Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 18.2020
2020.04.27 — 2020.05.03
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Video conference of the BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs/International Relations (Видеоконференция министров иностранных дел стран БРИКС / Международные отношения) / India, April, 2020
Keywords: foreign_ministers_meeting, cooperation

The BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs /International Relations video conference was convened by the current BRICS Chair, Russia on 28 April 2020. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation, Mr. Sergey Lavrov, chaired the meeting. EAM Dr. S. Jaishankar represented India. Amb. Ernesto Araújo, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, Mr. Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China, and Ms. Grace Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, represented the respective BRICS countries.

This video conference was convened in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The discussions centred around COVID-19 crisis, its impact and BRICS response. The BRICS Foreign Ministers also discussed the activities to be undertaken under Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020.

In his remarks, EAM thanked the Russian Foreign Minister for convening this extraordinary meeting. He noted that BRICS, which brings together almost 42 percent of global population, with impressive growth, investment and trade share, has an important role to play in shaping the global economic and political architecture.

EAM highlighted the initiatives and various decisive steps taken early by India in the wake of the pandemic including through Aarogya Setu Citizen App and Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package. He highlighted that much before the outbreak was declared a public health emergency of international concern by WHO, India instituted measures to check Corona Virus. He apprised the BRICS Foreign Ministers about the initiative to coordinate efforts to contain COVID-19 in South Asia, and creation of COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund by the SAARC countries. India is providing pharma assistance to nearly 85 nations, including many countries in Africa, on a grant basis, to support their response to the pandemic. This has been widely welcomed.

EAM emphasized that the pandemic is not only posing a great risk to the health and well being of humanity but is also severely impacting global economy and output by disruption of global trade and supply chains. Economic activity across sectors has been negatively impacted leading to loss of jobs and livelihoods. He emphasized that we need to provide support to businesses, especially MSMEs, to tide over the crisis and ensure livelihoods are not lost. EAM pointed out that the efficacy of traditional medicine systems to strengthen immunity should be recognized and that BRICS should support these efforts.

EAM emphasized that the current challenge underlines all the more the need for reform of multilateral systems and that reformed multilateralism was the way forward. He referred to the centrality of development and growth in the global agenda.

India also reaffirmed its strong support for Russian BRICS Chairship in 2020 and the overall theme of "BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth".

A virtual meeting of BRICS Health Officials is envisaged on COVID-19 pandemic on 7th May, 2020 to take the discussion forward in a focussed and purposeful manner. New Delhi
April 28, 2020

BRICS meeting to enhance ties, say analysts (Встреча БРИКС для укрепления связей, считают аналитики) / China, April, 2020
Keywords: foreign_ministers_meeting, quotation

The BRICS Foreign Ministers' Extraordinary Conference on COVID-19 is important for BRICS members to enhance cooperation and trust to fight the pandemic, and the organization should take effective measures to improve public health cooperation, analysts said.

In his address to the virtual conference, which was convened on Tuesday, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi called for the members to uphold multilateralism and promote global collaboration to tackle the virus.

The countries should stand firm by the UN-centered international system and safeguard the legitimate interests and space for development for all developing countries, Wang said, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

They should also support UN bodies, including the World Health Organization, in playing their roles in fighting COVID-19, he said.

Ren Yuanzhe, an associate professor of diplomacy at China Foreign Affairs University, said the conference was held "at a crucial stage", where global cooperation is required to overcome the pandemic.

Although China has achieved positive results in controlling the outbreak, other BRICS countries are facing serious challenges or risks posed by the virus, Ren said, adding that "a few politicians in Western countries are politicizing the pandemic to serve their own political agenda".

"The unilateral behavior by some Western countries has caused great concerns in the international community. As a result, BRICS members need to further emphasize their support for multilateralism and opposition to buck-passing," he said.

Zhu Jiejin, an associate professor of global governance at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University, said the conference was valuable in terms of building a consensus among BRICS members on disease control cooperation.

BRICS is an association of the five emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Speaking of how the world will develop after the pandemic, Wang said the contagion will not reverse the process of globalization.

"China's strategic assessment is that COVID-19 will not change the theme of the times, which remains peace and development; it will not cut short the historical trend toward multipolarity and globalization," Wang said.

Chen Fengying, a researcher of world economy at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said China's position over globalization "offers hope in chaos".

Echoing Wang, Chen said science and technology has become a more prominent feature of today's globalization, and industries such as e-commerce have enabled flow of goods while reducing people's need to travel.

The conference came after two other similar meetings Wang had participated in with his counterparts from other countries.

Wang attended the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in Vientiane, Laos, in February. A month later, he joined foreign ministers of Japan and the Republic of Korea in a videoconference on the virus.

China has been actively engaged in regional and international collaboration to battle the novel coronavirus, in ways including providing medical supplies and dispatching teams of medical experts to other countries.

It has sent such teams to countries in Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Europe and South America.

The nation has donated $50 million to the World Health Organization to support it in fighting the pandemic.

BRICS meeting boosts trust at a 'crucial stage' (Встреча БРИКС повышает доверие на «критическом этапе») / China, April, 2020
Keywords: foreign_ministers_meeting, quotation

The BRICS Foreign Ministers' Extraordinary Conference on COVID-19 is important for BRICS members to enhance cooperation and trust in order to fight the pandemic, and the organization should take effective measures to improve public health cooperation, analysts said.

In his address to the virtual conference, which was convened on Tuesday, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi called for the members to uphold multilateralism and promote global collaboration to tackle the virus.

The countries should stand firm by the UN-centered international system and safeguard the legitimate interests and space for development for all developing countries, Wang said, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

They should also support UN bodies, including the World Health Organization, in playing their roles in fighting COVID-19, he said.

Ren Yuanzhe, an associate professor of diplomacy at China Foreign Affairs University, said the conference was held "at a crucial stage", where global cooperation is required to overcome the pandemic.

Although China has achieved positive results in controlling the outbreak, other BRICS countries are facing serious challenges or risks posed by the virus, Ren said, adding that "a few politicians in Western countries are politicizing the pandemic to serve their own political agenda".

"The unilateral behavior by some Western countries has caused great concerns in the international community. As a result, BRICS members need to further emphasize their support for multilateralism and opposition to buck-passing," he said.

Zhu Jiejin, an associate professor of global governance at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University, said the conference was valuable in terms of building a consensus among BRICS members on disease control cooperation.

BRICS is an association of the five emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Speaking on how the world will develop after the pandemic, Wang said the contagion will not reverse the process of globalization.

"China's strategic assessment is that COVID-19 will not change the theme of the times, which remains peace and development; it will not cut short the historical trend toward multipolarity and globalization," Wang said.

Chen Fengying, a researcher of world economy at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said China's position on globalization "offers hope in chaos".

Echoing Wang, Chen said science and technology have become a more prominent feature of today's globalization, and industries such as e-commerce have enabled the flow of goods while reducing people's need to travel.

China has been actively engaged in regional and international collaboration to battle the novel coronavirus, in ways including providing medical supplies and dispatching teams of medical experts to other countries.

It has sent such teams to countries in Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Europe and South America.

In addition, the nation has donated $50 million to the World Health Organization to support it in fighting the pandemic.
Wang Yi: Deepening BRICS Cooperation to Combat COVID-19 (Ван Йи: Углубление сотрудничества БРИКС в борьбе с COVID-19) / China, April, 2020
Keywords: wang_yi, speech, foreign_ministers_meeting

Following is a statement by Wang Yi, China's state councilor and foreign minister, at an extraordinary meeting of BRICS ministers of foreign affairs, on Tuesday, via video link.

The meeting was chaired by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and also attended by Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and South Africa's Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor.

Deepening BRICS Cooperation to Combat COVID-19

Statement by H.E. Wang Yi

State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs of

The People's Republic of China

At the Extraordinary Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs

Beijing, 28 April 2020


Good evening. We are meeting at a crucial moment in the world's battle with COVID-19. Such timing has given Minister Lavrov's initiative to hold a BRICS Foreign Minister's Meeting special significance. I wish to thank the Russian side for the tremendous work it has done to put this meeting together.

With its rapid spread in many parts of the world, COVID-19 has put lives and health of people around the world under grave threat, seriously disrupted the flow of people worldwide and the global economy, and posed a severe challenge to us BRICS countries.

First of all, on behalf of the Chinese side, I wish to pay high tribute to the healthcare workers fighting at the front lines and express deep condolences over the lives lost to the virus. My heartfelt sympathies go to all the patients and their families.

We are confident that under the firm stewardship of BRICS leaders, with the united, painstaking efforts of our peoples, and the strong support of the global community, we will overcome the difficulties, and mankind will defeat the virus.

The COVID-19 situation begs questions we all need to ponder. Should we let science and reason prevail or create political divisions, bolster cooperation across borders or isolate ourselves through decoupling, promote multilateral coordination or practice unilateralism? We all need to answer these questions in a way that stands the test of history.

As representatives of major emerging countries with global influence, we BRICS countries must act in the interest of the well-being of humankind, and stand by justice and equity. We must make the right call and do the right thing. This is us living up to our due responsibilities. It is also what our peoples and the global community expect from us. To this end, I wish to propose the following.

First, we should uphold multilateralism and improve global governance. The sudden onslaught of COVID-19 reminds us once again that our interests are closely entwined and so are our futures.

A challenge that respects no border and makes no distinction of ethnicity has only made global governance more important, not less. As we live in the same global village on planet Earth, building a community with a shared future for mankind is a right choice that meets the trend of our times.

People wonder what the world would be like after COVID-19? Some have argued that the world will never be the same again.

China's strategic assessment is that COVID-19 will not change the theme of the times which remains peace and development; it will not cut short the historical trend toward multi-polarity and globalization, and still less will it deter humankind from its firm pursuit of civilization and progress.

In a time of crisis, we must bear in mind both immediate needs and longer-term objectives and promote both our own interests and global well-being. We must work together to sustain a peaceful and stable international environment and foster brighter prospects for win-win progress.

We must stand firm by multilateralism, by the UN-centered international system, and by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. We need to champion the approach of consultation and cooperation for shared benefits in governance, take the lead in advancing global governance reform along the right direction. Through joint efforts, we will safeguard the legitimate rights and interests and space for development not just for ourselves but also for all other emerging market and developing countries.

We need to enhance coordination on macro economic policies, and take well-focused fiscal and monetary measures on both sides of supply and demand in an effort to curb recession, create jobs, protect livelihoods and stabilize the global economy.

We need to sustain coordination in the UN, the G20 and other multilateral frameworks to keep up secure and smooth functioning of global industrial and supply chains, and defend the multilateral trading regime with the WTO as the cornerstone.

We should continue to work for making development the centerpiece of the global macro policy agenda, and expedite the delivery of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Second, we should come together in the spirit of partnership to jointly combat COVID-19. Under the personal leadership and direction of President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government and people have fought a people's war against COVID-19. We have acted according to the principle of shoring up confidence, strengthening unity, ensuring science-based control and taking targeted measures.

We have all along been open and transparent, and put people's health and safety front and center.

We reported the infected cases and shared the genetic sequencing of the virus at the earliest possible time. Under the requirement of early detection, reporting, quarantine and treatment, we concentrated the best human and material resources on treating patients with severe conditions.

With extraordinary efforts and sacrifices, we stemmed the spread of the virus at home, and curbed its spread to other parts of the world, providing useful experience for global response and boosting confidence in defeating the virus.

A friend in need is a friend indeed. At the toughest moment in our fight against the disease, fellow BRICS countries and the rest of the global community extended valuable support to us. We will never forget such acts of friendship.

As the virus hits more countries around the world, China is doing everything it can to help those in need. We take BRICS countries as our important partners. In spite of substantial demand at home and growing pressures to meet foreign orders, China has provided a large amount of medical supplies to fellow BRICS countries, and facilitated the purchase of such supplies through commercial channels.

We do all these because we highly value our relations with the fellow BRICS countries. As we see it, looking out for each other in trying times is what the BRICS spirit is all about.

Going forward, China is ready to step up the sharing of information and experience with BRICS countries and conduct joint research and development of drugs and vaccines on the basis of respecting each other's sovereignty and national conditions. Given the close personnel exchanges among us, we should provide equal protection to the foreign nationals, including students, in each other's countries. I am confident that, by working together in solidarity, we will forge an ironclad shield against the virus.

Third, we should uphold unity and coordination to forge a powerful synergy. President Xi Jinping stated that the virus is a common enemy of humanity and can only be defeated when we all pitch in.

Living in a global village, no one could stay safe when others' houses catch fire. Likewise, in fighting COVID-19, victory can only be secured when the virus is brought under control in all countries.

The fact that China has been a strong force behind international anti-epidemic cooperation is because our own experience has made us fully empathetic with other peoples suffering from similar difficulties. We understand that only when COVID-19 is uprooted in the global sphere, can the health and safety of the Chinese people be better protected. China's readiness to help is inspired by humanitarianism; it has no ideological agenda, and is still less driven by selfish geopolitical interests.

As countries battle the disease in light of their own situations, China calls for mutual understanding and respect for these efforts, and sharing and learning from each other's experience.

Fighting COVID-19 is like putting out fire. Every minute counts when life is at stake. The global community should never be distracted in its collaborative response by finger-pointing or the blame game, still less should we allow new tensions and divisions to be created as a result of politicization or stigmatization.

China welcomes the appeal by UN Secretary-General Guterres for a global ceasefire. We call on all parties in conflict to lay down their weapons and form the biggest possible synergy in a worldwide, united response to COVID-19.

We the BRICS countries must support UN bodies in playing their due roles in fighting COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) is a central force in coordinating the global response, and is indispensable for helping developing countries, especially our African brothers and sisters, in fighting the disease.

Supporting the WHO helps us save more lives, treat more patients; it enables a more effective response against the virus and is conducive to pooling global strength.

At a crucial moment in humanity's joint fight against the virus, any attempt to undercut the WHO's authority and obstruct its role will be most ill-timed and will find no support in the international community.

On top of paying its assessed contributions to the WHO on time and in full, China donated US$20 million to the WHO, and this was followed by another donation of US$30 million announced just a few days ago. Hopefully most of these funds will be used for addressing the urgent needs of developing countries. We will also provide financial support to the UN's Global Humanitarian Response Plan, and do everything within our capacity to lessen the debt burden on African countries and assist them in boosting anti-epidemic capacity.

In view of the weaknesses and inadequacies exposed during this crisis, we also need to enhance global public health governance, make it a higher priority on the international agenda, and work together to build a community of health for all.

Fourth, we should keep forging ahead with BRICS cooperation. COVID-19 may impact our cooperation in various areas, yet such cooperation should not come to a halt. We must rise to the challenge and turn crisis into opportunity.

China will work with all BRICS members to actively support Russia's Chairmanship. China also supports Russia's initiative to formulate a Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2025.

We must pay high attention to the booming new forms of business, like teleworking and online shopping, and devise new models of cooperation and discover new potential of cooperation as we develop the BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution (PartNIR).

We need to make full use of the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement to provide sturdy financial support to our economies. The NDB has made good progress in its membership enlargement. We should work toward identifying the first group of new members before the St Petersburg Summit.

We must also continue to enhance people-to-people exchanges to build solid bridges of friendship among our peoples.


Let us work together to make BRICS shine brighter in our joint battle against COVID-19 and embrace a better future in our pursuit of common development.

Thank you.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's statement and answers to media questions at a news conference following an extraordinary meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs/International Relations, Moscow, April 28, 2020 (Выступление и ответы на вопросы СМИ Министра иностранных дел Российской Федерации С.В.Лаврова в ходе пресс-конференции по итогам внеочередного совещания глав внешнеполитических ведомств государств БРИКС, Москва, 28 апреля 2020 года) / Russia, April, 2020
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, quotation, foreign_ministers_meeting

Thank you for participating in our resumed meetings that are right now taking place online. It is in our interests to inform you about the work that we are continuing to do with our foreign partners under the current circumstances.

We have just finished a very constructive videoconference of the BRICS foreign ministers, held at the initiative of the Russian Federation. Russia holds the BRICS Chairmanship this year. Since a whole number of events had to be postponed due to the spread of the coronavirus, we decided to hold an extraordinary BRICS meeting and discuss how our five countries can contribute to the international efforts against this threat. This videoconference does not cancel the main full-scale Foreign Ministers Council meeting scheduled for June. These dates are still on the calendar but, of course, if required we may adjust them based on the epidemiological situation.

As I have already mentioned, today we spoke about our countries' action to counter the outbreak of the coronavirus. Our partners acknowledged the fact that Russia's initiative came at the right time. We had a productive conversation. Of course, the main focus of our discussion was on increasing the efficiency of our countries' efforts in fighting the threat.

We covered the mechanisms for improving the exchange of experience and information, as well as providing mutual aid and deploying multilateral mechanisms.

In addition to the direct preventive action, we analysed the impact of the current crisis on international relations. We established that there is no other alternative but to seek collective responses to any related challenges and no other alternative but to take a multilateral approach and to pursue equal, non-politicised cooperation of sovereign states in addressing all topical issues on today's agenda. These efforts (and we spoke about this at length during the meeting) are being obstructed by illegitimate, unilateral and coercive measures – the so-called sanctions that are being imposed in contravention of the UN Charter, the UN Security Council and contrary to international law. Under the current circumstances, these unilateral restrictions which, again, violate international law are holding back the measures against the coronavirus outbreak and are significantly damaging the socioeconomic development of the respective states.

We support the appeal by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet who are calling for the unilateral sanctions that were imposed bypassing the United Nations to be suspended at the least and ideally lifted, so that we could respond to the demands of our time more efficiently.

We have also discussed additional steps taken by BRICS to deepen the five-way partnership at international organisations, including the UN, the G20, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, to name just a few.

Our common position is that under these mechanisms, BRICS partnership should enhance the role and responsibility of the global governance institutions and their further democratisation. They should promote the interests of the majority of the countries, ideally, all of them.

Today, we also discussed the BRICS New Development Bank which made a principled decision to create a dedicated lending tool to finance economic recovery projects in the BRICS countries.Up to $15 billion will be allocated to this end. We believe this should help our economies overcome the crisis and resume full-fledged economic activity.

Russia has stated its specific joint crisis response measures to fight the coronavirus infection. This is a fairly large package of measures relating not only to the healthcare sector, but also to the economy, trade, financial stability and employment support. In the near future we will put these ideas down on paper. We agreed that we will submit them for substantive discussion at the upcoming meetings of the relevant departments of the five countries.

Overall, we believe that the changes experienced by the international community pose a threat of new dividing lines, more conflicts and a wider gap between the rich and poor countries. We are witnessing a rapid increase in the importance of innovative technology, especially in the IT sphere, which makes the well-known initiatives that Russia is promoting at the UN even more relevant. These initiatives concern ensuring international information security and developing a universal tool to combat cybercrime.

Overall, and we pointed this out today, multilateral institutions and the nation states themselves are taking a sort of a test for what we call professional aptitude. It is critically important not to try to focus on the fleeting electoral or any other interests in an attempt to politicise a particular issue, but to see the goal of our entire community in joining efforts in order to ensure the most positive outcome of our current efforts for our five countries and, above all, their citizens.

Question: Will the BRICS countries work together to create a vaccine against the coronavirus? This was mentioned in the Ufa Declaration of 2015, but will any real work be done in this area now? Has India announced the time for its hydroxychloroquine supplies to Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: In the declaration of the 2015 Ufa summit that you mentioned, the purported goal was to start working together on developing and using vaccines, including against coronavirus infections. This task was formulated back then politically and specified in 2018 during the BRICS summit held in Johannesburg. The Johannesburg summit documents contain an agreement to create an appropriate five-way mechanism.

Today we analysed this situation and decided to emphasise the need for the speedy implementation of this agreement and the creation of such a mechanism.

The Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Healthcare are involved in dealing with other issues, including the supply of vaccines. A videoconference of economic experts from the BRICS countries will be held tomorrow. On May 7, experts from healthcare ministries will hold a videoconference as well. I think they will discuss specific aspects of cooperation that you just mentioned. We will keep you posted.

Question: Are the BRICS countries ready to take upon themselves the US contribution to the World Health Organisation after Washington decided to suspend its funding?

Sergey Lavrov: We share the opinion that the WHO is a critically important tool which has now become an unparalleled platform for gathering information and facts from various states. This agency brings together top professionals from all countries, without exception, including the United States.

As the main contributor to the WHO budget, the United States had the largest quota of its specialists working at the WHO Secretariat. The WHO contributions come in two forms -mandatory and voluntary. As far as I understand, Washington has suspended the payment of voluntary contributions, but has retained and continues to pay the mandatory part that gives it the right to vote in this organisation.

With regard to compensation, since we are talking about voluntary contributions (the United States has suspended its voluntary contributions), it is hard to say who is going to support the WHO and how. China, for example, has announced an additional $30 million to be paid to the WHO budget. Regardless of the US decision, we have been traditionally supporting the WHO in various areas. Russia played a decisive role in developing the vaccine during the Ebola outbreak. Special institutes were created in African countries, which bore the brunt of this fever. We will continue to support the WHO regardless of what other countries might say about its activities.

Question: Has the date for holding an online summit of the heads of the Group of Five - permanent members of the UN Security Council and the final statement of the leaders been agreed upon?

Sergey Lavrov: The videoconference of the leaders of the countries - permanent members of the UN Security Council will be devoted to the coronavirus. So far, the date has not been set. We were ready to hold it this week. As far as I know, there are some countries that need more time to study the situation.

Question: Recently, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov noted in an interview that back at the 2015 BRICS summit in Ufa, the final declaration included a statement that we need to pay attention to cooperation in combating novel coronavirus strains. What made Russia raise this issue five years ago? What can we do today?

What do you think about China and Russia's interaction in combating the coronavirus?

Sergey Lavrov: Are you saying Russia predicted the current epidemic before Bill Gates?

Seriously, though, in 2015, humanity was facing pandemic threats, including those associated with the coronavirus, such as MERS - the so-called Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, and SARS - a severe acute respiratory syndrome. Not surprisingly, our researchers and specialists could tell back then that the coronaviruses could resurge.

As I already mentioned, today we reiterated our interest in creating, as soon as possible and in accordance with the decisions of the Ufa and Johannesburg summits, a mechanism for developing and using a vaccine against the coronaviruses.

As for our evaluation of the Russia-China interaction in fighting the coronavirus, we believe that it deserves high praise. From the outset, we provided assistance to Wuhan in China, and I hope we have made our contribution to China overcoming this threat fairly quickly. Now Beijing is helping everyone, including our country, to curb the spread of this infection.

As our respective leaders, President Putin and President Xi have repeatedly stated , we will continue our interaction and strategic partnership across all areas and pay special attention to the current important tasks in order to curb this global threat.

Question: In almost every answer, you mention some kind of joint coronavirus response action – cooperation within BRICS or bilateral cooperation between Russia and China. This is one side, one opinion. The other is found in the new European External Action Service report that says China and Russia are responsible for spreading misinformation about the novel coronavirus. How is such a contrast even possible? What are your comments regarding this?

Sergey Lavrov: When we talk about cooperation with China, we cite facts. There are many of them. We are not hiding them from anyone. They include specific forms of assistance: the delivery of humanitarian supplies, medicine and testing kits, medical specialists were dispatched, there were mutual consultations and many more things.

As for the EEAS statements about the coronavirus misinformation our two countries are allegedly disseminating, I cannot even give you any proper comments because they do not include a single fact confirming these allegations that I could mention.

Actually, we are not asking them for facts. We are already accustomed to our Western colleagues' increasing attempts to find some unifying motives in pulp fiction about the Russian or some other threat. So far, we have not been confronted with one single fact confirming any allegations of our interference in the US elections, the Brexit referendum in the UK, the referendum in Catalonia, let alone the notorious Skripal case or the MH-17 crash investigation. Now they are accusing us of trying to poison someone in the Czech Republic with some substance that someone brought in a suitcase, and the concerned Czech authorities are aware of this, but for some reason no one yet has shown the suitcase.

I am taking these things now philosophically. If the EU needs this kind of insinuation to somehow cover up its internal problems, what can we do about it? The pure lack of any specific evidence behind this is obvious once you simply look at the facts that are regularly published covering each country's coronavirus response actions.

Question: In the wake of Libyan National Army Commander Marshal Khalifa Haftar's recent remarks, does Russia have any leverage on him? Is it possible to develop collective measures to enforce peace and return to talks on the Libyan settlement? How dangerous are such remarks for the future of the Libyan settlement?

Sergey Lavrov: I wouldn't talk here about any leverage that Russia may have. We have contacts with all actors in the Libya conflict, without exception, including Marshal Khalifa Haftar, Chairman of the Presidential Council Fayez al-Sarraj, and President of the Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh, as well as other figures, including the High Council of State's senior officials. Many bodies have been created under the agreement concluded in Skhirat in December 2015.

At all stages of the settlement of the Libya crisis and in the course of all the initiatives advanced by our French and Italian colleagues, and the UAE at various points (an International Conference on Libya was held in Berlin), we warned about the need, first, to convince the conflicting parties to agree on the terms that they will use to resolve the problems in their country, the statehood of which was destroyed, as you may recall, in 2011 in the wake of absolutely unlawful NATO aggression. We have always warned against the attempts to impose on the Libyan parties any documents or agreements drafted without their direct involvement, since the non-viability of this approach has been proven on many occasions.

Now, we are faced with a repetition of what has already been done in relation to the outcome of the Berlin Conference. When the final document was submitted for approval by the participants, President Putin specifically asked whether the conflicting parties, primarily, Khalifa Haftar and Fayez al-Sarraj, supported this document. We were told that this matter would be addressed later. We said that without the clearly expressed consent of the Libyan parties, there was little chance that the agreements reached among external players would be viable. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened. But this does not mean that the conflicting parties should now make aggressive statements, announce unilateral decisions or refuse to conduct an intra-Libyan dialogue.

We did not approve recent statements by al-Sarraj who refused to talk with Khaftar. We do not approve of the statement to the effect that Khaftar will now single-handedly decide on how the Libyan people will live. Neither one of them is contributing to the achievement of a lasting compromise, which is crucial if we want to overcome this situation.

Here's a statement made just the other day, which, for some reason, drew little attention from the media, but is in stark contrast to the above. President of the Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh Issa called for a national dialogue. He wants this dialogue to be aimed at the formation of common government bodies which would represent evenly and equally Libya's three key regions. This is exactly what we have been talking about all these years: the Libyans themselves must identify the approaches that they will find generally acceptable, develop a dialogue and then build their new state. External actors should support such approaches in every way. I hope that the lessons learned from previous attempts will be learned, and we will be encouraging the Libyans themselves to talk and find a compromise.

In this regard, I cannot neglect to mention the fact that the post of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Support Mission in Libya has been vacant for over a month now. Ghassan Salame put a lot of effort into fulfilling his mandate, but, unfortunately, they were not successful, and he resigned. I believe it is absolutely necessary for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a new special representative soon. Everyone thinks this should be a representative of Africa. There are such candidates, and we know them well. They are experienced people with good standing. We urge the UN Secretary-General to fill this vacancy as soon as possible and appoint a new special representative so that the process continues uninterrupted.

BRICS and prospects for new security architecture amid coronavirus (БРИКС и перспективы новой архитектуры безопасности на фоне коронавируса) / Russia, May, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, covid-19, cooperation
Author: Georgy Toloraya

Georgy Toloraya, Executive Vice President of the National Committee on BRICS Research

This year has proved to be a turning point for many components of global development, with BRICS being no exception here. More recently, experts have wondered whether this association is able to proceed from the extensive development pattern established in the first decade of its existence, to focusing on the most overarching global challenges, thus engaging in the formation of a new world order instead of the obsolete unipolar liberal one. Reality has outlined the beginning of the second BRICS decade as a milestone of entirely different unprecedented changes, and Russia as BRICS 2020 chairman was at the forefront of developing a reaction and faced unexpected challenges.

Initially, organizational rather than substantive problems seemed to be the major ones. BRICS is still basically a dialogue format, so the main thing is an interlocution between the relevant organizations, structures and representatives of the five countries, as well as the creation of a network of personal contacts. At first, such a network was formal, and it was only recently that some solutions were developed on this basis. The coronavirus pandemic has so far completely stopped face-to-face interaction, except for video communication activities. But still, the value of meetings and events is not only in what is pronounced from the tribune, not only in public discussions, but also in the backstage exchange of views, in personal contacts, agreements, acquaintances that have a much greater influence on subsequent decision-making and compromise solutions than most people think. I hope that the second half of the year will witness at least some of the activities envisaged in the extensive program of the Russian presidency implemented in real life, not in virtual space.

Nevertheless, the substantial part is more important. Unfortunately, BRICS, like other international formats, has failed to develop an adequate joint response to such an unexpected challenge as the coronavirus pandemic. However, it must be admitted that this reproach applies both to the BRICS and other well-established structures and formats with a rich history. The UN was only able to carry out monitoring functions, while its special-purpose entity – the World Health Organization (WHO) – generally took back seat because of the United States. Even such articulated, integral Western unions as NATO and the EU appeared absolutely unprepared for this turn of events and did not even develop a joint strategy. Therefore, the relatively young format of BRICS cannot be blamed for not showing itself in the most decisive way. And still, it should be noted that countering pandemics, vaccination, joint medical programs, including telemedicine, have been prominent on the BRICS agenda for years. So the direction was chosen correctly. But so far, efforts to prepare a joint response have proved sour.

During the first collapse period of the habitual mode of life, contacts within the BRICS were mainly bilateral, and admittedly the five countries were not a top priority at least for Russia, even though it was implied by its BRICS chairmanship. By force of habit, discussing crucial issues and even providing symbolic assistance were still focused on the "frenemies" as represented by the Western countries. This means that BRICS' foreign policy priority in Russia, as well as in other countries of the association, is still declarative. For this very reason such format has yet failed to take the desired place in the new global governance framework, which, let's be candid, was the main purpose of its creation.

These errors need to be corrected.

Today is the best time to contribute to the development of the following in the new era coming with the coronavirus epidemic and the unprecedented challenge humanity faces:

new goals and priorities for ensuring the existence of humanity;

new goals and priorities for socio-economic development based on waiving an uncontrolled growth in consumption and resource destruction;

new forms of global cooperation on a non-competitive regulated basis;

new types and forms of globalization;

new priorities and forms of ensuring international security.

At a time when responding to critical challenges has shown the irreplaceable role of nation states, it is BRICS that can make a decisive contribution to solving these problems.

BRICS is an attempt to create a new type of international association, with its members building their strategy upon respect for sovereign equality, not interfering in each other's internal affairs, and seeking full equality in relations. What's interesting, this equality is not declarative (as in many international organizations), but real, supported by the comparable potential of the five countries.

This type of relationship is different from others, where the grouping organization of countries (for example, Western) is vertical at the end of the day. It turned out to be unable to exclude dog-eat-dog national egoism or ensure a response to the challenges faced by humanity. The United States did not play the role of a leader but displayed ugly selfishness. The EU has just virtually collapsed.

So right now, BRICS can assert itself as a structure that can offer new approaches and a new paradigm for international cooperation in these areas.

This may decidedly prove easier for BRICS than for other international formats. First, it is global. Secondly, it is civilizational. It is at this level that the response to non-traditional global challenges and the strategy for their prevention should be formed. Along with that, certain forces, including those among globalized elites who have taken over legal power in some countries, exploit the situation to strengthen total control over the population, to expand information capture, to strengthen regulatory actions, and to deprive humanity of its freedom of choice. Of course, these are phenomena that should not be tolerated.

And it is not the "authoritarian nature" of the BRICS states that is to blame for this, which Western opponents are so fond of faulting them for. In fact, the same reaction was observed in the most democratic countries, where the fig leaf of democracy was dropped when a real threat to the existing order of things had appeared. We have also observed military and police patrols, severe restrictions on rights and freedoms, and whistle blowing.

So the BRICS becomes a general focus of attention from a good starting position. The West's favorite thesis that the BRICS countries are "totalitarian" and therefore cannot be a norm or vie for a discrete role in global governance, does not work any longer due to these tragic phenomena.

However, an immediate response is needed. While Western unions and international organizations are in a state of paralysis and prostration, a window of opportunities is there for BRICS to swiftly pull itself up and exhibit effectiveness and declare its new place in the system of international security and development in a generalized sense. Especially attractive amid the financial and economic crisis unfolding over the pandemic is the sphere of global finance. For the time being, there is a good chance that a new Bretton Woods based on the new realities of economic life of the 21st century and no longer resting on the dollar alone, is going to appear.

It is time to move to a new paradigm of consumption and socio-economic activity, including allowances for ecological fundamentals. Nature seems to have sort of warned that the planet could not sustain endless economic growth, which is the only one we have.

The very concept of global security is also changing. The threat to the existence of man and humanity has now arisen not because of lacking missiles or nuclear weapons, but due to the forces of nature that were previously discussed by left-wing intellectuals alone. Generals are always prepared to fight the last war, but the enemy is different now. They proved totally unprepared for a war against the forces of nature, and the BRICS may set an example here and offer new ideas and measures.

In the near future, the processes of globalization will deepen. BRICS should be ready for this. New administrative tools and technological capabilities must not be used to deteriorate positions, much less to impose restrictions on rights and freedoms of individuals. BRICS could set new standards here. This should be done on a multilateral basis – something that the five countries have been lacking so far.

Specifically, new approaches to information security (which has unveiled its power during the crisis) and goals in the field of science and education are essential. The sphere of new technologies has revealed its comprehensive and overwhelming role in the organization of the present-day human society. Here, the BRICS countries can also act independently – for one, it would be possible to consider the necessity of measures to close borders and restrict traffic flows through the contacts of agencies responsible for transport, and take appropriate decisions within BRICS, without waiting for the mighty to decide.

We urgently need to remedy the situation of lacking high-level contacts during these tragic events. Even within the virtual G20 framework, a meeting of BRICS leaders was not organized, although it would seem that there was supposedly every reason for this. There is a need to right this ship.

Why not offer a format that can really contribute to security at an inherently global level "above the barriers", leaving aside all the inter-country and inter-ethnic strife and excluding attempts to play the cards for domination?

For example, why not think about calling an urgent summit of the leaders of BRICS + US + EU (as an organization), i.e. the regions that have been hit by the virus to the greatest extent and that can offer a response to these and similar challenges? After all, they possess a really significant share of global resources and population affected by this disease. Unlike the G20 summits devoted to financial and economic issues, this format is able to quickly respond to major global non-systemic challenges.

Such a virtual-real summit could be summoned on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September this year. In the year of the 75th UN anniversary, it is time to think not about preserving the balance of power of the last century formed after the World War II, but about a new architecture of international communication and global responses. This is how the "discontinuities" of the historical process pass; so and in no other way a new world order can develop – in a peaceful, accommodating manner – to emerge from the ruins of the former one.

It is important for Russia and its BRICS partners that an initiative to this effect would provide for neutralizing the already habitual opposition of the outgoing hegemon to the growth of new forces. The US and the EU will have to accept the helping hand – so far we are talking about a real issue of a rather narrow sphere of activity, that is the fight against this pandemic and subsequent ones, in order to try to develop a joint response, a joint strategy in such an area consistent for all the countries.

If this kind of BRICS + US + EU mechanism arises, I think it will be able to handle more ambitious tasks either. We are talking about large civilization blocks. There can't be many of them. This is the "BRICS +" in a truly global format. It is also important that within this kind of format, a genuine and legitimate global elite can be formed, comprising representatives of elected and authoritative figures and organizations within their national framework, who could confront the former closed financial and economic elite represented by transnational corporations and international financial organizations, that now have significant uncontrolled power and whose interests do not necessarily coincide with the interests of humanity in a broad sense.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's opening remarks at the extraordinary meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs/International Relations, Moscow, April 28, 2020 (Вступительное слово Министра иностранных дел Российской Федерации С.В.Лаврова в ходе внеочередного совещания глав внешнеполитических ведомств государств БРИКС, Москва, 28 апреля 2020 года) / Russia, April, 2020
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, foreign_ministers_meeting, speech

Good afternoon, colleagues,

I am glad to welcome you in good mood and decent health. Thank you for your prompt response to our initiative to convene an extraordinary meeting of the BRICS foreign ministers via videoconference to discuss the problems caused by the coronavirus. During the pandemic the videoconference format is the only possible way of maintaining the dynamics of our cooperation. But I am convinced that soon, when the situation permits, we will resume meeting in person. In any event, I will be happy to see you at the next full-scale Foreign Ministers Council meeting in the Russian Federation.

Today, we have agreed to analyse the impact of the crisis underway on the system of international relations. It is testing global political institutions, economic patterns, international agencies and nation states themselves. This is a complex situation, and one videoconference will not suffice to find answers to all questions. However, this is the right time to start such a dialogue in BRICS. Today, our priority is dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. This is about protecting people's lives and health. The need to uphold multilateral principles and rely on international law in formulating solutions to current cross-border threats is a no less urgent challenge. We are convinced that it is very important today to announce the solidarity of the BRICS countries in support of the emerging democratic, multipolar international order based on mutual respect for the legitimate interests of all states, as well as all the norms and principles of the UN Charter. I believe that only by pooling our national efforts will we be able to effectively meet current challenges like this pandemic. I suggest that the BRICS countries closely coordinate their positions, including at international agencies, all the more so since there exist the required mechanisms and venues for this work, first of all, the UN and its agencies, the G20, the WHO and the WTO, to name a few.

We submit for your consideration several Russian initiatives aimed at more effectively responding to the challenges posed by the spread of the coronavirus. They concern not only safeguarding health but also financial, economic and social issues, labour markets, the welfare of the people and the goals of sustainable development. We hope we will start actively working together on these initiatives at the level of relevant departments of our five states.

Cooperation on countering infectious diseases has long been a priority for BRICS. As you remember, the final declaration of the 2015 BRICS summit in Ufa, Russia, contains instructions by the leaders to jointly work on managing the risk of outbreaks, including of new coronaviruses. Time has shown that we were on the right track. Today, we should look how our foreign ministries can help our states to develop practical cooperation between health ministries. Of course, the quarantine measures due to COVID-19 have adjusted the calendar of BRICS events in 2020. Some of these events that were scheduled for April and May were postponed but BRICS will continue its cooperation via videoconferences. We will tell you about the vision for our future work during the Russian chairmanship.

Experts Have Estimated the Survival Prospects of the BRICS in Pandemic Rivalry (Эксперты оценили перспективы выживания БРИКС в борьбе с пандемией) / United States, April, 2020
Keywords: covid-19, expert_opinion
United States

The Global crisis due to pandemic Cоvid-19 challenges to many existing forms of international cooperation. It will stand the test of coronavirus BRICS? Or this format, the opposite will be the alternative that will show an example of mutual aid and mutual support in difficult circumstances?

The club "Valdai" in the online mode presented a report "BRICS and pandemic rivalry", analyzing possibilities included in this informal club of Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa work together to confront all challenges.

Invasion of coronavirus paralyzed all international processes stopped until recently seemed unshakable trade mechanisms and economy. It became obvious that zapamietania model of the world was unable to give a speedy response to the crisis. But instead, the search for "scapegoats." The role of the perpetrators disperse and China, and the world health organization. "Pandemic rivalry" only enhances the confrontation in the world that is completely inappropriate for the existing conditions, requiring a unified approach to the solution of coronavirus impasse.

The participants in the discussion suggested that the BRICS is not going to become stronger at someone else's expense, relying instead on deepening their own partnership and dialogue with third countries and other integration formats.


1) Will the BRICS survive in pandemic coronavirus? 2) What will come of this Union out of the crisis? 3) And there is a feeling that the incoming BRICS countries combating coronavirus are on the principle of "a Swan, a Cancer Yes Pike"? Such issues "MK" asked the experts.

Timofey Bordachev, program Director of the club "Valdai"

1) Such phenomena never affect the formats of interstate cooperation, if countries in this, in principle, are interested. BRICS never set goals, do not take commitments that would be impossible because of the pandemic. I don't see the danger for the BRICS as for the format of the pandemic.

2) I think that the BRICS will intensify work on soft security, including health. It is clear that the who is unable to cope. Regional organisations such as BRICS, will have to play an increasingly important role.

3) First, unlike other States, the BRICS are not allowed respect each other no hostile actions or statements. The Americans stole Europeans have protection from the virus. The BRICS countries, on the contrary, help each other. Most importantly, health, safety of citizens is the duty of States, so the government of each of the BRICS is acting in accordance with the situation in the national level. Between the countries is the exchange of information, mutual technical and technological assistance to fight the impact of the pandemic.

Cui Zheng, the expert of the Valdai club, Deputy Director of the research Center for economy and policy of transition economies of Liaoning University of China

1) Of course, BRICS will survive, but only under the condition of sincere international cooperation.

2) BRICS cooperation in the fight against coronavirus may impact the U.S. position. In the international community, the United States together with some European countries to formulate the theory of the so-called "Chinese responsibility". The upcoming BRICS Summit may still be in a very unfavorable situation. In this case, it is very important the attitude of Russia towards China and the other BRICS countries. China is important to maintain relations with Russia for the BRICS summit and the SCO summit could come to the joint statement and specific cooperation measures.

3) Yes indeed, although India quickly took steps to prevent the spread of the epidemic, given its large population, medical conditions and uneven economic development, the country could become the next epicenter. In the process of preventing epidemics in Brazil have a situation very similar to the situation in the United States, the public pays more attention, but government action is weak. Therefore, when the government of India expressed dissatisfaction with the actions of the Chinese authorities during the struggle with the coronavirus, Brazil may accede to it. South Africa thanked the Chinese government and people for providing needed anti-epidemic materials. The biggest problem facing the government of South Africa is the spread of the epidemic in the country. The implementation of quarantine can solve this problem. South Africa has also gained valuable experience of the struggle of China to the epidemic. In the end I would like to note that viruses do not have borders. We need to defend the concept of community of human destiny, to strengthen international cooperation and jointly respond to challenges.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
NDB Board of Directors Approves USD 1 Billion Emergency Assistance Program Loan to India to Fight COVID-19 Outbreak (Совет директоров НБР одобрил выделение Индии в рамках программы помощи в чрезвычайных ситуациях сумму в 1 млрд. долларов США для борьбы со вспышкой COVID-19) / China, May, 2020
Keywords: ndb, investments, social_issues, covid-19

On April 30, 2020, the Board of Directors of the New Development Bank (NDB) approved USD 1 billion Emergency Assistance Program Loan to India. The Program is aimed at supporting the Government of India in its efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and reduce human, social and economic losses caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Program is the Bank's second emergency assistance program in response to helping its member countries to fight COVID-19. The Program's scope of financing includes Healthcare Sector Emergency Response and Strengthening Social Safety Net for expenditures already incurred since January 1, 2020 so far, and the expected public health expenditures for onward transmission containment up to the March of 2021.

The Program will contribute to providing critical healthcare resources and strengthening the social safety net in India. The positive impacts will include improving the resilience of public health sector and health emergency response systems, and facilitating socio-economic recovery in India.

In its Statement on Response to COVID-19 Outbreak, the NDB Board of Governors welcomed the establishment of an Emergency Assistance Facility to meet the emergency needs of the member countries of the Bank. Emergency loans to the member countries could be used to finance direct expenses related to the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak and provide support to governmental measures contributing to economic recovery.

Background Information

The NDB was established by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, complementing the existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development.

During the Fifth Annual Meeting of the NDB Board of Governors held virtually on April 20, 2020, the Governors of the Bank approved Statement on Response to COVID-19 Outbreak. In the Statement, the Board of Governors stressed that BRICS countries would unite to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
COVID-19 and Key Challenges to Russia's BRICS Presidency / Victoria Panova, H.H.S. Viswanathan (COVID-19 и основные вызовы президентству России в БРИКС / Виктория Панова, H.H.S. Висванатан) / Russia, April, 2020
Keywords: covid-19, chairmanship, expert_opinion

Russia's presidency of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) has been put to test by the COVID-19 crisis. As it reconsiders all planned future events, what are going to be Russia's priorities and challenges in the current year? Will the presidency address and adapt to the changing definitions of globalisation and multilateralism? Will Russia prioritise building capacity and infrastructure of the public health sector in the wake of the pandemic? Will it attempt to address and resolve the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, with cooperation from the BRICS nations? Will the BRICS nations come together to find efficient solutions to the pandemic through an exchange of best practices?

Scientific Supervisor of the BRICS Russia Expert Council Victoria Panova in her one-on-one conversation with Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation H.H.S. Viswanathan explores the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Russian presidency of BRICS and the possibility of redefined interactions within the BRICS nations for more viable, sustainable governance and solutions.

You can watch the conversatin's recording here on Facebook.
World of Work
BRICS Contact Group Meeting participants discuss common approaches to economic cooperation during the pandemic (Участники встречи контактной группы БРИКС обсуждают общие подходы к экономическому сотрудничеству в период пандемии) / Russia, April, 2020
Keywords: cooperation, covid-19

On 29 April 2020, the second meeting of the BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues under the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020 took place via videoconference and was chaired by Natalya Stapran, Director of the Department for Multilateral Economic Cooperation and Special Projects of the Russian Ministry of Economic Development.

Meeting participants presented national packages of measures to support the economy, as well as to lift the lockdown and self-isolation regime.

"We are facing a global crisis. Therefore, cooperation within BRICS requires urgent and coordinated response measures in order to protect the health and wellbeing of the citizens of our countries and to revive economic growth," Natalya Stapran said.

While discussing the new version of the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2025, BRICS partners expressed the need to include in the Strategy joint approaches to counter epidemics and overcome the economic consequences of the crisis like the current one.

Representatives of BRICS countries also discussed the issues of supporting a multilateral trade system, revealing the potential of the digital economy and implementing sustainable and inclusive development agenda in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. They also noted the need to provide transparency of all decisions taken regarding COVID-19 and active participation of all BRICS countries in monitoring these measures by the WTO.

They exchanged views on the impact of the coronavirus on MSMEs, including possible BRICS joint actions to support them amid the implemented measures to counteract COVID-19, the impact of the pandemic on trade and investment. The meeting gave specific attention to the prospects of easing the requirements for BRICS investors on foreign markets and creating a predictable and stable investment environment.

Inaugural BRICS manufacturing conference to investigate priority projects (Первая производственная конференция БРИКС для изучения приоритетных проектов) / South Africa, April, 2020
Keywords: cooperation, economic_challenges
South Africa

The establishment of the BRICS Manufacturing Working Group (MWG) subsequently gave birth to numerous priority projects identified across a number of the sub-clusters of the manufacturing sector.

Included in the MWG's priority projects are, among others, Electromobility Solutions; Smart Cities, Light Passenger Aircraft Manufacturing as well Exponential Manufacturing, Bio-Plastic Technologies and Project Thuthukisa.

But what do these projects seek to do? What is their current state and what progress has been made in achieving their mandates? Detailed progress reports on each of the Priority MWG Projects will form part of the plenary sessions at the inaugural BRICS Manufacturing Conference scheduled to take place in Johannesburg on 21 May.

Delivering the projects progress will be NAAMSA CEO Michael Mabasa, who heads the Electromobility Solutions Project; IBM SA COO Ziaad Suleman, who is responsible for the Smart Cities Project; Denel Auronautics Senior Marketer Lesetja Mogoba, who heads the Light Passenger Aircraft Manufacturing Project; Pelchem MD Ivan Radebe, who is responsible for Project Thuthukisa; and the Exponential Manufacturing Project's Head Johann van Tonder, among others.

According to the Chairman of the Manufacturing Working Group of the SA Chapter of the BRICS Business Council (BBC) Kaizer Nyatsumba, the Conference was born out of the need to help embattled South African manufacturing companies make better use of the country's existing relations with its fellow BRICS counterparts. He said the Conference is expected to be attended by captains of industry, policy makers and public sector representatives, amongst many other stakeholders.

"The manufacturing industry's contribution to the economy has been declining for the past two decades as a result of cheap imports from Asian economies, lacklustre domestic demand and rising operational and input costs.

"It is important, therefore, that domestic manufacturers should not only look beyond our borders if they are to survive and grow, but also be pathfinders of new sub- sectors, new innovations and new technologies. It is against this backdrop that we decided to host the conference, which aims to assist South African manufacturers to take better advantage of the opportunities presented by BRICS, amidst the slump that the economy currently finds itself in," Mr Nyatsumba said.

Other topics that will be discussed at the inaugural conference include "South African Manufacturers and the BRICS Business Council: The Manufacturing Working Group – Does it Matter?", "A Focus on Some of the Planned New Special Economic Zones" and "How South African Business Can Leverage BRICS Membership Better".

Mr Nyatsumba encouraged manufacturing industry stakeholders to attend the conference not only to be addressed by the speakers of the day, but also to make a contribution towards hammering out the necessary solutions that should contribute towards reversing the sector's fortunes.

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