled specialists. We appreciate your efforts to expand international cooperation by facilitating humanitarian ties with your foreign partners whose number exceeds one hundred, today. In the final analysis, you are working to maintain friendship and trust in the international arena. We will continue to provide any support we can to your initiatives in this regard.

I am recalling with warmth the hospitable reception that was given to me and the foreign ministers of Germany and Poland six years ago in May 2011 during our tripartite meeting. Back then we said that our three countries were not indifferent to the future of our continent and its harmonious, stable, safe and progressive development. We stressed the need to use the powerful potential of cooperation more effectively.

Regrettably, the situation in Europe and the world as a whole has seriously deteriorated since then. Unfortunately, we see this as a logical result of our partners' unwillingness to maintain an equitable dialogue, their persistent wish to impose their will, values, and ways of development on everyone everywhere, and an attempt to slow the objective process of the emergence of a more just and stable polycentric world order.

One often hears allegations that Moscow violates its international commitments and therefore is to blame for the current tense situation in the Euro-Atlantic area. In this connection, I would like to remind them that it was primarily thanks to Russia's major contribution that it became possible to remove the vestiges of bipolar confrontation and the Cold War. We played, without exaggeration, the decisive role in German unification. Our country implemented the agreements on the withdrawal of forces and armaments from Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, and later, Georgia.

The principle of good-neighbourliness is an axiom for Russia with regard to the European Union and the EU member countries, with whom we share not just common historical, cultural and civilisational roots, but also rich trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian exchanges. We work consistently to promote a positive, unifying, and future-focused common European agenda aimed at keeping life on a peaceful track. We have proposed numerous initiatives for building up broad mutually advantageous cooperation, from the basic step of abolishing such relic as visas to joint work with the European Union on crisis regulation and on uniting our countries' energy markets. We have done everything we can to ensure that dialogue between countries in the Euro-Atlantic region develop on the basis of international law. Back in 2008, we proposed concluding a treaty on European security, which would have legalised the political obligations taken earlier at the highest level through the OSCE on indivisible security, which means that no country has the right to strengthen its security at the expense of others' security.

Sadly, our partners did not support this initiative. They preferred a policy of military-political containment of Russia, which is manifested in the greedy and hasty action to occupy any geopolitical space that opens up, NATO expansion to the east, despite assurances once made to Soviet leadership that this would not happen, and the European Union's Eastern Partnership. This programme, and the other Western actions mentioned, took the logic of a false choice: 'you are either with the West or with Russia,' and not the logic of the grand promises and assurances of commitment to the philosophy of a 'common European home.'

NATO said directly in its time that only NATO member countries can have legal guarantees of security. We got a clear illustration of the harm this zero-sum game can cause in the armed coup d'etat in Ukraine, which was supported by Washington and Brussels and carried out by ultra-radical forces, who continue to run the show in Ukraine today and block all efforts to implement the Minsk Agreements and settle the internal crisis in Ukraine. Their Western patrons are powerless and cannot call the radicals to order.

In May of this year, we marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Russia-NATO Founding Act and the 15th anniversary of the Rome Declaration on a new quality of relations between Russia and NATO. But we have not achieved these documents' goal of overcoming the remnants of confrontation and rivalry and strengthening mutual trust and cooperation, primarily because NATO has remained a Cold War institution that has proven itself unable to respond adequately to the new millennium's challenges. Today, NATO is taking decisions that grossly violate the NATO-Russia Founding Act's provisions. The scale of military activity has increased dramatically and there is a build-up of military presence and infrastructure in regions bordering Russia, including along the borders of the Kaliningrad Region. These actions clearly exacerbate the situation and fuel a new spiral in the arms race. What NATO calls shamefacedly the 'eastern flank' is threatening to become the 'eastern front,' with all the ensuing destructive consequences for Europe.

Our relations with the EU are facing a very difficult period as well. Seeking to divert public attention from their failure in Ukraine, where the organisers of the coup d'etat threw to the winds the agreement approved by Germany, France and Poland, the EU tried to shift the blame to others and launched the war of sanctions.

Political undercurrents have complicated practical cooperation, including in the energy sphere, which has cemented our relations for decades. The current Polish authorities are working especially hard on this. It is difficult to find logic in their decision to curtail small border traffic with the Kaliningrad Region. The attempts to provide legal substantiation for the demolition of monuments to Soviet soldiers cannot be described as being anything other than blasphemous, considering that the Polish state and people owe their very existence to our soldiers' heroism.

Russia has been recently accused of trying to interfere in the internal affairs of the United States and European countries, and to undermine European unity. In this connection I have to quote from Immanuel Kant after whom your university has been named. He repeatedly pointed to the importance of independent thinking, saying that "the power of judgment is a special talent that cannot be taught but only practised." The ongoing hysteria is clearly aimed at shifting the blame for one's problems and failures to others, instead of taking a critical look at the developments in the EU which is experiencing a system-wide crisis. Russia does want the EU to be strong, united and capable of independently determining their foreign policy priorities without any external prompting.

The latest statements by the heads of some leading EU countries give us reason to believe that the process has started. We'll see what it comes to. Anyway, we would like our partners to stop using the lowest-common-denominator approach in relations with Russia, when the EU's position is based on the opinions of a small but very aggressive Russia-hating minority.

Overall, we believe that there are no insolublee problems in our relations with the West. All parties must accept the need to promote a dialogue without lecturing and arrogance, but exclusively on the principles of equality and respect for each other and each other's interests, as well as seek to balance these interests. International law must be complied with strictly and in full rather than selectively, and there must be no further interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. In other words, everyone must go back to the principles of the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act. As President Putin said at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum four days ago, "We need wisdom and a sense of responsibility, a joint search for unconventional solutions."

We know that there are many people in Europe, which is sustaining multibillion losses from sanctions, who are protesting against the dismantling of the rich cooperation traditions that have taken decades to create. We support their resolve. Of course, actions speak louder than words, and this fully concerns the United States, where anti-Russia mayhem is being raised, without a single hard fact, in an attempt to revise the results of last year's presidential election. This is regrettable. These actions are creating an artificial surreal agenda in the media space and are drawing public attention away from the pending task of coordinating our approaches to the existing rather than imaginary threats. Russians are a patient people, as we know. I am confident that this ballyhoo will eventually run out of steam, and the Western leaders will become aware of their nations' fundamental interests and resume normal relations with Russia.

At the same time, we continue pursuing our national development goals and increasing productive cooperation with our foreign partners that are willing to work with us in a spirit of equality and pragmatism, without hidden agendas and without looking to short-term political considerations. Partners like this are the vast majority in the world, as could be seen at the recent SPIEF 2017 forum, in which 8,000 people from 62 countries took part.

President Vladimir Putin put forward the initiative to establish the Greater Eurasian Partnership, which would see us develop multilateral cooperation between member countries of the EAEU, the SCO, ASEAN and eventually other countries in Asia and Europe. We would welcome the EU countries' involvement in this work to establish a common economic and humanitarian space from the Atlantic to the Pacific, which was a goal that great and far-sighted European leaders have advocated in their time. Building stronger ties between the EAEU and the European Commission in Brussels would help bolster cooperation. We sent proposals in this area to the European Commission at the end of 2015, but are still waiting for a response.

Russia is open to broad international partnership with the aim of effectively overcoming the numerous threats we face today, above all terrorism and extremism. We will ensure our citizens' security no matter what the circumstances. As President Vladimir Putin said in his remarks at the military parade on Red Square on May 9, Russia's armed forces are capable of countering any potential aggression. We continue to follow closely and respond swiftly to action that affects our interests, including deployment of increased NATO military capability along our borders and the development of the US global missile defence system with its European component. At the same time, we invite NATO to take part in an honest discussion on threat assessment and military doctrines, relative real military capability deployed in the Euro-Atlantic area, using this as a foundation for developing de-escalation and confidence building measures, and ensuring security in the Baltic. But so far, NATO has not entered this dialogue and is not responding constructively to our proposals.


The regional government's efforts have gained deserved recognition. At the SPIEF 2017 forum plenary session, President Vladimir Putin said that the Kaliningrad Region was one of three Russian regions that have achieved particularly rapid improvement in their business climates. For our part, we will continue to focus particular attention on security, ensuring the region has the material support and conditions it needs for improved living conditions, and making it more attractive for investment and tourism. We will continue to support the expansion of international and foreign economic ties, including with our European partners, in keeping with our country's common foreign policy line. I discussed all of these matters this morning at my meeting with Governor Anton Alikhanov.

Soon, you will take on the responsibility for the situation in our country and ensure Russia's rapid growth. I hope that many of you will work for our country's interests in the civil service. This has always been a respected career path that offers good opportunities for self-realisation. As the romantic writer Ernst Hoffman, who was born and studied here, said, it was in the civil service that he "gained a broader view of life and was much more able to avoid selfishness." I hope that today's meeting will be of use to you.

I am ready to answer your questions.

Question: My question is about wars. Wars have swept the entire world. I am referring to information wars. Look at Syria or Crimea. The Kaliningrad Region is under the strong information pressure from the EU. Could you please explain how such information provocations can be withstood? How can they be resisted?

Sergey Lavrov: This takes an entire profession. Information wars are conducted by professionals. They should also expose all kinds of myths and fakes. They should conduct a daily honest analysis of facts and continuously monitor statements by those who want to demonise the Russian Federation and discredit our policy. Examples abound. If I did not occupy my current position, I would ignore this slander and craziness. That's from the perspective of a normal person. But professionally, considering that information is becoming a field of fierce confrontation, it is necessary to fight for the hearts and minds of people and not only our citizens, because as you said correctly they are also caught up in this aggressive propaganda, as are citizens of other countries, who are forming their impression of our country.

The main point is not to strike back or simply take revenge by rubbing their nose into lies. There is much more to it. We want cooperation and mutual understanding with other countries. We want friendship with other nations no matter how trite this word may sound. It will be difficult to promote this approach without trust and the exposure of lies.

The best and simplest way of seeking the truth is to invite all those who start believing various falsehoods to the Russian Federation, to show them how people live in Crimea, how we are resolving social issues, the investment climate we have, and how we are carrying out projects with our partners, for instance, in the Kaliningrad Region. Recently we have been particularly active in implementing trans-border cooperation projects with Poland and Lithuania. Our European partners and the Russian Federation are allocating tens of millions of euros to implement projects that are vital for the activities of these areas and the everyday lives of their citizens. As Kaliningrad Region Acting Governor Anton Alikhanov mentioned, this is explained by the enthusiasm of trans-border areas and the position of people who do not want to play political games, unlike their governments, and see the immediate advantages of practical daily interaction because they have to live together. This is the important purpose behind the efforts that we must make to be perceived without bias by the outside world.

Some people say it is necessary to spread a positive image of Russia in the world community. I do not want us to spread a positive image. I want us to show what kind of people we are in reality. I think this will be a strength for us.

Question: Today international youth cooperation is primarily taking place in the form of public diplomacy. The youth parliament at the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation has suggested organising a venue for international internships. The Kaliningrad Region has been proposed as a pilot region. Is the Foreign Ministry prepared to support this initiative?

Sergey Lavrov: If I understand you correctly, you are referring to the parliamentary youth movement.

Question: Yes, the youth parliamentary initiative.

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, we are ready to support this. Special structures are promoting youth contacts with many of our colleagues in the CIS, BRICS and SCO. Our Foreign Ministry is doing everything to encourage contacts between councils of young diplomats (yes, they exist). We will certainly welcome parliamentary youth cooperation. Frankly speaking, I have not heard about this initiative but if you write us a detailed letter explaining what forms if support we could render, we will do this by all means.

Question: Where should Russia's foreign policy be oriented: to the East or the West?

Sergey Lavrov: We have no choice. We must work everywhere because God, Nature, our great grandfathers, our forebears left us an enormous country that occupies the lion's share of Eurasia. This term reflects the European and Asian roots of our foreign policy. We have no doubt that our approach must be multi-faceted as the foreign policy concept of the Russian Federation is. We must be active across the board.

I will add the North and the South to the East and the West. A very interesting panorama of international contacts and practical projects is unfolding in the North, in the Arctic. They are linked with more efficient high-tech methods of producing hydrocarbons because of the melting ice and the need to take tough measures on environmental protection. This is the Year of Ecology in Russia. The departments concerned and President Vladimir Putin personally are paying special attention to the need to clean up the Arctic.

Naturally, we have interests in the South as well, especially now that our Chinese neighbours from the East are moving forward with Silk Road Economic Belt initiatives. Recently Beijing hosted the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which envisages active preparations of transport and energy routes along Russia's southern perimeter.

To sum up, we should not just turn left or right. We must be active everywhere. We must protect our borders and security everywhere but keep them open for cooperation with all those who are ready for it on the basis of equality, mutual respect and reciprocal interests.

I understand why you asked this question. There are many analytical materials and conversations about how, considering its current relations with the West and the EU, Russia has decided to turn to the East. We have no right to turn away from anyone – either Europe or Asia because this will hurt our interests and we will worsen our position. The EU is artificially restricting our economic and political cooperation and this is a "medical fact" that we cannot ignore. However, when European countries recover from this sanctions disease, we will be ready to restore ties on a scale and at a speed suitable to our European partners.

Regardless of any sanctions or squabbles with the EU, the Asia-Pacific Region (APR) is our strategic goal, the engine of the global economy where new technological alliances are taking shape. We have been involved in the region's structures for many years, such as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the East Asia Summit (EAS) mechanism. We are cooperating with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). They have many formats in which we have long been actively working. The task of making up for the recent lack of attention on the APR remains relevant no matter what. President Vladimir Putin set this task long before the cooling in our relations with the EU. We must work everywhere. This is our country and it has enormous geopolitical advantages that we should use to the utmost.

Question: Recently, The Washington Post described US President Donald Trump's European tour as a failure. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe, in its foreign policy, should rely only on itself. Do you think European leaders will be able in the future to build their foreign policy without looking over their shoulders at the US administration?

Sergey Lavrov: Regarding whether the US president's European tour was successful or not, this is up to the American people to decide. He is their president, he upholds his people's interests and they are the ones who should give him marks. I doubt that anybody else, including the Europeans, should pass judgment from their vantage point, making decisions for American voters.

Yes, I heard Angela Merkel said that after Brexit and Donald Trump's European trip, Europe should rely on its own resources. We have always believed that there should be as many independent players in the world as possible. If – in keeping with Sigmund Freud's theory – this is recognition of the fact that until now Europe has not been independent, then I welcome this eye opener and hope that this revelation acquires its own voice in international affairs.

Question: Will you be able to watch any matches during the Confederations Cup? What is your favourite football team?

Sergey Lavrov: Are you seriously asking who I will root for at the Confederations Cup?

Question: I mean, which of the Russian teams do you root for?

Sergey Lavrov: If you can see from over there… (shows FC Spartak's logo on his mobile phone).

Question: It is well known, Mr Lavrov, that you are a Spartak fan.

Sergey Lavrov: And I try to play there, too. Anton Andreyevich is also an athlete, and I have often been in such situations, getting injured. It's a hobby.

Question: What role does creativity play in your life? Is the Russian foreign minister primarily an efficient functionary pursuing a policy that has already been formulated, or are you free in certain respects and can you shape your own policy on certain issues?

Sergey Lavrov: Under our Constitution, foreign policy is formulated by the President of Russia. Naturally, the President does not work in a vacuum but receives an enormous amount of information from the Foreign Ministry, intelligence agencies, security services, the economic section of the cabinet, the academic community and his aides, and there are several of them each working for him in different areas. As a general rule, this information contains certain proposals. It is important not simply to report what is going on but also to suggest ways of responding to it. Sometimes it is essential even not so much to report what is going on and suggest a response as to analyse the situation in a particular region, in a particular foreign policy area as a forecast, in terms of what may happen, and propose some preemptive steps. All of these informational and analytical materials and proposals (and there can also be multi-option proposals) are put on the President's desk, and after analysing the entire array of information, he makes a decision. Needless to say, these decisions do not spell out in minute detail each phrase that diplomats should say at talks with their partners. A general course is set, a goal is formulated, and then comes the time for creativity and inventiveness. Therefore, diplomats should be very well educated and have good erudition and knowledge of the history of their own country and other states.

This is more or less the way it works.

Question: Will Europe's geopolitical image change in the context of Montenegro's recent NATO entry? If so, what will happen to our relations with Montenegro?

Sergey Lavrov: We have talked about this, before the formal decision on Montenegro's joining NATO was adopted. This issue was predetermined.

NATO's expansion towards the East or elsewhere does not have a positive effect on pan-European security. In the late 1990s the leaders of the European countries, and the United States and Canada vowed and declared indivisible security in principle. They said security can only be common, equal and indivisible and that nobody should take steps that will impinge on the security of others. This is written on paper, in the documents of the OSCE and top-level meetings of the Russia-NATO Council. This isn't about keeping military-political blocs but building a common legal foundation that will put all Euro-Atlantic countries on equal footing.

Montenegro's accession to NATO and the waves of NATO expansion in the past 15 years show that they do not want common and equal security. Indeed, when we proposed signing a treaty that would legally seal the guarantees of indivisible security they refused, saying they were ready to offer legal guarantees only to those that join NATO. This is how countries, including several in central and Eastern Europe, were tempted by NATO membership. Later, sights began to be set on the post-Soviet space. They declared at the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008 that Georgia and Ukraine would join the alliance and in the same year Mikheil Saakashvili was apparently encouraged by this statement and took action and tried to get away with it. He began to attack his own people. South Ossetia was part of Georgia and they had a conflict but it was regulated by OSCE agreements and there were peacekeepers. Saakashvili lost his mind when he heard he could join NATO. Three years ago Ukrainian radicals also decided they could do everything they wanted and staged a coup. We have seen the consequences of such crazy promises.

NATO has long been looking at the Balkans and wants to incorporate the entire region in its structure. As for pan-European security and NATO expansion, including Montenegro, they are preserving the dividing lines rather than eliminating them as they promised. Montenegro's accession does not enhance the security of the North Atlantic Alliance in any way. The only difference is that now Montenegro will also have to be defended while in reality they will simply deploy additional elements of military infrastructure there. There are nice bays there – something to get a good haul. I doubt that Montenegro's security will increase. Nobody has ever planned to attack it.

When the former Yugoslavia was falling to pieces the Union of Serbia and Montenegro was its only surviving part. This union was "knocked together" by Brussels that engineered the signing of a document between Belgrade and Podgorica, according to which they were supposed to remain a single union state for three years and upon the expiration of this term each of them was supposed to hold a referendum on how they would live – together or separately. After three years, the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Xavier Solana suddenly became alarmed and began asking us to persuade the Montenegrins not to hold a referendum on independence. We asked him what Russia had to do with this. We were told that they would listen to us, because we had a common history, that they remembered how we helped them in many wars, rid them from the Turkish yoke and liberated them during World War II. At that point I asked him why after signing this document and persuading them to take a pause for three years. There was no answer. I asked him why they did not do anything during these three years.

During this time they hoped to open the road to EU membership for Serbia and Montenegro but nothing was done. And they started to ask us to persuade the Montenegrins not to follow the path of independence. We refused, saying this was their right. Montenegrins thanked us a lot at that time. As for their current leaders, it is not that they appeared to be ungrateful but they got into a serious predicament. At one time, a long time ago they had problems with law and a number of European states had claims against them, including criminal claims. I think this played a definite rather than decisive role in that the Montenegrins succumbed to persuasion to join NATO.

Their desire to distance themselves from the Russian Federation also played a role. I do not know why. This is indeed a step that does not enhance the security of either the entire Euro-Atlantic community, or NATO or Montenegro. Joining NATO can't be justified by Moscow's alleged intrigues, interference in their elections, by sending spies or infiltrators, or the recruitment of political figures. The Russophobic campaign launched against the backdrop of NATO entry shows that Montenegro does not care about any European principles but merely wants to sell its anti-Russian statements for more. Let God be their judge but we cannot ignore this.

I hear the number of Russian visitors to Montenegro has dropped by about 20 percent. We are simply warning them that their Russophobic attitudes have gone over the top. It happens in many European countries that our compatriots are captured and taken overseas. This is also a fact that must be considered.

Let me repeat that today Montenegro is not safe in this sense although I love it very much. Its nature is great and its people are wonderful but their current leaders are trying to change our relations.

Question: These days, there are a lot of youth organisations in the world that essentially perform the same tasks and have overlapping responsibilities. What is the [Foreign Ministry's] position with regard to these organisations and how do their decisions influence the decisions that are made by "mature" agencies?

Sergey Lavrov: The [ministry's] position is very positive. I've already responded to a similar question. It is very important that young people communicate and get to know each other. Through the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Cultural Cooperation, the Foreign Ministry organises regular youth tours to Russia. We always look to increase the number of places on these tours. The same goes for parliaments.

We believe that young people should be given particular attention because they are our future. Frankly, I don't know to what extent the recommendations made by parliamentary agencies are put into practice because if these are parliamentary agencies, then they give advice to "mature" parliaments. The Foreign Ministry has the Young Diplomats Council. They regularly come up with proposals, put ideas on the table, and we study them. We use quite a lot of those. I regularly communicate with them. In addition, we organise a series of competitions for young diplomats for the best work on foreign policy issues, which also stimulates the thinking process and helps young diplomats learn the ropes and become real professionals more quickly.

Question: Today, you are the most well-known Moscow State Institute of International Relations alumnus, the author of the university's anthem. Students have been on your radar for many years. What are your impressions of the evolution of youth in the history of new Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: I like young people. I'm now looking at attractive, interested faces, and I find this conversation stimulating.

Every year, on September 1, I go to the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. I used to deliver long lectures, but now I confine myself to some welcoming remarks – about a page and a half – and then respond to questions. They are very interesting people, with their own ideas, independent, and already reflecting the realities of the new, modern technological order that should also be mastered by adults, as President Vladimir Putin said at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. I like young people and would like to support them the best way I can so that they are comfortable and happy as they enter their post-college future with good results and great prospects.

Question: I consider you the best political figure in the international arena. Therefore, I'd like to hear your opinion on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. What options do you see here?

Sergey Lavrov: Agreement is the only viable option. During the long period of talks, with their ups and downs, some agreements have been reached. We were close to a resolution many times (it seemed to be just within reach), but then some instinct of distrust would come up on one side or the other. Nevertheless, this work needs to go on. Naturally, there is a general array of principles that have been approved by all parties, but the devil is in the details. If the parties agree on what the solution should be, it is important, at different stages, to coordinate a number of very complex details affecting issues that are highly sensitive for each party, including domestic political issues. We keep trying. As you know, Russia, the US and France are co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. This troika and the OSCE special representative regularly meet with the parties to the conflict. Troika experts regularly go to Baku, Yerevan and Stepanakert.

Now there will be a "shift change" because the new US and French presidents have yet to appoint their new representatives. Within the framework of this troika we will think about how to deal with the apparently minor but in fact very serious details that have not been harmonised yet.

Question: The Kaliningrad Region occupies a unique geographic position and borders on wonderful countries. I think that every Kaliningrad resident has friends in Poland, Lithuania or Germany. We keep in touch with each other and so contribute to international relations. Next year, we will host FIFA World Cup matches. What policy do you plan to pursue to improve relations with the neighbouring countries whose citizens will come to Russia for the Cup matches? How do you plan to attract more tourists?

The city is trying to improve the environment now. The horrible advertising and banners that blocked the view have been removed from buildings and fences. New paving tiles are being laid on the central square in Zelenogradsk, but they are doing the job so badly that it's difficult to walk on them because there are so many holes and cracks. There is little time left before the World Cup. I hope they will do something more than removing advertising in Kaliningrad and paving the footpaths in central Zelenogradsk, and do it better.

Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Anton Alikhanov): I have no doubt that Acting Governor Alikhanov, who is a very energetic man, will do his utmost so that we see the results in the near future and will resolve the problems with the image of the city and the region to make them more attractive for tourists, in addition to the natural beauty of your region, which is enough to attract many foreign visitors.

Regarding your question about what can be done to attract more tourists, we are doing our best. Mr Alikhanov said they have prepared a solution within the framework of the special economic zone to facilitate the issuance of online visas. At this point, everything depends on the list of countries that will be approved for this. As I promised publicly, we will try to expand this list as far as we can to make travel to Russia as comfortable as possible for people from the neighbouring and other countries who wish to visit Russia and make friends with us.

You said that you have friends in Lithuania, Poland and Germany. When speaking about keeping communication channels open, we must remember that it is a two-way street. When Lithuania builds a fence on the border and Poland cancels small border traffic provisions for no obvious reason, this is creating real problems for your friends. Remind your friends about this. Let them do something to prevent physical barriers and visa regulations from standing in the way of your friendships.

Question: Social networks are an extremely important element of the modern media space. For many Russians, especially young people, social media are the main source of information. Do you monitor online news about yourself? What do you think about it?

Sergey Lavrov: I have little time and, frankly, I am not interested in looking for such information. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, who was unable to attend our meeting, regularly updates me on what they write about the ministry and me. Some of it is quite funny.

Question: In which countries will interest in the Russian language grow in the near term? Which of them merit attention in this respect?

Sergey Lavrov: I don't have the statistics on hand, but I know that it does exist. Interest in the Russian language is growing around the world. Today we held talks with Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak, and the Russian language was one of the issues on our agenda. Interest in the Russian language is on the rise in Slovakia. I can say the same about many other countries based on my meetings with my colleagues from Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia. If we have statistics on this issue, I will certainly forward it to you. As it is, place your stakes on internationalism.

Question: How can Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University help foster cross-border cooperation between Russia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany?

Sergey Lavrov: I'm sure you have acquaintances in university communities in other countries. If you're asking me about my attitude toward young people, I trust them. But you can organise sport competitions and festivals on a reciprocal basis, for example, a German-language competition in Kaliningrad and a Russian-language contest in Germany. Use your imagination.

Question: Foreign policy has a significant impact on foreign labour migration. We all remember conflicts and difficulties in our relations with Turkey and Russia's retaliatory measures to limit labour migration from that country. Would an improvement in relations and an alignment of positions with Moldova, Serbia and China increase labour migration from these countries?

Is there much interest among our European partners in creating a common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok and are they taking any steps to that end?

Sergey Lavrov: Regarding external migration, just how comfortable labour migrants feel in a particular country depends on many factors. Perhaps the most important thing is the general state of relations between countries. If these relations are good and friendly and the authorities in both countries foster friendly ties between the two nations in question, then migrants, as a general rule, feel very much at home in the host country. If, however, the authorities in some country – in an effort to suit the political situation of the moment or to please certain third parties – choose to follow an anti-Russia policy, then I don't think migrants from that country will be able to live and work in Russia problem-free. Because when a confrontational approach is used against a particular country, then naturally the citizens of that country – if they are normal people – will be wary of those behind the confrontation. I understand that the average person is not to blame for what politicians, who they have brought to power in one way or another, sometimes have to do. However, this is an objective factor – human nature. Anyway, the psychological environment for labour migration will not be exactly favourable.

We are against labour migration being used as leverage in achieving some geopolitical goals, just as we are against any areas being used for such purposes. The principle is this: For example, we have many Ukrainian migrants, an estimated 2−3 million people. I believe that's about right or maybe even higher. When they accuse us of every sin imaginable; when they exonerate the putschists who overthrew a legitimate albeit unpopular president contrary to the agreement that had just been signed with support from France, Germany and Poland, who then simply clammed up and began to justify what happened; when they are throwing mud while our performers, cultural and artistic figures are declared persona non grata; when businesses are taken away from Russian investors; finally, when they seriously talk about introducing visa requirements – do you think we should just swallow that and not respond in any way? We do not have any anti-Ukrainian blacklists except just a few cases. However, if a visa regime is introduced, then of course we will respond in kind. These people should not be silent but should tell their government that they are also Ukrainian citizens and have legitimate interests. This is a huge segment of the population – several million people. Let them demand a cogent policy.

Now the Moldovan government has suddenly expelled five Russian embassy officers – mainly from the attaché's office. These are people who ensure the operation of the Joint Control Commission, which includes Moldovan, Transnistrian and Russian representatives. They regularly discuss and deal with issues related to ensuring security on the line of contact between Transnistria and the rest of Moldova. They just went and expelled them. Now this commission will be unable to work. They constantly close Transnistrian airspace and require some conditions or other. We responded by asking five Moldovan diplomats to leave Russia. There's no hiding it: many of our colleagues were tempted to introduce punitive measures, including restrictions on labour migrants from Moldova, which would be regrettable. At this point, President Vladimir Putin decided against that. He talked to Moldova's President Dodon in St Petersburg and they reached some agreement. However, it is important to understand that some people find it hard to put up with continuous attempts to humiliate us. As I said, our people are patient and compassionate but they are also proud and ready to stand up for themselves when deliberately provoked. We know for certain that it was not Chisinau's doing, that it has no room to maneuver. We understand very well who wants to set us against our neighbors. In some cases, like Ukraine, it has worked. A considerable segment of the country succumbed to anti-Russia propaganda.

Labour migrants are a cementing factor. These people live here and they see how Russia is developing and what Russian citizens are like. For the most part, Russians are on very good terms with them. Those who seek to provoke decisions that make migrants' life difficult are provocateurs. They do so with the aim of driving a wedge between us and the people we regard as our brothers.

As for you second question, Charles de Gaulle was the first to talk about a single Europe "from the Atlantic to the Urals." Granted, Russia does not end at the Urals, so today they say "from the Atlantic to Vladivostok." As a matter of fact, I would see no problem if we began to discuss a common economic space in the Northern Hemisphere: After all, the US and Canada participate in the OSCE. So there are already some formats that make it possible to discuss common interests, especially considering that the OSCE also has a common "basket" where specific economic cooperation issues are addressed. As for the "from the Atlantic to Vladivostok" project, in better days, it had been part of our dialogue with the European Union for many years. We even proposed opening consultations that would enable us to consider ways of aligning the level of integration achieved in the EU with what had been achieved at that point in the Eurasian Economic Union. One and a half years ago, the EAEU commission proposed to the European Commission opening technical consultations but there was no response. Recently, we have been receiving signals indicating that Germany is apparently considering the possibility of establishing technical, non-binding contacts. We are open to that.

I mentioned the Chinese initiative One Belt, One Road. This project is not limited to Asia. The initiative envisions far-reaching transport economically based routes to Europe. No matter what, the idea is essentially the same: It is important to combine our countries' capabilities and relative advantages. I believe the Eurasian project is very promising.

Question: How would you describe Russia's relations with Uzbekistan after the election of the new president?

Sergey Lavrov: We have traditionally cordial relations with Uzbekistan which have been an alliance for many years. We have a respective treaty on allied cooperation that covers all areas, including politics, the economy, military and technical issues. After the election of the new president of Uzbekistan, our relations have continued to develop. Shavkat Mirziyoyev paid an official visit to Russia last April during which our parties agreed on an entire range of new directions. We could also see Uzbekistan's growing interest in participating in multi-lateral projects within the CIS in addition to very kind, strategic, allied bilateral relations. We can and we will largely use our joint involvement in multilateral bodies across our common space.

Question: What is the biggest lesson you have learned over the thirteen years as Foreign Minister?

Sergey Lavrov: I couldn't answer this question in a ten-volume memoir. Generally, diplomacy is a very interesting job. By the way, I am ready to defend the opinion that a certain profession is not the oldest. The oldest profession is diplomacy because first you need to come to an agreement. Diplomacy is the art of meeting someone halfway, which does not always happen, just like in life. But when hours, weeks, months of talks bring results – as happened in February 2015 in Minsk when, although foreign ministers were involved, the presidents were trying to resolve all the issues, and after 17 hours they produced the Minsk Agreements, you cannot even imagine what a feeling of accomplishment it was. The agreements received the approval of the UNSC, also a very important step. Of course, it has deteriorated into disappointment now that we are facing a roadblock and our Ukrainian neighbours are not, cannot and refuse to fulfill those agreements. We hope that the new leaders of the countries that are helping fulfilling the Minsk Agreements in full are now developing a new approach and will have a larger influence on Kiev than before.

As a matter of fact, we have been informed that the Europeans, in their private contacts with Ukraine, are speaking frankly and bluntly and putting forward demands for Ukraine to get started with the Minsk Agreements as well as the obligations undertaken by the Ukrainian government to fight corruption and carry out economic reforms, and so forth. Tough private conversations with this straightforward tone and these kinds of demands are never made publicly because Ukraine's leaders were taken under protection, and the way they came to power was justified. It is sad when the outcome of diplomatic talks hits up against the inability or unwillingness of a party to perform them.

It was also the case when throughout the previous year we negotiated with US Secretary of State John Kerry and our military personnel on the most efficient methods to fight the terrorists in Syria. Eventually we came up with an action plan that was generally approved by President Putin and President Obama in September when they met in China on the sidelines of the G20 summit. Three days later, we finally formalised all the statements with John Kerry. The United States were to map out areas with armed opposition groups that were not part of terrorist organisations and with which the US cooperated. That was supposed to be done simultaneously so that the marks on the map would indicate the areas we must not touch while we work together on the rest of the territory. In other words, they were supposed to isolate the terrorists from the regular opposition, something we had discussed over and over. There was a written agreement; the US took up an obligation under that document although they could not go through with it. The whole plan collapsed. Had the Americans fulfilled their promise, the situation in Syria would be completely different. The agreement had quite significant implications which essentially ensured coordinated strikes by the Russian Aerospace Forces and the US-led coalition. On the other hand, when an agreement is reached and fulfilled, it adds to a positive feeling. That happens too.

Question: When we responded to the sanctions with a ban on some products, we deprived our producers of competition with foreign goods. There is therefore no hope that their quality will improve and their prices come down. Don't you think that these measures harm us more than the sanctions themselves?

Sergey Lavrov: I don't think this is the case. If we look at the financial losses involved, the Austrians have calculated that the European Union's losses are colossal, close to $100 billion. Some estimates calculate that hundreds of jobs have been lost. I agree that competition is the engine of progress, as is private enterprise, as a well-known literary character said. But let's not forget what prompted us to take this countermeasure. After all, when the USA, EU and countries that joined them introduced a ban on various financial operations with Russian participation, this included restrictions on our banks' possibilities for borrowing money (the restriction was 90 days at first and has now been lowered to 30 days). This restriction affected Rosselkhozbank too, the bank that lends to our agricultural producers, and which carried out these lending programmes in large part through borrowing abroad in the countries that have now blocked our access to long money. The result was increased competition because the agricultural producers in the countries that imposed sanctions continued to borrow from banks and thereby ensured that their products were competitive, including through unfair competition. We therefore decided to give our producers an equal chance to compete. If our partners undermine competition, we get what we get. Let's look at the results. What products are you lacking?

Question: Poland will be a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council over the next two years. What changes for the worse do you expect in the foreign policy environment for Russia given the foreign policy statements that some Polish figures make?

Sergey Lavrov: I do not expect any changes. Russophobia will continue to flow as before. Poland, like Russia and Ukraine, is part of the UN's Eastern European group. The UN has Eastern and Western European, Asian, African, and Latin American groups. These groups exist with the sole purpose of agreeing on who will be elected to this or that UN body, including the UN Security Council. Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council and the other members have one non-permanent seat. Very often it has been the case that there were more candidates in the Eastern European group than seats available, but over recent years, there has always been a single candidate. Last time, it was Ukraine that was elected to the two-year term and currently holds the seat. Now, Poland's candidacy has been approved without contest. In both of these cases, we have no objections. We do not want to see the abnormal situation that was created in Kiev and Warsaw in relations with Russia spread to the international organisations and their work. When Ukraine was approved as the Eastern European group's candidate, they said that they would not abuse their membership on the UN Security Council to further their own anti-Russian agenda. They promised not just us but the other Security Council members too. They broke their promise. If the Poles also intend to push their anti-Russian ideas through the UN Security Council, diverting time and attention from the genuinely important issues facing us, we will take a philosophical view of this. Time will tell.

Question: I want to ask about our national security. You spoke of the United States' ambition to control the Balkans. What significance will this US desire to control not just the Balkans but other neighbouring countries have for our country and its future? Will this lead to yet another world war?

Sergey Lavrov: I see no grounds for a world war in the classic sense, because the propaganda and information war is long since underway. This is something that requires action. Together with our partners from BRICS and the SCO, we have been proposing for many years now in the UN to draft universally accepted rules of behaviour in cyberspace. Every year, we present resolutions in this spirit on international information security. A group of government experts was established and drafted a first report, and now another expert group with a more concrete mandate has been established. The proposals that we have long been presenting to the UN also advocated agreeing on how to fight hacking and how to ensure that hackers do not damage national security, national interests, public health and so on. But these proposals did not draw much interest from Western countries, which cited freedom of speech as their concern. I heard a few days ago that British Prime Minister Theresa May said that it was time to take measures to ensure that terrorists do not use the internet. But circumstances forced her to take this step.

I think that though this will not be easy, we will settle on agreed rules that will make it possible to break the monopoly on internet governance and make it more transparent, fairer and more secure against those who want to use it illegally to pursue military and political goals, terrorist aims and other forms of organised crime such as pornography, paedophilia and so on.

As for the ambitions of the US or other countries to influence our neighbours and strengthen their positions in neighbouring countries, especially in regions where international trade routes cross and which have active trade and natural resources that could be developed as part of mutually advantageous projects, there is nothing condemnable or out of the ordinary here. Many countries that have possibilities for developing relations with regions lagging far behind make use of these opportunities, and this is perfectly normal in terms of international law. But when they start to build up their influence with an aim, even the primary aim, to act against Russia, this is unlawful and unjustified. Let me give you the example of Afghanistan. The US headed a NATO contingent that went in there after September 11, 2001 to fight terrorism, and they were supposed to fight drug production there too, but this did not happen. We have still not got to the bottom of information that looks very plausible, and which people have tried to silence, to the effect that American military aircraft were used to smuggle drugs to Europe and from there to other parts of the world. The UN estimates that since the NATO troops have been there, the drug business has increased more than 10-fold. A huge part of this plague comes to Russia. The terrorist threat has not decreased. What's more, along with the Taliban, who are a product of Afghan society, and who should be part of the national reconciliation effort, ISIS has bolstered its position there dramatically, including on Afghanistan's northern borders, right on the border with Central Asian countries, with which we have open borders. You can draw your own conclusions. This is not to mention the cases, in which we are practically certain, of incidents where steps have been taken from the territory of countries in which such influence is exercised, including terrorists being sent over into the North Caucasus of our country. It is in our interests to take into account the interests of the United States and all other countries in resolving the problems that arise in neighbouring countries. Afghanistan is a very good example. This country has gone through decades of conflict that now makes it very hard to reach an accepted national reconciliation. They have a tribal-based system there, and the central government was never strong. Much was achieved through understandings reached with provincial governors. Remember when the Soviet Union was in Afghanistan, the Americans actively trained the mujahedeen, gave them weapons and support? Al-Qaeda was the result. In 2003, Iraq was invaded on a trumped-up pretext, and ISIS was the result. Attempts such as this to use bad guys in the short term to make things difficult for your geopolitical rival, hoping to later put these bad guys under your control once the aims have been achieved, is an unfair tactic, given that the September 11 attacks against US skyscrapers were carried out by Al-Qaeda, which was established by the mujahedeen who were nurtured by the Americans in Afghanistan.

We support taking into account all countries' interests, including those bordering on the United States. As regards Afghanistan, we have never tried to impose anything on anyone, or exclude anyone. On the contrary, a month ago, we held in Moscow a meeting in which India, Pakistan, China, Iran, and all five Central Asian countries took part. All of Afghanistan's neighbours were there. We invited the Americans to attend, but for some reason they declined. If they really have pure interests and plans there, then it would have been the only thing to do ‒ to come and sit down with others, listen to them, and work out some common approaches.

We respect the fact that many countries might have interests in various parts of the world. The main thing is for these interests to be transparent, legitimate, and not contradict international law or damage the Russian Federation's lawful interests.

Question (Anton Alikhanov): You have mentioned integration, including within the Eurasian Commission, the Eurasian Economic Commission (EAEC) and the European Commission. I had some experience working for the EAEC, and it would be interesting to know your opinion regarding the limits of integration. It is no secret that member countries of these associations themselves are slowing down these processes because, as they say, further integration might restrict their sovereignty. Also, I would like to ask you about a pilot region's opportunities for accelerated integration. If we say that we are creating a common space with, for example, the European Union, can, for example, Kaliningrad become a region of accelerated or pilot integration with the EU?

Sergey Lavrov: It's a very interesting and strategic question. Where the EAEU is concerned, we are so far unable to define the limits, and not because this is still difficult but because they are not yet in view. You are absolutely right to say that this contradiction between integration and sovereignty does exist: it makes itself felt indirectly as additional steps to introduce unified norms and rules in our common space are coordinated. In the EU, this contradiction between integration and sovereignty will become worse. Right now, they are discussing how the EU can implement the very same principle that we applied in the CIS. I mean multi-speed and multi-level integration. This is about a situation where there is a nucleus of countries willing to go far, while the rest will participate in some form but not necessarily to the full extent or in everything at once.

In the Eurasian Economic Union, by the way, we are yet to regulate the consequences of all our countries' accession to the WTO. We joined not so long ago, preceded by Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan (not an EAEU member yet), and Armenia (an EAEU member). Kazakhstan has joined recently, and Belarus is finalising the talks. This may take some time. In each of these cases, there is a distinction regarding the allowable exemptions. We will have to incorporate all this into the EAEU Customs Code. This is vast, painstaking expert work with a pencil, calculator and computer in hand.

The idea about terms of integrating foreign partners is new. I think it will not be easy to isolate a certain region – the Kaliningrad Region or some other border region – and devise integration schemes involving a neighbouring state for it. Perhaps it will not be that easy to integrate a regional economy or to link it with the economy of a big state. Region-to-region ties are a much more promising proposition. This is what is taking place, for example, between Russia and China: the Russian Far East and East Siberia with Northwestern regions of China. There is a whole relevant programme, dozens of projects that make it possible to link their business activities. Moreover, regions should not necessarily lie close to the border. There is the Volga-Yangtze project. They have also found some working mutually beneficial projects. Maybe this also contains a prototype of what we are talking about. There are Russia-Lithuania and Russia-Poland border cooperation projects involving the Kaliningrad Region and your neighbours. I think we will be able to discuss these things when normal dialogue with the EU resumes.

Xi Jinping Meets with President Vladimir Putin of Russia (Си Цзиньпин встретился с президентом России Владимиром Путиным) / China, June, 2017
Keywords: Russia_China, SCO, OBOR_forum

On June 8, 2017 local time, President Xi Jinping met with President Vladimir Putin of Russia in Astana.

Xi Jinping pointed out that not long ago, I met with President Vladimir Putin during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF), during which we reached the important consensus on maintaining the high level operation of China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination and reinforcing bilateral all-round cooperation. Under the current complicated and changeable international situation, the sound development of China-Russia relations is vitally important to both China and Russia's development and revitalization, as well as the world peace and stability. Both sides should support each other on issues concerning respective core interests, promote the integration of the "Belt and Road" construction and the Eurasia Economic Union for more tangible outcomes, deepen people-to-people and cultural exchange and people-to-people bond, and intensify coordination and cooperation in international and regional affairs.

Xi Jinping stressed that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is currently facing new development opportunities and challenges. China and Russia are obliged to strengthen communication and coordination, firmly follow the Shanghai Spirit, consolidate unity and coordination among the member states, safeguard regional security and stability, intensify practical cooperation, continuously uplift the influence of the SCO in international and regional affairs, and make more use of the SCO's role in the process of Afghanistan's domestic peace and reconciliation. China will take over the SCO rotating presidency after the Astana Summit, and stands ready to maintain close communication and coordination with all parties including Russia and comprehensively deepen the SCO cooperation in various areas, so as to jointly promote the SCO for a new round of development.

Vladimir Putin expressed that it is of great importance for Russia and China to maintain close high level exchanges. Facing the current complicated international situation, Russia and China should strengthen communication and coordination to safeguard world and regional peace, stability and security. Russia and China should work with relevant parties to enhance unity and coordination among the SCO member states to boost the SCO to play a more significant influence in international affairs. Vladimir Putin congratulated China again for successfully holding the BRF and noted that the "Belt and Road" initiative bears practical significance and also has won broad support from the international community.

The two heads of state also exchanged views on the international and regional issues of common concerns such as the situation in Afghanistan and on the Korean Peninsula.

Wang Huning, Li Zhanshu, Yang Jiechi and others attended the meeting.
Zambia beacon of democracy – Mwila (Замбийский маяк демократии - Мвила) / Zambia, June, 2017
Keywords: Zambia_BRICS
Author: Nancy Siame

PATRIOTIC Front (PF) secretary-general Davies Mwila says Zambia remains an outstanding example of a stable democracy committed to the rule of law with sound economic fundamentals that make it an ideal destination for investment.

Mr Mwila said despite efforts by neo-colonialists and their agents to undermine Zambia's sovereignty, the country has remained unshaken.

He said this when he addressed the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) 2017 conference for political parties, think tanks and civil society organisations in Fuzhuo, China.

"Political parties must educate, listen and work with their people across BRICS countries to leverage economic opportunities that come with greater co-operation," Mr Mwila said.

This is according to a statement issued yesterday by PF media director Sunday Chanda.

Mr Mwila commended the Communist Party of China (CPC) for taking progressive steps in forging relations and facilitating dialogue among respective players.

He said the PF appreciates the support that the Chinese government has rendered to Government in fulfilling some of its campaign promises.

Mr Mwila said political parties have a duty to lead the people in the constructive work of development

The conference has brought together 37 political parties from BRICS and other developing countries.

Welcoming the attendants, minister in charge of the International Department, CPC central committee, Song Tao, said political parties, think tanks and CSOs are three basic political and social formations playing an increasingly important role in the domestic and foreign policies of any country
as well as in international relations.

Mr Song reaffirmed Chinese President Xi Jinping's message that the rise of emerging markets and developing countries as a group constitutes one of the most profound changes in contemporary international relations.

"There is need for BRICS countries to step up exchanges and co-operation with other emerging markets and developing countries to turn challenges into opportunities and pressure into impetus in ensuring the correct orientation of globalisation and promoting the reform of the global governance system," he said.
BRICS representatives hold talks on expanding cooperation (Представители БРИКС провели переговоры о расширении сотрудничества) / China, June, 2017
Keywords: event, expert_opinion
Author: Zhao Hong

By CGTN's Zheng Yibing

Fuzhou, the capital of East China's Fujian Province, is welcoming over 400 participants from the BRICS bloc and other developing countries. They're coming together to attend a three-day forum to further cement their cooperation.

The representatives of political parties, think tanks and civil society organizations are seeking to build consensus and boost stronger BRICS cooperation.

At the opening ceremony, Liu Yunshan, a senior CPC official, praised the role the BRICS plays.

Liu said that BRICS countries had become an important platform for the cooperation between emerging economies and developing countries, and a force in pushing forward global economic growth, maximizing governance structures, and promoting the democratization of international relations.

The BRICS countries witnessed great change in the past decade, and are now ready for even more. Wu Xiaoqiu, vice president of Renmin University of China, said that the BRICS' objective now is to seek a new momentum for development, and let new emerging economies have more say in economic development.

However, there have also been growing concerns in recent years. As the world continues to witness a sluggish global economy, different voices are emerging from the BRICS bloc. However, representatives from the member nations believe that things will soon change.

Renata Boulos, director of the Brazilian Institute of International Cooperation for Development, said she believes that BRICS can show a different kind of diplomacy, a different kind of cooperation, compared with the past. The BRICS is now contributing more than 50 percent of the world's GDP growth.

Former prime minister of Egypt Essam Sharaf stressed in an interview that the reason why so many other countries are interested in joining BRICS is the group's goal of realizing the common development of human beings and the diversification of world culture, and a unified humanitarianism. This view was echoed by other participants.

Wu Xiaoqiu said that whatever the BRICS is, a platform or a framework, openness is an important guarantee for its vitality. And only such a feature would make it last long in the international community.

Experts say that the BRICS should open its mind and have new channels to increase dialogue, not only in putting various parties together, but also in having more voices from within and outside.
Evaluating BRICS @ 11: views from Shanghai (Оценка 11-тилетия БРИКС: мнения из Шанхая) / India, June, 2017
Keywords: event, expert_opinion
Author: Purvaja Modak

Speakers at the '1st BRICS Think Tank Forum on Pragmatic Cooperation', held in Shanghai last month, discussed ways to tackle new challenges as globalisation moves into the next phase where the BRICS countries will take the lead

BRICS turns 11 in 2017, and China, which holds the presidency of the grouping this year, is hosting a series of meetings in the run up to the 9th BRICS Summit, to be held later this year in Xiamen, China. One of them was the '1st BRICS Think Tank Forum on Pragmatic Cooperation', convened in Shanghai on May 25-26, 2017, by the Shanghai Community of BRICS Studies (Centre for BRICS Studies, Fudan University, Shanghai Academy of Social Science, and Shanghai Institutes for International Studies). It took place at the Fudan Development Institute, housed in the impressive Think Tank Building at Fudan University.

The forum brought together experts from leading think tanks, academics, former government officials and representatives of the business community and multilateral financial institutions from the BRICS countries. The theme was 'Globalisation in the Time of Transition: Shared Opportunities, Challenges and Responsibilities for BRICS'. Parallel sessions, held over one and a half days, were aimed at making pragmatic policy recommendations to BRICS leaders to facilitate cooperation in the following spheres: Economic and Development Cooperation, Sub-Regional Cooperation and Institution Building, and Education and Think Tank Cooperation.

The session on Economic and Development Cooperation on the first day was the most engaging. Speakers re-affirmed that the BRICS countries should now be a driving force in the global economic market at a time of rapid globalisation. New technologies have the potential to revolutionise international trade and commerce and experts called for an "efficient liquidity and payment transactions tool", such as block chain, to accelerate intra-BRICS trade. India and China, with a booming IT industry and a well-developed internet finance sector, can lead this effort.

Trade between BRICS nations is not balanced and one interesting suggestion was to create mechanisms to facilitate transactions in gold. Experts called for the creation of gold reserves for BRICS nations and made a case for a BRICS gold benchmark, based on the Shanghai Gold Benchmark Price, or the Shanghai Gold Fix. There was a proposal for a clearing centre for BRICS along the lines of the ASEAN Clearing Union.

Highlighting the need for de-dollarisation, participants made a significant push for BRICS to consider its own mechanisms for settling financial transactions. Experts discussed the need to strengthen local currencies and applauded the achievements of existing mechanisms, such as swap agreements between BRICS countries and the Contingency Reserve Arrangement.

Representatives of the New Development Bank spoke about its success since inception. They gave the forum a glimpse of its General Strategy Document, highlighting the outline of its new five-year plan. The bank's focus areas for the next five years will be: a) boosting infrastructure investment by raising funds from public and private sources; b) promoting green finance for infrastructure and sustainable development; c) improving the global financial architecture; d) strengthening the NDB's research capacity; and e) enabling currency cooperation by strengthening the local currencies of BRICS countries.

Scholars acknowledged the importance of the services sector in member nations and advocated the need to reduce market access requirements and other barriers to services trade. India has already taken the lead by tabling a concept note at the WTO for a 'Trade Facilitation Agreement in Services' and it was agreed that the BRICS countries must back this effort.

Participants identified the need for major banks from the BRICS nations to increase their cross-border commercial presence in the other four countries and work towards strengthening banking sector cooperation. Such cooperation can be achieved by leveraging the strong domestic banking sector within each country and creating an enabling domestic, regulatory and legal environment. Another suggestion was to have preferential bank licensing policies for BRICS nations. As part of the BRICS Inter-Bank Cooperation Mechanism, the China Development Bank Corporation now provides support to SMEs and is creating a scholarship fund to support young talent coming to China. Other major banks too must take similar steps.

The priority areas identified to further the 'Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership' were: trade and investment, science and technology (health care, big data, space), manufacturing and engineering, energy, agriculture, and communications. One expert mapped the national industrial policy priorities of the BRICS countries to reflect the commonalities in these areas.

There was consensus on the view that BRICS should aim at reforming the existing systems and not be disruptive. However, one expert argued that any reform effort or push for an alternative financial architecture, led by BRICS, is likely to be so. She made a case for a BRICS credit ratings agency, but also challenged its feasibility in light of the recent downgrades in the ratings of BRICS nations, the marked economic slowdown across the grouping, and the dominance of the 'Big Three' credit rating agencies of the West.

A non-BRICS participant suggested the institutionalisation of the BRICS grouping. He said that the West prefers to deal with individual countries instead of an informal bloc: BRICS may therefore benefit from functioning as an institution rather than in its current form.

Participants agreed that BRICS must take the lead in setting the global agenda for development cooperation, something that is still in the hands of the West. She proposed an alternative development finance institute or committee in the Global South, led by BRICS nations that will set the rules, which too is currently led by the West.

The second day began with a session on 'Education and Think Tank Cooperation'. Experts discussed the creation of a research network in the BRICS think tank ecosystem, which will focus on the following areas: a) banking and finance with a focus on micro financing; b) infrastructure development; c) agriculture and food security; and d) medicine and medical technology advancement

One scholar proposed a global, digital, independent, institutionalised BRICS think tank, led neither by any one of the BRICS countries nor based in any one of them. He suggested that its website should be its principal outreach mechanism, containing all the research and data available on developing countries and emerging markets. It must be the go-to website for any scholar researching the BRICS, enabling access to a wider, standardised pool of research, thereby avoiding duplication.

There was unanimity on the need for BRICS to focus on improving the quality of education, infrastructure and the capabilities of academic institutions and think tanks, instead of obsessing over the ratings given to them by the West. An immediate outcome of the forum was a proposal to have leading think tanks from the BRICS countries write advisory letters to the incipient research facility within the NDB, sharing ideas for further analysis. They must produce policy papers and research briefs that will feed into its research base and support the NDB in fulfilling its mandate.

The scholars endorsed the forum's importance and the need to make it an annual feature on the BRICS calendar. They felt that their counterparts from the western countries should also be invited to allow for a variety of perspectives and the sharing of experiences. Ideas coming out of such Track 1.5 deliberations can be the think tank community's contribution to furthering pragmatic cooperation among the BRICS nations.

Should BRICS rally around China's call for cyber sovereignty? (Должны ли БРИКС сплотиться вокруг призыва Китая к кибер-суверенитету?) / India, June, 2017
Keywords: Cyberspace, China, event
Author: Madhulika Srikumar

Two predominant interests guided China's earlier approach to cyber sovereignty.
Beijing for a few years now has been steadily pushing for the idea of cyber sovereignty — the idea that every state has the right to govern not just the infrastructure of the Internet within its borders, but also the content that flows through it. Xi Jinping and Lu Wei, the former head of Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) have shared China's vision for information sovereignty with the outside world, warning against US dominance in the cyberspace. This year, with the enactment of the national cybersecurity law and the release of a position paper on global cyber norms — both firsts for the nation — Beijing is looking both inwards and outwards to enforce its agenda in cyberspace. With the next BRICS summit scheduled to take place in September this year in Xiamen — India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) will have the option of acceding to the Sino-Russian agenda to reinforce state control over the digital domain. Domestic developments within China that indicate towards a softer position on cyber sovereignty have brought the IBSA to a crossroads. The grouping must strongly consider the opportunity of reaching a consensus with their partners to make a play for the creation of global norms in cyberspace.

While the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) is currently at the forefront of setting the rules of the road for responsible state behaviour in cyberspace, a BRICS consensus on cyber norms can be a formidable one in the global discourse. This is true for two reasons. First, the number of internet users across BRICS economies despite only two countries boasting an internet penetration rate over 50% (Brazil and Russia) is still enormous. An agreement and a potential plan of action between these economies be it on reform in internet governance institutions, combating cyber crimes and terrorism or protecting user privacy can be meaningful. Second, all the BRICS countries had a pivotal role to play in the successful IANA transition last year that resulted in the US government forfeiting control over ICANN — the body responsible for running the infrastructure layer of the Internet. The IANA transition was proof that BRICS states can play a defining role in cyber diplomacy.

With China hosting some of the biggest internet companies and becoming a leading provider for hardware around the world, the US is no longer the only dominant player in the market.

Western countries such as the UK are enforcing laws to increase government control over the Internet to preserve national security while China softens its stance, even recognising the role of different stakeholders in administering the Internet. Beijing is likely willing to concede its position on primacy of the state over cyberspace to support Chinese companies, increase their user base and welcome foreign investment. With an intention to appease foreign companies, an official of the Chinese administration during the release of its position paper, International Strategy of Cooperation on Cyberspace, earlier this year, noted that the Chinese internet is 'fully open' as long as companies comply with the law and do not undermine national interests. As China looks to prioritise individual rights through enforcement of the national cybersecurity law by requiring foreign service providers to store sensitive data domestically, countries such as India or Brazil can find China's new cyber sovereignty outlook more agreeable than before.

Two predominant interests guided China's earlier approach to cyber sovereignty. First, that its citizens must not be exposed to opinions online that the state would deem harmful or against national interests. Second, that US and other western powers must cease to influence the governance of the Internet. BRICS states should ideally stay clear of the first requirement and not agree to impose any form of excessive censorship similar to China's Great Firewall. BRICS economies will have to weigh their interest to maintain national security against the economic necessity to keep their digital markets open. As for countering US dominance over the Internet, it is likely that BRICS states would be willing to commit to principles requiring increased participation from emerging economies in ICANN and other standard setting bodies.

China's new vision for cyber sovereignty as expressed in their position paper is couched in different terms. China is keen on encouraging cooperation between states to ensure security and stability over cyberspace. This is a welcome change. Beijing's biggest concerns this time around is to prevent outside interference in any form including espionage, surveillance or by undermining the integrity of supply chains. In light of recent events such as the alleged DNC hack and the spread of the WannaCry ransomware, these concerns may not be unfounded. Increased militarisation of cyberspace has put many countries on the edge, with many experts calling for the US National Security Agency (NSA) to take responsibility for the proliferation of the WannaCry malware based on the EternalBlue exploit developed by the spy agency. In this backdrop, it would be prudent for the BRICS countries to assert agency over the ICT infrastructure while not straying from the democratic principles of an open Internet. This is the right time for the BRICS to arrive at a middle ground in their internet governance norms with the intent of influencing global cyber norms.
Brics countries face difficult challenges ahead of September gathering (Cтраны БРИКС сталкиваются с трудными задачами перед сентябрьской встречей) / South Africa, June, 2017
Keywords: event, expert_opinion
South Africa
Author: Melanie Peters

LEADERS from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which make up the handy moniker Brics, have their 9th annual gathering in two months amid increasing global and domestic challenges. The world economy is sluggish, anti-globalisation sentiments from the West grow stronger, as does populism and protectionism.

On the domestic front, three of the five countries - Brazil, Russia and South Africa are at different stages of a recession. This is further exacerbated by murky politics in these countries.

Meanwhile, Indo-Sino ties, which have a long and chequered history, are strained as China and India pursue their perspective foreign policy agendas.

The gamut of challenges has raised questions in some sectors on whether Brics can speak with a united voice and work to uphold the interests of developing countries.

This weekend China hosted the Brics Political Parties, Think-tanks and Civil Society Organisations Forum in Fuzhou, Fujian Province.

The theme was "Pooling wisdom and efforts towards common development and a brighter future".

More than 200 political leaders, academics, members of civil society organisations from Brics and other developing countries attended the meeting. The objective of the forum was to cover groundwork and raise pertinent issues ahead of the Brics Summit which will be hosted in Xiamen at the beginning of September.

Almost 16 years ago former Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill coined the term Bric in an economic report as a strategy for investors looking for more adventurous growth prospects.

South African only came to the party in the late 2000s.

The group grew out of disillusionment with Western dominance of multilateral institutions, reluctance of Western powers to share global power and other common political objectives.

A decade on the economist admitted in a BBC interview that "the Brics countries collectively are bigger today even in the most optimistic scenario I thought 15 years ago, and it's primarily because of China".

The scope of the nations co-operation is wide-ranging.

Initially its focus was on economy, trade and finance, but it has expanded to political security.

A multi-layered cooperation platform has taken shape.

The work of Brics is carried out at the summit by leaders, ministers and officials.

This is followed through by practical co-operation in many areas which has been reinforced by establishing institutions such as the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement.

A concept paper on the forum said Brics has endeavoured to become a pivot for co-operation among developing countries, promote global growth, improve global governance and advance democracy in international relations.

An ambitious task list.

Only, time will tell if these developing nations can meet this tall order.

The paper states the co-operation has delivered tangible benefits to the people of the five nations as well as other developing countries and exerted a larger international influence.

Those who are pro-Brics tally robust trade, loans from the New Development Bank to build much-needed infrastructure and proposals such as the construction of an optical fibre submarine telecommunications cable system, linking all Brics countries as benefits. The Brics share of the world economy shot up from 8.2% in 2002 to 23% in 2016. It

represents two-thirds of the developing world's economy and comprise just under half the world's population.

According to the International Monetary Fund, the Brics and other developing countries were responsible for 80% of global growth last year.

The fund showed the Brics economic growth would be higher than that of developed countries and other emerging economies by 2030.

Earlier this year, China's Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi said the country would explore expansion for Brics Plus by holding talks with other major developing countries. Potential new member countries reportedly include Mexico, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Before plans are made to grow, Brics needs to strengthen and commit to its game plan, tackle economic pressures and drive economic growth within the bloc, instead of biting off more than it can chew.
It's time for South Africa to look beyond BRICS to improve its foreign policy (ЮАР пора выйти за пределы БРИКС, чтобы улучшить свою внешнюю политику) / South Africa, June, 2017
Keywords: SA_BRICS, expert_opinion
South Africa

On Thursday, 8 June, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) launched a new report titled Life beyond BRICS? South Africa's Future Foreign Policy Interests. Dr Jakkie Cilliers, author of the report and chairperson of the ISS board, along with Professor Maxi Schoeman of the University of Pretoria, outlined South Africa's current diplomatic and economic relations as well as what the future of South Africa's foreign policy will look like with our next president. The Daily Vox looks at the major takeaways.

The biggest revelation from the discussion of the report is that, as with domestic policy, our president has been using foreign policy to advance his personal interests.

Cilliers said that South Africa joining BRICS (the economic bloc made up of emerging economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) was a huge achievement as it cemented South Africa's position among the 'big players' on the international stage.

"Membership of BRICS is the most important foreign policy achievement of the Zuma administration," said Cilliers.

But this doesn't eclipse the fact that most policies under Jacob Zuma's presidency - including foreign policy - have been disorganised, unclear, confusing and self-serving.

Professor Schoeman raised the point that the defining characteristic of Zuma's tenure has been his ability to cloak his private and personal interests in a bigger ideological framework. This has defined many of Zuma's policy decisions, including those taken with BRICS. She said that while BRICS was a huge achievement, it is underlain by his close relationship with Russia.

Zuma has been using the correct ideological framework, focusing on fighting Western economic imperialism and creating development outside of the West, which makes people forget what is really going on.

Schoeman said that BRICS was conceptualised with the aim of democratising the international community, but not really with a focus on domestic policy reformation. This was despite many BRICS commentators saying that reformation should be pursued domestically before being pursued internationally. This is important because South Africa's role in BRICS has sometimes been criticised because of the undemocratic nature of the other members, as well the human rights violations of Russia and China. But as we can see, reformation of domestic policy wasn't the goal, and BRICS members were determined instead to create a new organisation outside of Western economic blocs.

Schoeman said that Zuma almost uses the need to address domestic issues like poverty, inequality and unemployment as smokescreens for pursuing objectives that actually have nothing to do with what is going in the country, and are more aligned with his own personal interests.

Zuma came into power at the time of the great global recession and this is something that he has had to face for his entire presidency. Cilliers says that recession conditions have been further exacerbated by the reshuffles and other presidential decisions, and have prevented South Africa from sustaining economic growth.

With all this focus on BRICS, where does that leave our relationship with the rest of the continent?

According to the report, South African foreign policy must move forward by facilitating domestic economic growth through regional development. Cilliers also says that Africa should remain the focus of South Africa's foreign and economic policy. This is because the development and security of South Africa depends on the stability and growth of the region.

Southern Africa is expected to experience high growth rates in the years ahead, which creates a large potential for trade and investment for South Africa.

The report also says that South Africa should maintain good relations with all its trading partners, and not just the BRIC countries. Foreign policy under Zuma has largely favoured relations with BRIC countries, meaning South Africa's trade relations with other countries have been lacking.

Whether 'reformist' Cyril Ramaphosa or 'traditionalist' Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma wins the upcoming ANC succession battle, it's going to be a tough road ahead for the next president of South Africa, who will need to recreate the country's image in the international community. The damage that Zuma has done to the country's economy and other domestic arenas will guarantee plenty of turbulence for the incoming president, likely putting any foreign policy aspirations on the back burner.
Ram Madhav in China: Time to end double standards, BRICS should unite against terror (Рам Мадхав в Китае: время, чтобы положить конец двойным стандартам, БРИКС должен объединиться против террора) / India, June, 2017
Keywords: India_BRICS, Terrorism
Author: Ananth Krishnan

Urging China and other BRICS nations to unite against terrorism, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav said it is time to end "double standards".

BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav today said during a visit to China that it is time to end "double standards" in fighting terrorism at a time when it has become "an instrument of state policy" for some countries, addressing a rare political parties' meet of the five BRICS countries.

Urging China and the other BRICS nations to unite against terrorism, Madhav said, "Our efficacy and efficiency to take on this global challenge is sometimes hampered by narrow self interests and double standards. We need to be convinced, and convince others through our actions, that all forms of terrorism is bad and any distinction of 'your terrorist' and 'my terrorist' or 'good terrorist' and 'bad terrorist' is unscrupulous and ill-conceived. BRICS countries should take the lead in an early conclusion of negotiations on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism."

Ahead of the September BRICS Summit in Xiamen, Fujian province, the Communist Party of China's International Department convened a gathering of political parties from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in Fuzhou, the provincial capital of Fujian.


Noting that it was "for the first time that leaders of the political parties from BRICS countries have come together", Madhav highlighted terrorism "as the single most lethal challenge to mankind today".

"Terrorism has today become an instrument of state policy for some countries; while a number of rogue terror groups wander around in the lawless lands of some other regions in the world," he said. "The need of the hour is for countries to work towards dismantling terror infrastructure, destroying terror networks, and drying up the sources of terror financing and weapons supply."

"BRICS countries, together with several other countries in the world, have been the victims of one form of terrorism or the other, be it ideological, religious, political, racial or ethnic. BRICS countries should stand united in the fight against terror in all its forms and manifestations," he added.


The BJP leader was clearly referring to Pakistan when speaking of terror becoming "an instrument of state policy" for "some" countries.

The issue of Pakistan-sourced terror has become a concern even for its "all weather ally" China.

On Friday, China said it was "gravely concerned" by the abduction and reported killing of two young Chinese teachers from Balochistan. Beijing called on Pakistan "to take effective measures" to ensure safety of its citizens, but at the same time was careful to publicly support Pakistan's fight against terror.

The killing of the two Chinese has received wide attention in China and reignited concerns about the safety of Chinese citizens in Pakistan.

Curiously, China's President Xi Jinping, who met Prime Minister Modi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Astana on Friday, did not schedule a bilateral meeting with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Xi held meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as leaders of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the King of Spain who was in Astana for the world expo.

Despite its concerns, China has recently shielded Pakistan from diplomatic pressure on the issue of Pakistani support to certain terror groups, for instance by placing "technical holds" at the UN Security Council on applications filed by India last year, and again by the US, UK and France in January, to sanction the leader of the Jaish-e-Muhammad, Masood Azhar. The application will be reviewed this month.


Speaking in Fuzhou, Madhav said that while BRICS was "a non-Western coalition", it was "not anti-West".

"The BRICS is an alliance that can define what constitutes the good of the world at this juncture. Our uniqueness lies in the fact that we are the significant 'Other' - the non-Western world," he said.

He called for "a greater and bigger role" for the BRICS nations on the international arena and stressed that for bodies such as the UNSC to remain relevant, "especially India, South Africa and Brazil should find a more prominent role in these bodies."

Madhav also stressed the need for an "open and inclusive" security architecture in the Asia-Pacific, including ensuring freedom of navigation, at a time when many countries in the region have been concerned by China beefing up its posture in the South China Sea and carrying out reclamation activities on islands and reefs.

"Today it is the Indo-Pacific region that has emerged as the new global power house," Madhav said. "Our futures are invariably linked to the Indo-Pacific sea lanes. Facilitating efforts to build an open, well-balanced and inclusive architecture in the region based on shared principles like peace, security, freedom of navigation and development will help promote legitimate interests of all states. Leaders of BRICS countries should take the lead in promoting a relevant dialogue in that direction."
Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
Ufa Eastern Exit construction is financed by New BRICS Development Bank (Строительство Уфимского Восточного выезда финансируется за счет НБР БРИКС) / Russia, June, 2017
Keywords: NDB, infrastructure, Eastern_Exit
Author: Olga Murtazina

UFA, 6 June 2017. /Bashinform News Agency, Olga Murtazina/.

In Ufa, a construction of the Eastern Exit (will unite the M7 and M5 routes) will be financed by the New BRICS Development Bank, investing the Bashkir government's share of 4.5 billion rubles. On June 1, on the sidelines of the SPIEF, the republican authorities signed a contract for the construction of a road with the VTB subsidiary structure — the Bashkir Concession Company.

Representatives of the bank visited and inspected a tunnel in Ufa — an object, which construction was suspended for 25 years and which is involved in the project. The road and tunnel are planned to be built within four years, the total amount of investments is about 29 billion rubles, the concession term is 25 years.

In addition, the New Development Bank BRICS has shown interest in two more objects of the road infrastructure of the country — bypasses of the cities of Birsk and Neftekamsk, the State Committee for Transport RB informed.
The weak link in BRICS (Слабое звено в БРИКС) / Russia, June, 2017
Keywords: Expert_opinion, SA_economics

One of the leaders of developing countries, South Africa, went into a state of technical recession — the economy is declining for two quarters in a row. While South Africa is the only country in BRICS, which shows a decline. In turn, international organizations have improved the forecast.

South Africa has entered into a technical recession: the economy contracted for two quarters in a row, losing in the first quarter of 2017 0.7% and the previous 0.3 per cent. While economists had expected in January – March growth of 1%, says Bloomberg.

Perhaps weak economic indicators caused the resignation of the Minister of Finance of South Africa Pravina of Gordhan at the end of March. Experts point out that the dismissal of Gordhan, most likely, will negatively affect the future growth of the economy, as it reflects problems in the political life of the country, reports Business Insider. Immediately after this action, Jacob Zuma rating agencies S&P and Fitch downgraded the country's credit rating to "junk".

"Gordhan was dismissed on March 31, so this event can only affect the second quarter. But published data (GDP) indicate that even before the shock of the departure of Gordhan the situation was much worse than the expectations of most analysts," says John Ashbourne, an expert on African economies at Capital Economics.

It is equally important that the economic downturn occurs amid rapid growth in the agricultural and mining sectors, adds Eschborn. Agricultural GDP increased at an annual rate of 22.2% compared to the previous quarter — the fastest pace over the past 10 years.

"Therefore, it is impossible to call bad weather or changes in production of volatile sectors cause unexpectedly poor performance of the economy. In contrast, the slowdown in the first quarter was due to much worse results are usually stable sectors that are customer-oriented and were key drivers of growth in recent years," explains Eschborn.

In late March, South African President Jacob Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet, replacing Ministers and Deputy Ministers — including the popular Previn of Gordhan — loyal political allies.

The new Minister of Finance was Malusi of Gigaba, former Minister of internal Affairs. Gigaba, which was criticized for the introduction of extremely tough visa restrictions, dealt a serious blow to the tourism industry of Africa has little experience in the economy.

Representatives of the main opposition party Democratic Alliance said that they will appeal the President's decision in court, and the citizens of South Africa in protest took to street demonstrations. And even Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, which is considered a likely successor to Zuma as leader of the ruling party, called the dismissal of Gordana "unacceptable".

Amid all this country for some time struggling with other weak indicators, in particular unemployment.

Within a few years the official data reported about 25%, but in the first quarter of 2017, the unemployment rate increased to 27.7%, the highest level since the first quarter of 2004.

The unemployment rate among young people is even higher — 50.9 per cent (however, in the previous quarter was 54.2%).

Only about 15% of students who begin study at a South African University or technical College graduate from them. Many cannot afford to pay for training, however, interrupting him, they don't have the skills necessary for a successful job search. In 2015, the universities wanted to increase the cost of education by 10%, which led to massive protests by South African students, and in the end this idea was abandoned. In this case, as in many African countries, the proportion of residents aged under 24 years is very high — now it is 46,95% of the total population of the country.

The problems in the economy of South Africa is not reflected in the global growth according to the latest survey by the world Bank, all allies of the country on the BRICS demonstrate confident results.

According to calculations of the organization, developing countries in 2017 is expected to grow by 4.1% (the world growth as a whole will be about 2.7%), and the leader will be India with 7.1%, ahead of China with 6.5%.

The report highlights a return to growth after two years of problems with some of the largest developing economies: Russia's economy to grow 1.5%, Brazil 0.3%.

On 7 June came the report of the Organization for economic cooperation and development (OECD), which has improved the forecast on growth of Russia's GDP in 2017 0.6 percentage points to 1.4%. The forecast for 2018 is 1.6%. According to the OECD, the economic recovery will contribute to growth in oil prices, wages and lowering interest rates.

"The seven largest emerging economies — China, Brazil, Mexico, India, Indonesia, Turkey and Russia — remain a key motor for the world economy," write economists at the world Bank.

However, the world Bank continues to Express concern over the growing debt and budget deficits in emerging market economies, which makes them "more vulnerable to financial shocks".
Regarding Terms, Conditions And Procedures For The Admission Of New Members To The NDB (Касаемо условий, положений и процедур для приема новых членов в НБР) / China, June, 2017
Keywords: NDB

On 1 April 2017, during the 2nd Annual Meeting of the NDB Board of Governors (BoG) in New Delhi, India, the BoG approved Terms, Conditions and Procedures for the Admission of New Members to the New Development Bank and it was agreed that the Bank will prepare a list of targeted countries to be invited for admission to the NDB and submit the list to the BoG for approval.
BD may join BRICS-led NDB (Бангладеш может присоединится к НБР - банку под руководством БРИКС) / Bangladesh, June, 2017
Keywords: NDB
Author: FHM Humayan Kabir

Bangladesh is likely to join the New Development Bank (NDB) as it has decided to attend the preliminary negotiations with the lender for the admission soon, officials said Monday.

The China-based bank, which was formed under the auspices of BRICS countries, recently invited Bangladesh to start consultation with the Board of Directors for entering into the bank as a new member, officials at the Ministry of Finance (MoF) said.

Quoting a recent NDB letter to the Economic Relations Division (ERD), they said the bank offered more than 7.0 per cent of the total voting rights to a non-founding member country like Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, NDB president K. V. Kamath offered Finance Minister AMA Muhith on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Bank spring meeting in Washington in April this year to join at the pool of 15 new members, to be included soon at the lending agency.

"The NDB will include the new countries as the shareholders in addition to its founding five BRICS economies. It has offered Bangladesh as one of the 15 new members at the multilateral bank," an ERD official said.

The emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) formally set up the bank in July, 2015.

The initial authorised capital of the bank is US$100 billion divided into one million shares having a par value of $100,000 each.

The initial subscribed capital of the NDB is $50 billion divided into paid-in shares of $10 billion and callable shares $40 billion. The initial subscribed capital of the bank was equally distributed among the founding members.

According to the terms and conditions, the voting rights of the founding five BRICS countries has been proposed to reduce to below 55 per cent while for the non-borrowing countries to increase above 20 per cent and for each of the non-founding member nations to more than 7.0 per cent.

The NDB is currently headquartered in Oriental Financial Centre in Shanghai, China. The first regional office of the NDB will be opened in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Earlier, Bangladesh had been offered to join the bank in its initial stage of discussion in 2013-14. But the country had not joined due to lack of proper modalities and terms of condition for the other members outside the BRICS at the Bank that time, MoF officials said.

Development analysts said the BRICS states have initiated the NDB as a competitor of the United States and OECD countries-dominated World Bank and the IMF.

The NDB has already approved $2.0 billion worth of loans for five projects in its member countries.

Meanwhile, China and its ally countries have set up the $100 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Bangladesh had joined the multilateral lender as a member with holding some shares.
Four BRICs don't quite make a wall (Четыре кирпичика БРИКС - это еще не стена) / USA, June, 2017
Keywords: Expert_opinion

Brazil, Russia, India and China have done even better than forecast—thanks mainly to China

EMERGING markets have been through a lot over the past four years. The "taper tantrum" in 2013 (prompted by fears of a change in American monetary policy); the oil-price drop in 2014; China's botched devaluation of its currency in 2015; and India's botched "demonetisation" of much of its own currency in late 2016 (removing high-value banknotes from circulation). But 2017 has started more brightly. Indeed, for the first time in two and a half years, the world's four biggest emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China, known as the BRICs) are all growing at the same time.

Russia's GDP bottomed out at the end of 2015 (using seasonally adjusted figures) after the longest recession since the 1990s. It has expanded at a gathering pace for the past three quarters. Higher oil prices have helped, though Russia cannot profit fully from the improved market by ramping up sales without violating the production limits that caused the market's recovery.

During the collapse of the rouble in late 2014 and early 2015, it was easy to forget some of Russia's economic strengths, such as its consistent trade surpluses and its substantial foreign-exchange reserves (which never fell below $300bn). As Russia has regained its footing, the rouble has rebounded, gaining 15% against the dollar over the past 12 months, making it one of the world's best-performing currencies.

Brazil's torment has been even more prolonged. Its economy contracted for eight consecutive quarters as commodity prices tumbled, a president was impeached and a corrupt political class was impugned. Brazil's political scandals remain far from resolved, but at least the weather has improved. Generous summer rains in states like Bahia contributed to a bumper harvest of soyabeans and corn in the early months of the year. That helped Brazil's GDP expand by 1% in the first quarter (an annualised pace of over 4%). Since bumper harvests cannot be repeated every three months, some economists fear GDP may shrink again in the second quarter, but many forecasters believe growth will be positive for 2017 as a whole.

Faster growth has not jeopardised price stability. Rather, inflation has eased in Brazil, just as in Russia and India. Whether lower inflation will allow Brazil's central bank to make further big interest-rate cuts partly depends on a new political furore engulfing Michel Temer, the president. If that prevents the government from reforming social security and curbing fiscal excess, the central bank may be loth to soften its stance dramatically, lest fiscal indiscipline and monetary easing combine to weaken the currency and push up prices.

If inflation has been too high in recent years in Brazil, it has been too low in China. Thanks to downward pressure on prices and the currency, China's economy actually shrank in dollar terms in 2016 for the first time in 22 years. But the deflationary threat has since receded and the yuan has strengthened this year against the greenback, as capital outflows have been tamed. Indeed, China's central bank may have resumed adding to its foreign-exchange reserves, which increased by $24bn in May, having declined by about $1trn since their peak in 2014 as capital fled.

Will the resumption of growth in Brazil and Russia (and the return of "dollar growth" in China) breathe new life into the BRICs brand? The term was coined by Jim O'Neill, when he was chief economist of Goldman Sachs, and took on a life of its own. The countries' leaders began holding an annual summit, inviting South Africa to join as an additional member. They also set up a development bank, with its headquarters in Shanghai but headed by an Indian, which now has operations in all five countries, having approved its first loan to Brazil in April. (Lord O'Neill has always felt that South Africa, a country of only 56m people with a GDP of less than $300bn, was too small to stand alongside his original quartet. And so far this year, the fifth member's fortunes have diverged from the others', as South Africa's economy slipped into a recession in the first quarter.)

Having christened the BRICs in 2001, Goldman Sachs later sketched out their futures over the next five decades in a paper entitled "Dreaming with BRICs", published in 2003. The investment bank then upgraded those growth projections in 2011 in light of the BRICs' strong performance over the previous decade. That proved to be a mistake. Of the four economies, only China's dollar GDP has kept pace with those optimistic 2011 projections (see chart). The others have fallen short of them by a combined $3trn.

A similar disappointment befell stockmarket investors. The BRIC equity index compiled by MSCI has lost 40% since its 2007 peak. In October 2015 Goldman Sachs folded one of its BRIC equity funds, meant for American investors, into a broader emerging-market product ("a more holistic solution in emerging-markets equity", in its words). These setbacks seemed to vindicate the curmudgeonly sneer cited by Peter Tasker, of Arcus Investment, dismissing the BRICs as a "Bloody Ridiculous Investment Concept".

But if the BRICs have not sustained the euphoria of 2011, they have amply fulfilled the original "dream", as articulated by Lord O'Neill in 2001 and quantified by his team two years later. Even after their recent tribulations, their combined GDP ($16.6trn) remains far greater than the Goldman team envisaged back in 2003 ($11.6trn). Only Russia has failed to live up to those early expectations. China has easily surpassed them. In Brazil, growth was slower than Goldman Sachs projected but the country's real exchange rate appreciated further than they imagined, boosting its GDP in dollar terms.

Moreover, at some point after 2015, the BRICs became unmodish enough to count once again as good investments. Since Goldman Sachs closed its fund, the BRIC stockmarket index has gained almost 20%.

The trickiest problem for the BRIC concept may be its final consonant. China contributed about half of the club's GDP in 2001 and now accounts for fully two-thirds of it. China is also home to most of the group's biggest companies. Eight out of the ten largest stocks in the MSCI BRIC index are from China, including Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent (a tech trio that have their own acronym, BAT). As its markets grow and open up to capital inflows, China seems destined to become an asset class in its own right, one that is hard to contain in a "holistic" emerging-market fund, let alone a narrower four-country vehicle. The biggest threat to the BRIC idea may not be the quartet's economic shortcomings but the singular success of its largest member.
Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
ANC government still wants an ICC-free future for South Africa (Правительство АНК по-прежнему хочет, чтобы будущее ЮКО отсутствовало в МУС) / South Africa, June, 2017
Keywords: ICC, ANC
South Africa
Author: Peter Fabricius

The government says it is still committed to eventually withdrawing South Africa from the International Criminal Court (ICC) – despite its recent withdrawal of its notice to withdraw. By PETER FABRICIUS.

The South African government hinted on Sunday that it might not proceed with the withdrawal from the International Criminal Court if the ICC were to rule that South Africa was justified in not arresting Sudanese President Omar al Bashir when he visited South Africa in June 2015.

Environment minister Edna Molewa – who is also chair of the ANC's sub-committee on international relations – confirmed on Sunday that withdrawal from The Hague-based ICC was still the ANC and the government's official policy.

She recalled that the government had withdrawn its official application to withdraw from the ICC only on procedural grounds, after South African courts ruled that the government should first have obtained Parliament's approval.

The ANC and the government's decision derived from a decision by the ANC's national general council, Molewa said at a briefing by the ANC's sub-committee on the ANC's international relations document to be adopted at its policy conference.

That decision had not been reviewed since then, she said.

She stressed, however, that this decision did not mean the ANC was in favour of impunity for those who committed the grave crimes which are adjudicated by the ICC (genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.)

So even as South Africa was withdrawing from the ICC, it was consulting with other governments and the African Union about the need to amend the Rome Statute which governs the ICC and about strengthening African courts to ensure they did not allow even heads of state to break the law.

She confirmed South Africa is seeking an amendment to the articles of the Rome Statute which do not allow ICC member governments to grant immunity against arrest to sitting heads of state.

This was the issue which sparked a clash between the ICC and the South African government in June 2015 when South Africa allowed Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir – a fugitive from ICC justice – to enter South Africa to attend an African Union summit and then to leave, without attempting to arrest him.

The ICC charged South Africa with failing to comply with its ICC obligations.

At an ICC hearing on that issue in April this year, the South African government denied the charge. It said although the Rome Statue generally denies immunity even to sitting heads of state, Article 98 (1) of the statute grants an exception.

The article says the ICC should not ask a member state to surrender such a fugitive if this would be inconsistent with the member state's obligations under international law to grant diplomatic immunity to that person. Article 98 (1) adds that the ICC may only ask a member state to surrender such a fugitive if the state of that fugitive has agreed to waive its immunity.

Sudan, obviously, did not agree to waive Bashir's immunity against arrest in South Africa.

Official sources said the ICC was expected to rule on this matter as early as this month. If the ICC rules that South Africa did indeed violate ICC procedures, it could refer South Africa to the ICC's Assembly of States Parties or to the UN Security Council for possible punishment.

But if the ICC rules instead that South Africa did not violate the Rome Statute – because of the Article 98(1) immunity clause – it could radically change the way member states deal with high-level fugitives like al-Bashir in future.

Molewa may have been referring to this crucial decision when she said on Sunday that the process of withdrawing South Africa was continuing because "the reasons we want to move out of the ICC have not vanished. The only thing that will get the reasons to vanish is when… but that will have to be evaluated elsewhere. But for now we are implementing."

On another issue, Molewa dismissed suggestions that the "challenges" which the ANC was now facing internally were undermining its credibility and efficacy as a leader on the continent. She said other African governments were still telling South Africa that "we really need and respect your role in fora wherever we go".

Meanwhile International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane confirmed that the BRICS was still determined to establish its own credit rating agency, as agreed last year. She said BRICS ministers of finance had recently met and agreed to put forward a proposal for this agency at the next BRICS summit in China later this year.

Nkoana-Mashabane also dismissed suggestions that South Africa needed a stand-alone economic diplomacy department separate from her Department of International Relations and Co-operation. (Dirco)

"We have got so many departments of economic this, economic that. We (just) need to train and retrain our diplomats when we post them abroad," she said.

The ANC's international relations draft policy document urged government to improve the co-ordination of the country's economic diplomacy efforts and said it was encouraged by the efforts under way to ensure full operationalisation of the recently established economic diplomacy unit in Dirco.

It was not clear why Nkoana-Mashabane dismissed suggestions of a completely separate department of economic diplomacy as that option was not mentioned at the briefing.

She also took a sideways swipe at the government's habit of deploying officials unwanted elsewhere into her department.

"Let me also say Dirco is also not a place where people who are tired must come. We want people who are still very agile, who can take many other elements of diplomacy serious."

South Africa is known to have one of the highest rates in the world of political appointees – rather than career diplomats – to ambassadorships and even deputy ambassadorships.
World of work
Social policy, trade unions, actions
The "2017 Tianjin (China) and BRICS High-Tech SME Cross-Border Investment and Trade Cooperation Conference" Held in Tianjin (Конференция по трансграничным инвестициям и торговому сотрудничеству между Тяньцзинь (Китай) и высокотехнологичными МСП БРИКС состоялась в Тяньцзине) / China, June, 2017
Keywords: event, business_council

On June 5-6, 2017, the Municipal Government of Tianjin, Bank of China and BRICS Business Council co-organized the "2017 Tianjin (China) and BRICS High-tech SME Cross-border Investment and Trade Cooperation Conference".

Secretary of the Tianjin Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China Mr. Li Hongzhong, mayor of the Tianjin Municipal Government Mr. Wang Dongfeng, member of Chinese Chapter of BRICS Business Council and chairman of Bank of China Mr. Tian Guoli, member of South African Chapter of BRICS Business Council Dr. Danisa Baloyi, and vice president of Bank of China Liu Qiang attended the opening ceremony of the conference.

Mr. Tian Guoli delivered a keynote speech. He said that Bank of China has been vigorously promoting the development of SMEs with a strong sense of responsibility and mission. By fully leveraging on its global service network covering 52 countries and regions, BOC has launched the "SME cross-border matchmaking services" since 2014, and established a platform of connectivity for the world's SMEs through the power of finance, thus offering small businesses a "big arena" and enabling them to release "great energy". He also mentioned that China has assumed the rotating presidency of BRICS Cooperation Mechanism this year, and BOC is a member of Chinese chapter of BRICS Business Council. Therefore, China would work together with the other four BRICS countries to launch this event for the purpose of designing a "BRICS cooperation" business card for Tianjin.

Dr. Danisa Baloyi said that China and South Africa has maintained a long history of friendship and that China supported South Africa in the struggle for freedom. Nowadays, South Africa highly approved and has benefited from the support for the development of SMEs by Chinese government. She hoped that more and more Chinese businesses would seek win-win strategy and establish partnership with African businesses. She truly believed that this conference would mark an important step for building up SME financial services platform amongst BRICS countries as a key agenda, advance efforts of meeting the equity and bond financing needs of SMEs and the sharing of the policy advantages of Tianjin's investment loan linkage.

After the opening ceremony, Mr. Li Hongzhong, Mr. Wang Dongfeng, Mr. Tian Guoli and Dr. Danisa Baloyi jointly participated in the signing ceremony, bearing the witness of 8 Tianjin businesses reaching consensus on cooperation with the help of cross-border matchmaking services offered by Bank of China.

The conference attracted about 570 businesses from 21 countries, including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Businesses came from diverse industries such as new energy, new materials, high-end equipment manufacturing, biopharmaceuticals, electronic information technology, petrochemicals as well as traditional industries, namely, fishery, agriculture and light textiles. Business succeeded in finding the partners through one-to-one negotiation and study and audio links with businesses abroad. To better promote the dialogue, financial, legal, accounting, consulting and translating services are provided at the conference.

As one of the 8 core deliverables of the BRICS Business Council during China's presidency this year, the conference deepens the cooperation among BRICS SMEs, helps them to be integrated in the global value chain and to benefit from the global resources, and therefore contributes to the promotion of BRICS images in the global arena.
Roundup: Media cooperation to promote spreading of new thinking of BRICS countries (Обзор: сотрудничество со СМИ в целях содействия распространению нового мышления стран БРИКС) / China, June, 2017
Keywords: BRICS_Media_Forum, event, expert_opinion

BEIJING, June 9 (Xinhua) -- Cooperation among media outlets of BRICS countries will be beneficial to the spreading of new thinking and enhance mutual understanding and friendship among BRICS peoples, media professionals said during a recent forum in Beijing.

Initiated by China's Xinhua News Agency and mainstream media outlets in Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa among others, the BRICS Media Forum, held on June 6-8, gathered leaders of 27 major media organizations from BRICS countries.

They launched an Action Plan to Strengthen Cooperation Among BRICS Media, aimed at making joint efforts to balance international opinions, enhancing the social responsibility of media, and deepen understanding among the peoples of BRICS countries.

Further exchanges and cooperation among BRICS media are needed so as to enable BRICS peoples to gain more objective information and new thinking of BRICS countries, Evandro Menezes de Carvalho, an international law professor at think tank Fundacao Getulio Vargas of Brazil, told Xinhua.

He noted that it remains popular even nowadays for some emerging economies to gain news sources mainly from media outlets of developed countries.

"It is necessary for BRICS media to discover and reveal differences and commonalities of BRICS countries," he said, "It will be a great contribution made by BRICS media to the world."

Eleonora Genen, a reporter of Rossiyskaya Gazeta, a Russian government daily newspaper, expressed similar views, saying it is crucial for BRICS media to strengthen cooperation as BRICS countries hope their citizens to read and watch objective and verified international news stories.

"Therefore, we expect that the forum in Beijing will enhance unity and cooperation among BRICS media, promote information exchanges and sharing of news through the pool of all kinds of news information and sources," Genen added.

Macros de Oliveira, editor-in-chief of Brazilian daily Monitor Mercantil, also agreed that BRICS media should improve direct communication, the sharing of news information and people-to-people exchanges.

"It will be beneficial to not only mutual understanding of BRICS countries, but also cooperation among all emerging market countries," he said.

A range of major media outlets in India, such as Press Trust of India, Asia News International, Business Standard, and India Perspectives among others, also covered the forum.

They expressed expectations to push forward innovation of BRICS media and enhance the impartiality of public opinions of the international community through an improved dialogue platform and effective coordination system for BRICS media.

Interview: Restoring balance in global information space main task for BRICS media -- Sputnik official (Интервью: восстановление баланса в глобальном информационном пространстве главная задача для СМИ БРИКС - официальный сотрудник Спутника) / China, June, 2017
Keywords: BRICS_Media_Forum, event, expert_opinion

MOSCOW, June 9 (Xinhua) -- The prime task of the media of the BRICS countries is to pool efforts to restore the balance in the global information space, said Oleg Osipov, first deputy editor-in-chief of Russia's Sputnik International News Agency.

Currently one-sided pictures of the world mainstream media still prevail, and the support of the emerging unified information space and opportunities for its innovative development is needed to achieve information balance globally, Osipov said after the latest BRICS Media Forum held in Beijing from Tuesday to Thursday.

From this perspective, the BRICS Media Forum made a great contribution, as it proved to be an "effective platform for dialogue" among the leading media of the BRICS countries, he said.

"Many colleagues once again confirmed their interest in the regular exchange of content for the implementation of joint information projects," Osipov said.

Initiated by China's Xinhua News Agency and mainstream media outlets in Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa, the BRICS Media Forum, gathered leaders of 27 major media organizations from the BRICS countries, who discussed opportunities and challenges facing them as well as approaches to strengthen dialogue and cooperation.

Despite the active development of BRICS over recent years, there are still negative aspects in the coverage of its activities in the international information field, Osipov said, especially in light of the long-existing dominance by Western media.

Osipov noted the importance of creating a qualitative and strong information environment within the borders of the BRICS countries, saying that it is a necessary step to eliminate negative influence of Western media and strengthen the BRICS' positions in the international information field.

"I am convinced that only by joining our forces can it be possible to build a media space based on pluralism of points of view and deny manipulative information impact on the population of other countries," he said.

Calling new media an "indisputable trend" of recent years, Osipov said that the challenges of the digital age of social development and the constantly changing preferences of the audience cannot be overlooked, either.

"Therefore, it is especially important for media of the BRICS countries to share with each other the experience and ideas of the development of online trends based on classic media, as well as methods of preventing cyberthreats," he added.

In view of various old problems and new challenges, enhancing cooperation among media of the BRICS countries is of great importance, which the BRICS Media Forum has been contributing to for years, Osipov said.

"If we talk about joint projects, we should say that the number of ideas, both implemented and those in work, is great. These include the exchange of content, participation in press tours, video bridges and intelligent online tournaments, as well as the organization of joint expert events and media training," he said.

As an example, Sputnik currently has 16 existing cooperation agreements with media of the BRICS countries, including 10 with China, said Osipov.

During the Beijing forum, the Action Plan to Strengthen Cooperation among BRICS Media was launched, which is aimed at making joint efforts to balance international opinions, enhance the social responsibility of media, and deepen understanding among the people of the BRICS countries.

'Brics should uplift women and children' («БРИКС должны поднимать женщин и детей») / South Africa, June, 2017
Keywords: event, expert_opinion, WTO, terrorism, OBOR_forum
South Africa
Author: Melanie Peters

Beijing – Brics can play a major role in the development of different sectors of the countries it represents but the benefits should go beyond trade and economies it should uplift the most vulnerable of society, women and children.

This is according to executive director of the Economic Justice Network Malcolm Damon who delivered a speech at the opening of the Brics Political Parties, Think-tanks and Civil Society Organisations Forum.

Brics is the acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Damon was part of the South African civil society delegation who attended the conference. Deputy secretary general of the ANC Jessie Duarte and ANC national executive committee member Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim also attended the meeting.

The three-day conference is being held in the Chinese city of Fuzhou in Fujian Province and ends on Monday.

This year's theme is "Pooling wisdom and efforts towards common development and a brighter future".

More than 200 politicians, academics, members of civil society organisations from Brics and other developing countries attended the meeting.

Damon said: "Pooling our wisdom and efforts means realising the roles and responsibilities each of us have within society and the state.

"Women form the majority of our populations as well as the youth. We must make a special effort to include these voices in our deliberations."

He called for a commitment to good governance and for governments to be held accountable. "We need rigorous research and ideas, dialogue amongst Brics civil society organisations, a commitment to good governance and accountability by our political parties."

He said development meant integrating the needs of society with and focusing on justice and equity so everyone could benefit. "Brics can play a major role in this development and the different sectors here can assist in this development."

He encouraged these nations to learn lesson from the World Trade Organisation. "Trade should benefit all and not just...some."

Too often the WTO was used by those wanting to push the Washington Consensus agenda.

"Brics should work for a win-win position which gives special attention to weaker economies."

The objective of the forum was to cover groundwork and raise pertinent issues ahead of the Brics Summit which will be hosted in Xiamen at the beginning of September.

The forum comes as developing countries are increasingly faced with challenges in a world economy which is sluggish, terrorism, anti-globalisation sentiments from the West grow stronger, as does populism and protectionism.

Indian politician and national general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party Ram Madhav urged China and other Brics nations to unite against terrorism.

He told the forum it was time to end "double standards". Brics countries should take the lead in an early conclusion of negotiations on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

Madhav warned terrorism was the "single most lethal challenge to mankind today". Brics and several other countries have been the victims of one form of terrorism or the other, be it ideological, religious, political, racial or ethnic.

"Brics countries should stand united in the fight against terror in all its forms and manifestations."

Senior official of the Communist Party of China Liu Yunshan called on Brics countries to cement exchanges and boost cooperation within the group.

Liu said the 9th Brics Summit would be another important global conference following the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing in May. In a letter sent to other Brics leaders after China took the Brics rotating presidency in January, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China would work with the other four nations to make the summit a success and move cooperation to a new level, in accordance with an open, inclusive and win-win spirit. "We hope this forum will pool more wisdom and efforts for the Xiamen summit and future Brics cooperation," Liu said.

Liu said over the past ten years, Brics has achieved remarkable progress and the group has become an important platform for cooperation among emerging economies and developing countries, as well as a great force in improving global governance, promoting global economic growth and democracy in international relations.

He urged Brics political parties, think tanks and non-governmental organisations to play their roles to guide cooperation, offer suggestions, jointly promote economic globalisation, innovate cooperation measures, promote implementation projects, and consolidate the social foundation for Brics cooperation.

He hoped Brics political parties, think tanks and non-governmental organisations would enhance cultural exchanges and dialogue, create new highlights in cultural exchange, and promote the building of cooperation mechanisms to create more effective cooperation.
Commentary: Unity a must for BRICS media to boost development (Комментарий: Единство необходимо для СМИ БРИКС, чтобы стимулировать развитие) / China, June, 2017
Keywords: BRICS_Media_Forum, event, expert_opinion

BEIJING, June 8 (Xinhua) -- As the Ninth BRICS Summit in Xiamen is approaching, media organizations from the BRICS countries are exploring opportunities for their shared future.

At the BRICS Media Forum on Thursday, media outlets from all five BRICS countries gathered in Beijing to witness the launch of the Action Plan to Strengthen Cooperation Among BRICS Media.

The plan calls for joint efforts to balance international opinions, enhancing the social responsibility of media, and deepen understanding among the people of BRICS countries.

They will seek to expand cooperation, establish digital platforms for BRICS, and deliver financial information services.

The action plan stands for cooperation and comes as the group is seeing booming economic development.

The past decade saw BRICS grow into a platform for multilateral dialogue and cooperation, with over 60 mechanisms of cooperation set up among the countries, in spite of the stagnant global economic environment.

Economic aggregate of the countries accounts for 23 percent of the world, up from 12 percent ten years ago, contributing more than 50 percent of global economic growth.

However, BRICS countries are yet to have a say in the global governance system that is commensurate with their rising economic power.

On the international stage, there is skepticism over the development prospects of BRICS countries and even BRICS itself.

That adds to the need to further media cooperation.

Much has been done since the first agreement reached at the BRICS Media Forum in Beijing in December 2015.

Seeing increasing exchanges between BRICS media organizations since then, a liaison office was established in 2016 to organize and coordinate interactions between the media.

The bigger role of IT and the Internet in media also set the stage for further cooperation of BRICS media.

As Cai Mingzhao, president of Xinhua News Agency, said at the forum, technology has ended the monopoly of information. BRICS media organizations are now toe to toe with their counterparts from more developed nations.

The rapid rise of mobile devices and videos have led the wave. It was estimated by CISCO that by 2021, the number of videos on mobile media worldwide will increase 8.7 times, taking up 78 percent of the global mobile data traffic.

To capitalize on the momentum, a cooperative and sharing platform "On-Scene Cloud" was set up by Xinhua last year, which offers BRICS media organizations with new media services including content, channels and programs for free.

In addition, 1 million U.S. dollars will be spent by Xinhua on establishing the BRICS Media Fund, which will support pragmatic cooperation including exchange visits, training and interviews.

After all, the BRICS sapling needs water and fertilizer. BRICS media outlets should be the gardeners, tasked with supplying the nutrients of friendship and mutual trust.

As BRICS enters its second decade, its media outlets are looking united and set to continue to serve as the solid bond between BRICS countries, while boosting the joint development of the association.
2017 BRICS Film Festival to Arrive in Chengdu (Кинофестиваль фильмов БРИКС 2017 прибудет в Чэнду) / China, June, 2017
Keywords: BRICS_Film_festival, event

A press conference for the forthcoming 2017 BRICS Film Festival was held in Chengdu on June 5.

It is the first time for the city to host such a grand event, which will be composed of an opening and a closing & awarding ceremonies, film screening, as well as forums, etc. More than 300 representatives from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) will gather together to celebrate the film fete from June 23 to 27.

With the aim of cultural exchange, mutual learning and public benefit, a selection of 30 outstanding films from BRICS members will be showed at 6 cinemas in downtown Chengdu, and the tickets for the movies are priced at RMB20 each on average and the maximum is less than RMB40 each.

The tickets will be put on sale starting June 16 both at the cinemas and on online platforms including and In addition, local citizens can enjoy free film shows in 12 living communities in the downtown during the event.
Media in BRICS nations vow deeper cooperation (СМИ в странах БРИКС обещают более тесное сотрудничество) / China, June, 2017
Keywords: BRICS_Media_Forum, event
Author: Zhang Yunbi

Representatives at forum call for new narratives that present positive picture

Shaping another golden decade of BRICS cooperation requires joint efforts by media in the five member countries, a senior Party official said.

Liu Qibao, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and head of the committee's publicity department, made the comment when addressing the BRICS Media Forum in Beijing on Thursday.

BRICS comprises five major developing countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

As BRICS cooperation enters its second decade, leaders of 27 media agencies from member countries vowed on Thursday to deepen their cooperation.

Liu said the media should support win-win cooperation, display the bright future of BRICS, and promote friendship and cultural exchanges among members.

The ninth leaders' meeting of BRICS will be held in Xiamen, Fujian province, in September.

Cai Mingzhao, president of Xinhua News Agency and executive chair of the forum, said participating media organizations all agreed to choose news stories for the BRICS news reporting award, and will continue to present photo exhibitions.

Qian Keming, vice-minister of commerce, told the forum that the world economy and trade has stopped slumping and is on the rise, but the imbalance of the economic structure and the lack of new economic driving forces remain to be tackled.

As rising protectionism challenges economic globalization, China is ready to work with other BRICS countries to showcase faith in greater collaboration, Qian said.

Zhou Shuchun, editor-in-chief of China Daily, said media in BRICS countries should jointly study and deal with the world economic situation, and better showcase the firm will and strong actions of BRICS countries in building an open world economy.

Zenariah Barends, co-chair of the forum and the chief of staff at Independent Media in South Africa, called for more efforts to develop alternatives to the current narrative that often focuses on the negative side of BRICS countries.

BRICS media have a huge role in telling amazing stories, not only about what the BRICS organizations are doing, but also the important life-changing stories happening in these countries, Barends said.
Dangal's China success an exemplary story for BRICS, says Chinese leader (Успех китайского фильма Dangal - образцовая история для БРИКС, сказал китайский лидер) / India, June, 2017
Keywords: BRICS_Media_Forum, event

The movie has scripted history in China by becoming the first top-grossing non-Hollywood film

Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal, that has scripted history in China by becoming the first top-grossing non-Hollywood film, earned rare praise today from a top Chinese leader who lauded it for being a "success story" which needs to be highlighted by the media in BRICS nations.

"If I remember it correctly, there is a movie in India 'Wrestle my father' (Chinese name for Dangal), is very popular in China in a very short time," with record revenues, raking up more revenue than Chinese movies, Liu Yunshan, a ranking leader of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), said while addressing participants of the BRICS Media Forum being held here.

"Dangal is the most successful movie in recent years," said Liu, who is ranked fifth in the all-powerful seven-member Standing Committee of the CPC which rules the country.

"I think this is a very typical example of a success story. We media groups need to give it more coverage. This will serve as a good example," he said.

For example, the Indian media should be proud of this movie because it is very successful in China and very influential, he said.

"Perhaps we should take this opportunity to express our voice," he said, adding that "we need things which are helpful, conducive and constructive for sure".

Editors and journalists from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) are attending the forum being organised by China's Xinhua news agency ahead of this year's BRICS Summit to be held in the Chinese city of Xiamen in September this year.

Dangal which raked up over Rs 1,100 crore since it was released in China on May 5 has created history by becoming only the 33rd film in China's history to cross RMB one billion.

It is still continuing to play over 7,000 screens across China.

Liu, in his address, also attacked the western media, saying that it is spreading the fake news in the past few years.

"There has been a lot of fake news in the western media. Like President Vladimir Putin said some countries actually created those fake news," he said.

"Mainstream media in BRICS countries must strengthen efforts to disseminate more positive news about BRICS countries and we can convey more positive energy. This is our responsibility," Liu said.

He also claimed that media in China which is state- controlled enjoys freedom.

"In China, I don't think (there is) any problem with media freedom...China has negative news in the past," he said.

"In the western world, there is fight against fake news," Liu said apparently referring to the allegations by US President Donald Trump against the media.

He also said traditional media in BRICS countries should catch-up with the western media and strengthen mutual beneficial cooperation, assistance and learning.

Liu suggested an exchange of professionals, mutual interviews and technological cooperation among the BRICS countries.

Mainstream media in BRICS countries need to express common voice telling good stories from BRICS countries, he said.

The media should also fight the pessimistic outlook being spread by the western media. Also, some international rating agencies are downgrading credit ratings of the BRICS countries.

It is being done because "they believe we are not promising. Because they don't believe in our future".

A BRICS media joint photography exhibition has also been organised on the sidelines of the two-day forum which will conclude tomorrow.
Xinhua sets up USD 1 mn fund to boost BRICS media cooperation («Синьхуа» создает фонд в размере 1 млн долларов США для стимулирования сотрудничества СМИ БРИКС) / India, June, 2017
Keywords: BRICS_Media_Forum, event

Journalists from 27 media organisations from BRICS countries on Thursday promised to deepen cooperation and contribute to the BRICS framework at the ongoing two-day BRICS Media Forum which was kicked off here on Wednesday.

"Sharing a common destiny, BRICS countries form not only an interconnected community of interests, but also a community of joint actions," said Liu. (Representational Image) China's state-run news agency Xinhua has announced a USD one million fund to institutionalise media cooperation among the BRICS countries including awards for journalists from the five member states. This was announced on Wednesday by Cai Mingzhao, president of Xinhua and executive president of the BRICS Media Forum. Cai said the participating media organisations all agree to select news stories for the BRICS news reporting award, and continue to hold joint photo exhibitions. "Xinhua would like to host the first event for selecting BRICS news reporting award winners, and help other BRICS media to prepare the second joint photo exhibition," Cai said.

According to Cai, participating media organizations agree to explore cooperation in areas such as integrative development, video, new media and social media.

Last year, Xinhua established the cooperative and sharing platform "On-Scene Cloud," which can offer its members media content, channels, technologies and other services.

"We are willing to open that platform to BRICS media free of charge," he noted.

Cai said Xinhua is willing to provide funding to invite 20 BRICS media reporters every year to visit Chinese media and exchange views with them and conduct news reporting in China.

Liu Qibao, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and head of the committee's Publicity Department, urged BRICS media to promote win-win cooperation and push the international order in a fairer and more reasonable direction.

"Sharing a common destiny, BRICS countries form not only an interconnected community of interests, but also a community of joint actions," said Liu while addressing the forum.

"There are misinterpreting and misreading voices in international public opinion that are sceptical of the development prospects of BRICS countries and even BRICS itself," Liu said, urging BRICS media to maintain composure and consolidate confidence, and pass on the message of confidence in BRICS countries' development.

Liu called for pragmatic cooperation among BRICS media, including conducting joint interviews on major topics, promoting cooperation in information services, professional training, human resources and think tank exchanges, as well as sharing experiences in meeting the challenges of the Internet and promoting integrated media development.

Journalists from 27 media organisations from BRICS countries on Thursday promised to deepen cooperation and contribute to the BRICS framework at the ongoing two-day BRICS Media Forum which was kicked off here on Wednesday.

The forum with the theme 'Deepening media cooperation among BRICS countries, promoting equity and justice in international media' was proposed by Xinhua and jointly initiated with Brazil's CMA Group, Russia's Sputnik News Agency and Radio, the Hindu Group of India and South Africa's Independent Media.
BRICS media forum opens in Beijing (В Пекине открывается медиа-форум БРИКС) / Russia, June, 2017
Keywords: BRICS_Media_Forum, event

The forum is attended by representatives of 27 news agencies, TV channels, newspapers and other media outlets of BRICS countries

BEIJING, June 8. /TASS/. The first media forum of BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) opened in Beijing on Thursday.

"The role and status of BRICS countries has been consistently strengthening and increasing. The contacts between media are an important basis for friendship, trust and mutual cultural exchange between the countries," Liu Qibao, who heads the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee of China's Communist Party, told the ceremony.

Liu said nowadays global economy is slowly restoring, noting that global trade and investments have declined. Besides, some countries are hit by fighting, conflicts, terrorism, and face uncontrolled flows of refugees and other serious problems.

"BRICS countries are facing a challenging and serious external environment. These nations also have a lot of difficulties, but the international community has some misunderstanding about the prospects of their development," he said.

Therefore, media should change these tendencies and form a positive image of BRICS, Liu said. "Media in BRICS should view assistance to humanitarian contacts as their important mission and actively promote cooperation and exchanges in culture, education, healthcare, sports and tourism," the Chinese politician said.

The forum is attended by representatives of 27 news agencies, TV channels, newspapers and other media outlets of BRICS countries. Russian news agency TASS is represented by Director General Sergey Mikhailov.
China Focus: BRICS media united on action plan (Китайский фокус: СМИ БРИКС объединились в плане действий) / China, June, 2017
Keywords: BRICS_Media_Forum, event, Xiamen_summit

BEIJING, June 8 (Xinhua) -- Following is the full text of the Action Plan of Promoting BRICS Media Cooperation, adopted at the BRICS Media Forum that closed in Beijing Thursday.

Action Plan of Promoting BRICS Media Cooperation

June 8, 2017 Beijing, China

The BRICS Media Forum, attended by leaders of 27 mainstream media organizations from the BRICS countries, was held in Beijing, China, from June 6 to 8, 2017. It was a high-level dialogue among BRICS media organizations held before the 2017 BRICS Summit in Xiamen. The participating BRICS media organizations appreciated that the forum was incorporated into the annual BRICS meeting, and also extended best wishes to the 2017 Summit.

Under the theme "Deepening BRICS Media Cooperation, Promoting Fair and Just International Public Opinion", in-depth exchanges were held on two topics: Multimedia Innovation for Media Development, and Media Organization's Duty and Social Responsibility.

The participating BRICS media organizations believed that on the occasion of entering into the second decade of establishing the BRICS bloc upholding a spirit of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, BRICS media organizations have a more solid foundation for improving cooperation.

They also deemed that the rapid development of new media has provided a rare opportunity for media organizations from developing countries to break the information monopoly and rebalance international public opinion.

The participating BRICS media organizations have reached extensive consensuses on driving BRICS partnership through media cooperation, building a fairer international communication order, fulfilling the media's social responsibilities and obligations, and expanding and deepening exchanges and cooperation among BRICS media organizations.

The participating BRICS media organizations reviewed the progress made in improving media cooperation. It's widely considered that strengthened cooperation and exchanges among BRICS media outlets have improved mutual knowledge, mutual understanding, mutual support and mutual affection among BRICS peoples, and enhanced the strength and power of BRICS media organizations.

The participating organizations acknowledged that media serves as the link to boosting mutual understanding and friendship among peoples. They also held that as an important basis for national friendship and mutual learning among civilizations, media exchanges are of great significance to consolidate public opinion and amplify a sense of a BRICS identity.

The participating organizations believed that the content, depth and breadth of BRICS media cooperation should be expanded and deepened in conformity with the needs of the BRICS nations.

With firm confidence of a BRICS partnership and for further improving media cooperation, the participating outlets unanimously agreed to carry out a cooperative action plan in the spirit of equity, pragmatism and mutual benefit.

First they agreed to jointly maintain balanced international public opinion. This can be achieved by jointly sending out press releases on international major issues, improve coordination on topics-setting, amplify the voice of justice and rationality, and firmly safeguard international equity and justice as well as the lawful rights and interests of developing countries. They agreed to strengthen the rights of expression, discourse and communication of emerging markets and developing countries, rebalance international public opinion and drive it to a fairer and more just direction, and promote building a fairer and more rational global governance system.

Secondly, the outlets agreed to jointly strengthen the media's social responsibility. This is necessary to demonstrate the achievements and prospects of BRICS economic development, and social progress and its role in world economic growth engine. It is vital to present to the world the conviction of BRICS countries in building an open global economy, and show the pursuit and dream of BRICS countries of mutually beneficial cooperation and peaceful development.

Third, jointly boost people-to-people ties. Doing so is necessary to uphold a comprehensive, unbiased and equitable reporting philosophy, and objectively report on the present situation of BRICS development and events related to BRICS relations. BRICS news organizations must accurately guide public opinion, resist distortion and speculation, and offer more coverage on stories conducive to increasing friendly ties within the bloc.

Fourth, to jointly expand cooperation fields among BRICS media organizations. Practical cooperation can include joint interviews, joint press releases on major issues, coordination in topic-setting, and more cooperation in news reporting, professional training, talent cultivation and think tanks, as well as exchanges of newspaper pages, TV channels and airing times. We should continue to hold the BRICS joint photo exhibition.

Fifth, there is a need to jointly develop digital media among BRICS countries. That is, to explore new channels and new spaces in international communication. We should strive to develop an integrated digital media, video new media, social media and jointly seek new ways of increasing international voices via digital means.

Sixth, jointly provide financial information services. BRICS news media organizations should attempt to build a professional economic and financial information platform, jointly establish a real-time information exchange system, and facilitate the two-way flow of BRICS companies' project information via online and offline channels. All would be in an effort to help BRICS companies find more business opportunities and control risks.

The BRICS Media Forum was proposed by Xinhua News Agency and jointly initiated by Brazil's CMA Group, Russia's Sputnik News Agency and Radio, India's The Hindu Group and South Africa's Independent Media.

Present at the forum were leaders of the five initiating media organizations as well as the People's Daily, China Daily, China Central Television, China Radio International, Correio Braziliense, Monitor Mercantil, Grupo Estado, Valor Economico, Empresa Brasil de Comunicacao S/A, TASS Russian News Agency, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Russia Today TV, Interfax Information Services Group, Press Trust of India, India Today Group, ABP News Network, Indo-Asian News Service, Media 24, Independent Online, Sunday Tribune, Times Media and E Media Investments.
Comprehensive reports, BRICS research materials
BRICS in Trade Clusters: The Prospects of Convergent Trade Policies of Large Emerging Economies (БРИКС в торговых кластерах: перспективы конвергентной торговой политики крупных стран с формирующимся рынком) / Russia, June, 2017
Keywords: expert_opinion, trade
Author: Martin PIOCH

This paper analyzes global trading clusters to understand the effects of the BRICS economic rise for the international trading system and the WTO. The BRICS dominate without doubt their regions in economic and trade figures, as well as compete with — and in the case of China even overtake — the G7-states on the global level. But do the BRICS share a common approach for international trade, which they could promote as an alternative order or challenge to the current international trading system? So far the consequences of the BRICS-rising for international trade structures, multilateral negotiations and the WTO remain uncertain. This paper argues on the basis of cluster analysis, that — due to their respective trade patterns — the rise of the BRICS will not lead to major changes inside the WTO. By testing emerging economies on different trade variables, the paper shows the challenges for BRICS cooperation in international trade and reveals also false assumptions in the respective literature. The differences between emerging economies are sometimes much bigger than assumed, which makes cooperation rather complicated and complex. The paper concludes that the WTO remains in its current form the most important trade governance institution for emerging economies, because the divergence in their trade patterns hinders emerging economies to challenge the current system with an alternative approach. Refs 28. Tables 2.

Keywords: BRICS, WTO, International Trade, Cluster Analysis, Emerging Economies.



В статье анализируются глобальные торговые кластеры для того, чтобы иметь представ- ление о последствиях экономического подъема стран БРИКС для международной торговой системы и ВТО. Страны БРИКС, без сомнения, доминируют в своих регионах в экономиче- ских и торговых оценках, а также конкурируют с государствами «Большой семерки» (G7) на глобальном уровне, а Китай даже обгоняет их. Но разделяют ли страны БРИКС общий подход к международной торговле, который можно было бы продвигать в качестве альтернативного порядка или вызова текущей международной торговой системе? До сих пор последствия роста БРИКС для международных торговых структур, многосторонних переговоров и ВТО остаются неопределенными.

В исследовании на основе кластерного анализа утверждается, что рост БРИКС не приве- дет к серьезным изменениям внутри ВТО из-за индивидуальных структур торговли членов — стран БРИКС. Тестируя страны с развивающейся экономикой на различных торговых пере- менных, рeзультат показывает наличие проблем для сотрудничества БРИКС в международной торговле, а также ложные предположения на данную тему в соответствующей литературе. Различия между формирующимися рыночными экономиками иногда намного больше, чем предполагалось, что делает сотрудничество довольно сложным в комплексе. В статье делает- ся вывод о том, что ВТО в cвоей нынешней форме остается наиболее важным институтом управления торговлей для стран с развивающейся экономикой, поскольку расхождение в их структурах торговли мешает странам БРИКС бросить вызов системе, используя альтернатив- ный подход. Библиогр. 28. Ил. 10. Табл. 2.

Ключевые слова: БРИКС, ВТО, международная торговля, кластерный анализ, страны с раз- вивающейся экономикой.


Emerging economies play today a significant role in international trade as well as in the academic and political debates about the future developments of the global trading system. Their relatively high growth rates over the last decade, combined with a deepening integration in global production chains and profit promising investment opportunities, have made them a core interests for economic and political elites. Western countries realized, that the rise of emerging economies might imply challenges for Western industries and international economic institutions by a transformation of the global economic order. Yet, emerging economies themselves gained self-confidence and ambitions, caused by their economic growth. One product of these developments is the formation of the BRICS Dialogue Forum, which can be understood as an alliance of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, in order to promote global redistribution and recognition [Nel, 2010], in line with their mutual cooperation.

Out of all the emerging economies, the BRICS qualifies especially for this analysis, since the BRICS have emerged, out of the purely abstract notion, towards a dialogue forum, which is slowly but constantly promoting various forms of cooperation. Other emerging powers groupings are not considered here, because their level of cooperation is less frequent and less increasing. Founded as a catchy investment phrase from Goldman Sachs' Jim O'Neil in 2001, the BRIC(S) have met for the first time during the global financial crisis in 2008, and are holding annually head-of-state summits since 2009. Furthermore the countries hold regularly meetings of their trade ministers, either as part of the annual summits, or during WTO summits. Intra-BRICS trade, as well as global trade, is discussed in the BRICS' Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues (CGETI), and under the Trade and Investment Cooperation Frameworks [BRICS, 2013]. Those events do not only justify the academic engagement with the group, but also show the relevance of analyzing the prospects of this cooperation. So far little tangible outcome has been achieved in those meetings and frameworks on international trade cooperation, either because the work is still in process, or because they actually struggle to find a common ground or consensus in international trade issues. According to a study on commitment compliance of the BRICS to their summit declarations, trade has with only 55% compliance the second lowest score of 16 fields of cooperation. In comparison, overall the BRICS show a compliance of 72% with their commitments [BRICS Research Group, 2016]. The present paper is giving a detailed analyzes of those prospects and areas of cooperation.

This paper aims to investigate the foundations of potential BRICS trade cooperation and coordination. The main question is, if the BRICS have a combined economic interests in international trade, which they can promote and embed in the international trading system together as a bloc. To uncover this, the paper uses cluster analysis in order to group the WTO member states according to different trade variables. These clusters help us to understand, if the BRICS — in comparison to other WTO member states — share a specific pattern, which could be understood as a BRICS characteristic, and provide a basis for deeper cooperation.

Based on rational-choice theory we can assume that countries have individual preferences, and act according to their restrictions and expected utility maximization. Therefore countries should prefer those trade policies, which are most beneficial for their national economic interest. Simultaneously, it would be highly unlikely that countries support trade policies, which contradict their own preferences. We can assume for the specific case of BRICS cooperation in international trade, that if there are shared preferences, reflected in their trade patterns, the members of the group would try to cooperate in respective areas and try to carry out these policies also in international institutions. However, if this is not the case, cooperation will be more complicated or absent.

In a first section, this paper discusses the relevant theoretical approaches. Simple Rational-Choice Theory is the basis for the logic of argumentation. Next to this, the approach of State-Permeated Market Economies is discussed [Nölke et al., 2015], which offers an economic categorization for large emerging economies — as the BRICS — and gives an overview of patterns, which differentiate the BRICS from other forms of market economies.

The following section provides the necessary background on BRICS internal and global trade developments over the last decade, with a focus on the importance of interBRICS trade. Furthermore the section discusses the roles of emerging economies in current developments in the international trading system, as for example mega-regional trade agreements. In doing so, it also provides the basis for the subsequent analysis.

Next up is a cluster analysis, based on self-organizing maps. After introducing the method itself and its methodology, different trade clusters are presented, which show the similarities and differences of the BRICS in their international trade patterns. Those clusters include nearly all of the WTO member states and group those into four defined clusters based on seven trade variables. The main findings and an outlook conclude this paper in the last section.

1. Emerging Economies in International Trade: Theoretical Approach The developments around the BRICS touch two theoretical debates on the world economy, firstly the question about the behavior of countries, and secondly the debate of economic preferences of emerging economies. This section discusses the first question from a rational choice theory perspective, and the second within the context of different concepts about the economic preferences of emerging economies.

Rational Choice Theory offers a theoretical approach to explain how countries make decisions and how they act under different circumstances — for example different scopes of knowledge or under uncertainty. It has become one major theory of Economics as well as for Social Science in general. Rational choice is defined as the process of determining what options are available, and choosing the most preferred option according to some consistent criteria [Levin & Milgrom, 2004]. Rational choice theory is therefore an optimization-based approach, or in other words a utility maximization approach. Of cause this approach has also caused much criticism, especially in social science, and maybe most prominently by Amartya Sen for its simplistic explanations, its biased character and its behaviorism [Sen, 1973; 1977]. However, few other theories offer such a precise and convertible set of tools for the empirical research of decision making as rational choice theory. Reflecting the aim of this paper to actually produce empiric output, it should be obvious that an intensive social study of the different underlying social patterns of decision making in the respective countries is not only close to impossible, it is also simply unnecessary for the search of shared preferences of large emerging economies.

The approach is based on the idea that actors have preferences and choose their decisions according to those. There are three main assumptions about the behavior of actors in decision making situation [Bamberg et al., 2008, p.143]. The first is the preference assumption, that actors have the choice between different courses of action, and rank those according to their individual preferences, in order to reach their ultimate action. The second is the restriction assumptions, which determines the decision making of the actor not only by ones preferences, but also by restrictions to act. And the third is the maximization assumption, which assumes that actors will always chose the preference, which under the present restrictions will lead to the best result. One main problem with the rational choice theory is the available information for the actors. In often idealized experiments actors have full information about the different outcomes, restrictions and possibilities of action. However, in real life the situation differs from the idealized experiment — this has become one of the main critiques for rational choice [Schmitt, 1996, p. 106]. Actors do neither have full information about situations, nor does utility maximization apply in all social situations as the main preference. Actors also act according to social patterns, as for example values or group dynamics.

For this paper, rational choice implies that countries make decisions according to their individual preferences and restrictions in order to achieve utility maximization. This applies to developed economies in the same manner as to emerging economies. This means that the individual preferences and economic policies of emerging economies can be determined by the structural economic situations of the respective country. Or very simplified: the current trade patterns of emerging economies determine their decision making in international trade cooperation. Of cause a couple of other factors affect this coherence, and there are differentiations between narrower and wider conceptions of rational choice theory [Bamberg et. al., 2008, p. 144; Opp, 1999]. However, for this analysis it is necessary to simply understand the interacting coherence between domestic economic structures and national preferences, because domestic structures are crucial for explaining a countries foreign policy preferences [Waltz, 1959].

This leads to the question about what are the economic preferences of emerging economies. Andereas Nölke, Tobias ten Brink, Simone Claar and Christian May have developed a market economy categorization [Nölke et al., 2015] for the BIC countries (Brazil, India and China). However, even if the authors suggest that Russia and South Africa are not their first choice for this categorization, we still can assume that the implications of this approach for emerging economies affects also all BRICS, not only because the three example countries are already included, but also because Russia and South Africa show many pattern which come close to the ideal type categorization of the authors. Their aim of the authors was to determine a common institutional categorization for large emerging economies, which makes them distinguishable from other categorization, and to develop an Political Economy approach for the mainly International Relations debate about the effects of emerging powers on the global order [Ikenberry, 2008; Schweller, 2011; Johnston, 2007].

Here lies the relevance of the present approach of the authors. In order to understand the effects of emerging powers or emerging economies on the global order or international institutions, we first need to understand the internal structures of those countries. Just drawing the differences on governmental statements or assumed cultural differences is not enough. It is of significant necessity to understand the internal socio-economic patterns of countries in order to understand their international politics, of which international trade policies are a part of. Of cause emerging economies are themselves extremely different from each other. However, they also share patterns, which makes them as a group distinguishable from other groups of countries — by showing this, the authors have produced a valuable contribution to the current discourses.

This categorization of state-permeated market economies (SPMEs1) is determined by the assumption that the state, driven by strong pro-business support for national development, has a more important role than in OECD economies [Nölke et al., 2015, p. 543]. It takes as a starting point a reciprocal mechanisms of loyalty and trust between the members of this state-business coalitions, based on informal personal relations, family ties and shared social backgrounds. Generally speaking, this state-capitalist categorization should be differentiated from three other categorization: first the liberal market economies (LMEs) where capitalism is coordinated by the market and formal contacts, secondly the coordinated market economies (CMEs) with capitalism coordination through formalized networks and associations, and thirdly dependent market economies (DMEs) where capitalism is organized by hierarchies within multinational enterprises [Nölke et. al., 2015]. This state driven capitalism of SPMEs should not be understood as closed approach, since countries are always different is certain patterns, but has to be understood as a general tendency in contrast to the other forms of capitalism. SPMEs have similarities in five main economic governance patterns: corporate governance, corporate finance, labor relations, innovation, and domestic as well as international integration. In SPME most major companies are dominated by national capital and controlled by well-connected families or the state. They mainly raise investment through internal savings and loans by national banks, or enjoy preferential financial support by the state. SPMEs relay on a low wage regime, arranged and preserved by state institutions through the segmentation of labor forces into well-protected sectors, less-protected sectors and an informal sector. Furthermore, SPMEs hold relatively weak patent right systems, while innovation is mainly exclusively supported in state selected sectors. Finally the growth of SPMEs is also based on large domestic markets, in which sectors grow under the protected of the state.

All those patterns constitute a state-driven capitalism, which diverges in certain factors from the Western forms of capitalism. It explains that the national interest in SPMEs is mainly defined by the interests of the major companies and elites, and not by the general welfare of the population. Even if this might apply also in other forms of capitalism, the authors differentiate between much closer ties between the business elites and the governments in SPMEs in comparison with a lesser degree of state-business interdependencies in other forms of capitalism. In SPMEs the states duty to seek for general welfare of the populations dismantles under the business elites desire to preserve their benefits and positions. Furthermore, the state is — by its close ties to the business elites — in the constant position of preserving national company's interest on the international level through protectionist policies. While in many Western countries multinational companies promote the reduction of protectionism, the for emerging economies so important state-run industries, which are based also on large domestic markets, urge the state to protect them — also in order to keep benefit flows running between the business and state elites. The focus lies here on the involvement of the government of large emerging economies in the domestic economy, in comparison with other countries, and therefore participates in the debate about the Washington and the Beijing Consensus [Chin & Thakur, 2010].

For this paper the conception of SPMEs provides a theoretical possibility to look for common interests in trade policies. It offers an explanation why emerging economies with very different trade patterns and varying national interests might still agree on a shared vision for the regulation of the international trading system. This vision, however, is not the attempt to reform or progressively influence of the current system, but emphasize a slower liberalization and to preserve the status quo of the WTO, for example against progressive (mega-) regional trade agreements. The link between the SPME categorization and rational choice theory is manifested in their common use of rationality for state behavior. In contrast to constructivist approaches in social science, rational choice theory offers the possibility to compare government decision making of countries with different domestic systems, but some common features. Furthermore the approach allows to focus on specific areas of government decision making, without the necessity to explain every course of action of the state. Therefore rational choice offers the ideal foundation to enlarge the SPME categorization, and use it to find common pattern between the BRICS.The next section uses this foundation and looks at the status quo of BRICS Trade.

2. Challenges of Intra-BRICS and Extra-BRICS Trade

As a group, the BRIC heads of state met for the first time officially in 2009 in Yekaterinburg, subsequently after the establishment of the G20 in 2008. In their relatively short joint statement they simply emphasized the importance of international trade, urged for stability of the multilateral trading system, and pushed for comprehensive and balanced results in the WTO's Doha Development Agenda [BRIC, 2009]. In their joint statement in 2010 we can observe a development in BRIC cooperation in trade issues. The BRIC were discussing the modalities of cooperation in trade issues, for example a local currency trade settlement agreement. Furthermore they stronger than before urged all states to resist all forms of trade protectionism and to fight restrictions to trade [BRIC, 2010]. This narratives are continuing in the next joint statements and declarations of the following summits. The BRICS are more and more emphasizing cooperation in trade between each other in line with the international trading system, which is in their view only provided by a stable WTO. Furthermore, all subsequent joint documents called for the reduction of trade barriers of trade protectionism.

However, if we take a look at the development of BRICS trade liberalization since the establishment of their dialogue forum, we can observe increasing protectionism of those emerging economies, and interestingly especially between each other. Simon J.Evenett called therefore for a rethink of the current BRICS trade strategies [Evenett, 2015, p. 11]. He found out that the BRICS have implemented 1196 harmful trade measures against each other since the crisis in 2008. This means that the BRICS themselves are responsible for 32% or all harmful trade measures against the BRICS, while the G7 and Australia are only responsible for 20% [Evenett, 2015, p. 4]. In the light of this data, the BRICS statements regarding the abolishment of protectionism and the reduction of trade barriers seem odd. However, the actual situation is still in line with Ian Bremmers and Nouriel Roubinis essay about a G-Zero world, in which trade and economic negotiations of the next 20 years will be driven rather by competition and protectionism, than by cooperation and liberalization [Bremmer & Roubini, 2011, p. 4].

Regarding regional or mega-regional trade integration outside of the WTO the BRICS have also a mixed record. Russia is a members of the Eurasian Economic Union. South Africa is member of the Southern African Customs Union, Brazil member of the Customs Union of Mercosur, and India is part of the South Asian Free Trade Area. China is so far not a member of any institutionalized form of economic integration, the country is until now focusing on Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).

Currently Beijing "has 19 FTAs under construction, among which 14 Agreements have been signed and implemented already" [MOFCOM PR China, 2016]. Currently mega-regional trade agreements are on top of the international trade agenda, especially the implementation process and the effects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are widely discussed. Out of frustration about the slow developments in the WTO have the USA with its pacific partners on the one, and with the EU on the other side started to introduce a 'game-changer' in the international trading system. Even if it is not clear yet, whether those two agreements will actually come into force, the current discussion about who will define the regulations for international trade in the 21st century unfold the clashing interests of those countries that prefer the current WTO rules as basis, and those who are frustrated with the WTO development over the last decades. So far, the BRICS are not part of mega-regional trade agreements, but they are actually discussing the possibilities of a BRICS free trade agreement between themselves. However, if we look at the BRICS joint statements, it is clear, that they are supporting a multilateral trading system, which is regulated by the WTO. Furthermore they are reiterating that all future trade agreements should be in line with WTO rules, and thereby call for the complementarity of FTAs and the WTO [BRICS, 2016].

Outside of the above-mentioned summits and joint statements, the results of actual trade cooperation are very mixed. The BRICS have definitely over the last decade increased intra-BRICS trade (Fig. 1). Intra-BRICS trade reached in 2013 a peak and is declining since then. This is in line with the recent economic problems in those countries However, the BRICS have generally increased their trade not only with other emerging economies, but with many partners over the last decade. Out of the value for all accumulated international trade of the BRICS in 2015, only around 12% is intra-BRICS trade, with very different weight for the single countries. For Brazil intra-BRICS trade accounts for around 22% of its overall trade, for South Africa 20%, for Russia 14.5%, for India around 14.5%, and for China around 10%. Those findings show that intra-BRICS trade is important for all BRICS countries, with some vaiation [cf. Mathur et. al., 2013]. At the same time is the majority of their trade still with non-BRICS countries. The main trade flows happens in the respective region, or with long lasting trading partners. If we look at the main trading partners of the BRICS, we see — next to the global trading powers USA and EU — countries from the closer region, as for example for China countries as Japan, South Korea or Taiwan, or for Brazil the countries Argentina, Mexico or Chile, under the top ten trading partners.

Figure 2 shows the distribution of trade from the single BRICS economies towards their fellow BRICS partners, and we can observe that trade with China is clearly dominating. China is for Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa by far the most important BRICS trade partner — in general Beijing is the second largest global trading partner for them after the EU. But not one of the other BRICS is in the top 10 list of China's trading partners. China holds on the one side the largest share of intra-BRICS trade, on the other side inter-BRICS trade has a rather small share of China's global trade. Furthermore, for the other BRICS the trade with China is much more important, than trade with the remaining BRICS. So while the increasing number of trade between emerging powers is often stressed [cf. Mathur et. al., 2013], it is necessary to understand the differences in trade and the outstanding role of China, which is not on the same level as its fellow partners.

To summarize, there are five challenges for intra-BRICS and extra-BRICS trade. Firstly the BRICS need to overcome the ambivalence between their official rhetoric to support intra-BRICS trade and their increasing implementation of protectionist measures against each other. Secondly is for most BRICS the regional trade integration through their various regional frameworks more important than cross-regional BRICS trade. Thirdly are mega-regional trade negotiations a challenge for extra-BRICS trade, if they do not participate in those and therefore missing out to shape those developments. The fourth challenge is the heterogeneity in trade between the BRICS as well as in relation towards other trading partners. A homogenization of trade would require not only a homogenization between the respective customs unions, but also the political will to do so. And finally the overweight of trade with China in intra-BRICS trade might cause a challenge, as discussed above.

3. Methodology: Cluster Analysis of BRICS Trade

In order to find common foreign trading patterns of emerging economies, this paper clusters countries based on trade variables, which show differences and similarities in BRICS trade. In comparison with other quantitative methods that are looking for specific variables to explain outcomes, cluster analysis groups data by variables into units with similar features — and therefore offers for this paper the possibility to understand if the current political grouping is also a group in international trade, or not. The method helps to organize data in groups with similar variables. These similarity structures are called clusters, and those can be labeled after the attributes and features, which are present, or not present, in the individual clusters. The first part explains the clustering method of selforganizing maps, used in this paper, and the clustering process. In the second part follows a description of the used data set. And subsequently follows the description of the used variables in this analysis.

3.1. Cluster Analysis in the Form of Self-Organizing Maps

Cluster analysis has become an important feature of data mining, the discipline of transforming and discovering huge amounts of data. Contrary to classification, where data is ordered in already existing systems, cluster analysis identifies new groups of data [Abonyi & Feil, 2007].

This analysis uses Kohonen-maps or self-organizing maps, an artificial neural network that helps us to show and understand the clusters easily. It is an unsupervised training set for big data sets, first developed by Teuvo Kohonen in the 1980s [Kohonen, 1995]. The Kohonen net is a computationally convenient abstraction building on work on biologically neural models from the 1970s and morphogenesis models dating back to Alan Turing in the 1950s.

Self-organizing maps can be used to solve economic problems like modeling, forecasting, or pattern-searching in large data sets. The used algorithm represents a specific variant of clustering multidimensional vectors. An important feature of the algorithm used by the computer program Loginom, which has been used for this analysis, is that all parts of the maps (called neurons or nodes) are arranged to one another in a certain structure. The method uses two steps, namely training and mapping. In a specific training the maps are built by the input variables through vector quantization. Here not only the best matching unit is modified, but also its neighbors. A matching unit is the node which correspondents with the input variable more closely than all others. Mapping automatically classifies a new input vector. Through this a multi-dimensional space can be projected on a lower dimensional space, mostly a two-dimensional grid [Loginom, 2008, p. 88]. Therefore these maps can be considered as a method to project complicated data sets into twodimensional groups. The projection is usually located on 2D grips of rectangular or hexagonal cells. In this analysis we use hexagonal cells, which are easier to understand due to its visualization.The output grids of Kohonen self-organizing maps are useful for finding dependencies in the data between variables — but they don't have specific outputs as for example in the case of regression analysis. Rather, this method simply runs new variables over pervious variables in order to arrange the cases in a logical order. Out of this order we can then label groups or clusters according to the variables values of the nodes in them. Important to notice here is that the presence of two countries in different clusters does not imply the impossibility of trade relations between them, but can deduce highly different preferences for trade regulating policies.

The clustering process in done by the program Loginom. The output of Loginom provides us with clusters based on our variables. The output is shown in a map or set of nodes, in which each node can be associated with a hexagonal area of the picture. The coordinates of this area are determined by the coordinates of the respective node in the grid. It is important to note that not every hexagon represents a reporting country here, but the whole map together presents the pattern of the variables. The resulting map represents an atlas which shows the location of the countries, their interconnections, and the relative position of the various values of each country.

In a first step all data is normalized by linear normalization of the initial values. Here all variables are transformed in a set from 0–1 or into similar modes dependent of the program. The purpose of normalization is to transform the data into the most suitable type for the clustering. We then define a training set and the weight coefficient of the neurons. The analysis uses eigenvectors in which the weights are initiated using the values of the vectors linearly ordered along the linear subspace passing between the two principal vectors of the data set [Loginom, 2008, p. 89]. The resulting maps can be understood as a layer cake in which each layer represents a color produced by one of the data set components. If we overlap all seven layers of our seven variables we have a final cluster map. The general principle is that each variable creates its own clusters, which then run through other variables to construct common clusters [Loginom, 2008, p. 90].

3.2. The Data set

The idea is to locate the BRICS in a broader scheme of countries, in order to understand their differences as well as their implications for the WTO.Only a broader comparison with a large group of countries can show if the BRICS have actually similarities in certain areas, and by looking of all member states of the WTO we can draw conclusions about effects on the institutions. The used data includes 155 of the 162 WTO members. The EU has not been considered as a separate member of the WTO, since the individual EU member states' data is already a part of the sample. Including the EU would thus not only lead to an extreme outsider case, but also duplicate data. Furthermore, for six single states the data provided by the WTO was not complete, so that they could not be considered in the calculations. However, these six countries — Chad, Djibouti, Dem. Rep. Congo, Liechtenstein, Sierra Leone and Tajikistan — are neither emerging economies, nor does their exclusion influence the outcome of the analysis significantly. The data is generated out of the countries' trade profiles from the WTO Statistical Database and relates in 98% to the year 2014 and — due to a lack of current data — only in 2% of the cases to data from the years 2012 or 2013. The used data represents the trade with all trading partners in all goods and all services.

3.3. The Variables

In order to be able to relate the results to the variables, self-organizing maps should not include a large number of variables, but rather a short number of reasonable variables about the same issue. Therefore this paper uses seven variables, which are all related to international trade, as well as to the economic performance of countries. The seven input variables for the cluster analysis are each countries' (1) exports of all goods, (2) visible trade balance2, (3) exports of all services, (4) percentage of agricultural products of all exports, (5) percentage of fuels and mining products of all exports, (6) percentage of manufactured products of all exports, and (7) Most Favorite Nations (MFN) applied tariffs on simple average3. Due to the WTO goods' classification in the WTO Statistical Data Base the percentages of variables 4, 5, and 6 do not always end up to 100%, which makes it necessary to include all three variables. The correlation between those three variables is not high with the Pearson Correlation between variables 4 and 5 being 0.282 and between variables 4 and 6 at 0.367. Only between the variables 5 and 6 we see a higher correlation with 0.603, but the value is not high enough to exclude one of the variables. An overview of the correlations between all variables can be found in the Annex. In the original data set the variables 'imports of all goods', 'nominal GDP4', and 'imports of all services' were also present, but have been excluded due to very high correlation of over 0.846, 0.933 and 0.929 with the variable 'export' as well as with the variable 'service exports'.

The logic behind the chosen variables is to distinguish between the trade performances of countries, as well as between their trade compositions. The first three variables exports of goods, visible trade balance and export of services are included to reveal the general economic performances of countries. The discussions about emerging economies points itself already in the direction, that those countries should at least outperform a large number of other countries in their economic performance, or even close the ranks to developed economies. Here it is interesting, if the clusters show a pattern of emerging economies; for example, do they share a pattern in their proportions of exports of goods and exports services? Or are there similarities in the trade balances of the BRICS, in relation to all other included states. Also, trade in services has been recently an important topic at the WTO and might also have an implication for future economic rise.

Trade in agriculture as well as the NAMA negotiations have played a crucial role in the Doha Development Agenda and the WTO in the last 15 years, and therefore a differentiation of the main categories of trade in goods appears reasonable. That is why the variables 4, 5, and 6 are included, in order to differentiate between the domestic backgrounds of countries. Exports are a mirror of domestic economies, though especially agricultural lobbying and domestic politics sometimes leads to an overrepresentation of certain sectors in trade negotiations. Furthermore the main exported good of a country is also related to the countries national interest. Resource exporting countries and countries that export manufacturing products might have very different interests in regulating the related sectors in international trade negotiations. Furthermore those variables are represented in their respective percentages, in order to show their importance for the respective country. Thereby those three variables are related to each other, since a higher percentage in one of them limits automatically the amount of the other two variables. Finally the inclusion of applied tariffs as the seventh variable was then considered to get an estimate about the level of protectionism of the respective countries, also in order to understand which of the clusters apply higher or lower tariffs. Even if tariffs are today just one measure of protectionism, and there are numerous other possible protectionist measures, tariff data as a variable for 155 countries are available and transparent, which does not apply for many other trade related regulations. And even if today the importance of tariffs might often be undermined, as we will see in the results, tariffs still differ highly.

4. Main Findings: BRICS in International Trade Clusters

The following analysis shows the combined multidimensional data of the 155 cases in two-dimensional output maps. This general trade cluster map presents the optimal relationship and grouping of all cases according to the seven variables. The result shows, that the 155 cases are best divides in 4 different clusters, which are differentiated from each other by specific similarities or differences in the variables. In the following figures we will see the general clusters in one map, and then seven maps of the different variables — of course the cluster formations and cluster borders in all the variable maps are the same as in the general cluster distribution, which is the formation according to all seven variables combined. The differences of each variable on the respective seven variable maps are signalized by different shades of gray, with darker nodes standing for a lower value of the respective variable and light nodes standing for higher values. The real amounts are not necessary to know for this analysis, only their differences between each other. Furthermore overshadows the normalization of the variables the real values.

Figure 3 shows the four clusters and the positions of the five BRICS inside, indicated by their initials. The first and smallest cluster in the upper right corner includes China and six other states: France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the UK, and the USA. This cluster is labeled 'Economic Leaders' as will be explained later by the variable distribution. The second cluster is the largest one with 73 states and is labeled 'Manufacture Exporters'. It also includes India and South Africa, though with a huge distance between them. The third cluster in the lower left corner consists of 38 countries, including Brazil, and is labeled 'Agricultural Exporters'; the fourth cluster includes Russia and 36 other countries, and is labeled 'Resource Exporters'. Noteworthy is that Russia has a rather small distance to South Africa. A list of each countries cluster affiliation is provided in the Annex. Regarding the EU countries, we find only Greece in cluster 4 and Germany, France and the UK in cluster 1, while the other 24 EU member states are all in cluster 2 and none of them in cluster 3. Other geographical tendencies show South East Asian countries in cluster 2, Middle Eastern countries in cluster 4, and African as well as Latin American countries in cluster 3.

In order to determine the first cluster we can look at the distributions of the variables export, trade balance, and export of services. For the variable exports' we see in figure 4 a strong concentration of higher values (bright nodes) in cluster 1, with China actually as the biggest exporter of the world, and lower values (dark nodes) in the three other clusters. Furthermore, we can see that Russia, Brazil and India have significant higher export values than their surrounding areas. There is also a concentration of average volumes of exports in cluster 2, close to cluster 1, while cluster 3 shows nearly no other high export nodes, besides the one around Brazil. In cluster 4 we see around Russia a couple of nodes with higher values.

The distribution of nodes in the variable trade balance in figure 5 shows a different, but related picture. Here cluster 1 includes both, the largest as well as the lowest values. China and Germany account for the highest surpluses, while the USA, the UK, Japan and France — together with India in cluster 2 — have the biggest negative balances. Furthermore, we see in nodes around Russia an accumulation of larger values, while South Africa and Brazil show no different values as compared to the rest of the nodes. This distribution shows in comparison with the variable exports, that there might be a relationship between a high amount of exports and an unbalanced trade balance.

Similar to the distribution of export of goods is the one of exports in services, as can be seen in figure 6. A clearer picture of cluster 1 emerges here. Cluster 1 — together with the node of India and some other nodes of cluster 2 which are located around cluster 1 — shows the highest values of export in services. We understand that high exports of goods and high exports of services combined constitute cluster 1, as can be seen in a Pearson Correlation of 0.797 between both variables5. Russia and Brazil show significant higher values in export in services in comparison to their clusters, but at the same time significant smaller values than cluster 1. Inside of cluster 1 the USA lead in exports in services. So far we can observe that cluster 1 countries have significant higher exports and imports6 in goods as well as in services; those countries have also either an extreme surplus or deficit in their trade balances. The figure also shows that cluster 2 is much closer to cluster 1, while cluster 3 is the farthest away.

The next three export segmentation variables show the composition of the clusters 2, 3, and 4. Figure 7 shows us the percentage of agricultural products in the exports. We can clearly see the composition of cluster 2, including Brazil, which of the BRICS has the largest proportion of agricultural products in its exports. There are even higher values in those nodes, which are farthest away from cluster 1. We can also observe some mediumlow values of agricultural trade in cluster 2, and minor values in cluster 4. However, these high values of trade in agriculture explain Brazil's distance to the other BRICS.

In figure 8 we see that cluster 4 includes mainly all countries with over 50 % of their exports in fuels and mining products. Here we can find Russia with a high value of around 70% its exports in this sector. Also, we see some average values in cluster 2 and cluster 3, especially around Brazil and India, while cluster 1 has the lowest values in this variable. Interesting is the position of South Africa, being located close to Russia, due to its on average higher value as the rest of its cluster. At the same time South Africa is far away from India, which has a similar value in this variable. However, the distribution in the variables of Figures 2, 3 and 4, explains very well the distance between India and South Africa. Furthermore in cluster 3 we see some average value nodes around Brazil.

Figure 9 completes the picture with the percentages of manufactured trade. As might have been expected, we see high values in the nodes of cluster 2, but also of cluster 1 with especially China leading the high values. South Africa and India show average values in this variable, which explains their location in cluster 2. Russia and Brazil have lower values, but we see why Russia is inside of cluster 4 still located close to cluster 2.

Finally, figure 10 shows the distribution of the average applied MFN tariffs of all WTO member states. Here we can see similar tariff values of all BRICS with average to high values. China is an outsider in cluster 1, and we can see significant higher tariffs in cluster 3 and cluster 4. Furthermore, Cluster 2 has a bisected distribution of the nodes. On the one side all 24 EU states of cluster 2 share one value, on the other side we can see in the area around India an aggregation of higher values. Also the BRICS do definitely not belong to low tariff countries. Fig. 10 is the least structured map and does only slightly follow the division of the previous variables. But, we can also see some correlations between high tariffs and agricultural exports.

The analysis shows that the BRICS are in very different clusters, and those trade clusters are mainly defined by the overall size of trade and by the export segmentation after commodity group. We can see that each of the BRICS has very district key sectors for their national economy, and thereby develop different main interest for trade liberalization or protectionism. This might have also been obvious in a simple comparison of the economic sectors of the BRICS — however this analysis shows that the BRICS do not just differ from each other, but also, that they also do not share many similarities with each other if we compare trade variables of 155 countries. Of cause also the other 150 countries differ from each other, but in relation to the current discussions of groups and categorization of emerging economies, we can see that the BRICS are not a natural convergent group in their international trade structure. The used cluster analysis has shown that the BRICS are located in four different groups of trade patterns, which illustrates their divergence, and helps to assess the future prospects of BRICS trade cooperation. China is here on the same cluster as most G7 states, which means a top trading country by the amount of trade, a nearly exclusively manufacturing products trading economy, and a large amount in trade in services. India and South Africa can be found in the second cluster of rather manufactured products trading countries, where India displays higher values in the trade of services and South Africa a position closer to the cluster of fuel and mining products exporting countries. Russia is located in the cluster of fuel and mining products exporting countries and also displays a higher level in trade surplus. Brazil is finally located in the cluster of agricultural products exporting countries, and even if Brazil shows higher values in the variables exports, manufacturing products as well as fuel and mining products, it is still far positioned from the other emerging powers.

But if we look at the average tariff distribution, the BRICS do share one pattern in comparison with other WTO member states: they belong to the countries with higher tariffs. This similarity is not strong enough to form with the other variables together an own cluster, but we can observe this pattern, which differentiates the 5 BRICS from their surrounding clusters. Of cause there are also other countries with higher tariffs, but it is clear, that we see here a common pattern of emerging economies. According to Olena Sokolovska a relationship between resource exporting counties and higher tariffs exists [Sokolovska, 2016, p. 63]. She further argues that for large economies with a significant part of resource consumption domestically, as Russia, Brazil and China, tariffs are functioning also as a subsidy on domestic consumption in terms of its price and quantity effects.

These highly different patterns will not disappear in the nearer future, even if it might be necessary for India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa to increase their share of exporting manufacturing products, in order to diversify their in some cases very price dependent export patterns. The analysis also shows, that China has much more similarities to the G7 than to the other emerging economies. This result, which shows — based on trade variables — a strongly uneven group of emerging economies, points less to a stronger trade integration between the BRICS, but reveals the necessity of a rule based multilateral trading systems, as the WTO.The mixed structures of the BRICS might thereby even strengthen the WTO, an international institution which has been in some struggles in recent years.

This analysis has only used seven specific variables in order to determine the BRICS location in the presented clusters. And one main finding is the shared amount of comparably high tariffs. Surely further studies with new variables, based on these findings could uncover more detailed the differences and similarities in the used trade policy instruments. However, those studies need a different composition, since there is little comparable data for all WTO member states on specific trade policy instruments. Here a simple comparison of used trade policy instruments — of tariff and non-tariff measures — of the BRICS might be an interesting further study.


This paper asked, if the BRICS share economic interest in global trade, which could be the foundation for increasing cooperation between those emerging economies. Is there latitude for emerging economies to establish lasting cooperation that might have significant effects on international institutions as the WTO, or may different trade patterns hinder the establishment of a comprehensive approach? After creating trade clusters in order to determine trade patterns, the paper gives two main conclusions to this puzzle. Firstly, the analysis shows that the BRICS do not fall in the same clusters if we compare 155 WTO member states on our seven trade variables. The BRICS are highly different in their trade patterns, especially in their export compositions, and have little similar preferences in their direct trade structures. But the BRICS share a higher level of tariffs in comparison with other states, which points to an interest in preserving a higher level of protectionism to secure their current national interests. This rather protectionist position can be explained by the categorization of the BRICS as state-permeated market economies; a categorization which argues that governing elites in large emerging economies prefer — contrary to liberal market economies — the implementation of rather protectionist trade policies. Since the ties between the state and economy are much closer in emerging economies through stateowned companies and personal relations, protection of these constructs against reforms or foreign competition becomes national interest. Those findings therefore also signify that the BRICS do not share a common version of trade liberalization, which stands in contrast to their public statements on the issue.

And secondly this paper concludes that the BRICS have a strong interest in preserving the WTO in its current status. As said above, the BRICS share not much direct trade interests, however they share similar characteristics in the organization of their economies, as well as a higher level of applied tariffs. This does not have to imply a more protectionist global economy [Schweller, 2015, p. 11], however we can expect that the BRICS will not deepen their trade cooperation tremendously in the near future. They might rather rely on the multilateral rule based trading system of the WTO. While the BRICS are not pleased with the current status of the IMF or World Bank, the WTO provides for the BRICS exactly what they require, a rule based system, in which they themselves can influence the speed of liberalization and preserve the status quo, in which emerging economies might further develop. And here lies the actual potential of BRICS cooperation and coordination in the international trading system. By focusing rather on preserving the current system, through supporting each other in resisting fast changes and through knowledge exchange in the WTO, the BRICS are able to improve their trade cooperation on the basis of the current WTO system. Of cause there is also the possibility of establishing bilateral FTSs between the single BRICS, however also those would be based on the current WTO system. As an open question remains, if their economic form or state-permeated market economies will in the long run prove itself as the more sufficient way for economic development. The current economic problems in the BRICS could also lead to a change in their economic preferences. However, as long as there are such close ties between the business elite, the state, and state-owned enterprises, which hinder national reforms due to their individual benefits of preserving this status quo, the BRICS will rely on a more protectionist trade system as their national preference.

Finally, this paper has introduced cluster analysis to the current studies about the BRICS and the international trading system. Thereby it has opened a new view on the BRICS by not just comparing them with each other, or with Western industrial countries, but by using a framework which includes nearly all members of the WTO. The method itself has thereby shown its potential and limitations. On the one hand the method allows to understand the clear distinctions between those emerging economies, on the other hand the results open a lot of subsequent questions which could not be addressed in this study. In comparison with regression analysis, cluster analysis only allows a limited number of variables, in order to be retraceable. However, this first findings in this paper show the huge potential of further studies with cluster analysis. For example one could compare several clusters based on different groups of variables. Or one could broaden the studies in order to take a more detailed look at the single clusters to find theoretical patterns and explanations for their composition. Unfortunately does this kind of analysis require a huge amount of comparable data, which is not yet available for many specific policies in trade — is has already not been possible to find simple export data for all member states of the WTO itself. But in general offers the engagement with empirical research in new areas as BRICS studies very interesting findings and research possibilities.
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