Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 29.2017
2017.07.10 — 2017.07.16
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Valdai Paper #69. BRICS-Plus: Alternative Globalization in the Making? (Газета Валдая № 69. БРИКС-Плюс: альтернативная глобализация в процессе создания?) / Russia, July, 2017
Keywords: Yaroslav_Lissovolik, BRICS+, expert_opinion

Being in a low-growth trap the world economy desperately needs an impetus, a new driving force that the western-backed global institutions are lacking. In current circumstances, the BRICS block has a unique opportunity to offer an inclusive agenda for the world economy and, thus, to lead the evolution of global economic integration.

Given that the BRICS is a unique grouping that is present in all key regions and continents of the developing world, it could serve as a platform for expanding South-South cooperation and economic integration across a wide range of areas.

In this regard, rather that seeking to expand core membership, the BRICS+ construct is first and foremost about a different approach to economic integration and a different technology of how alliances are structured globally.

This Valdai Paper, written by Yaroslav Lissovolik, Programme director of the Valdai Discussion Club, describes the BRICS+ and the BRICS++ concepts in detail and discusses the modalities of how these blocks could pave the way to an alternative globalisation.
Border stand-off: Ajit Doval is likely to visit China for meeting of BRICS NSAs on July 26-27 (Противостояние на границе: Аджит Доваль, скорее всего, посетит Китай для встречи с БКСБ 26-27 июля) / India, July, 2017
Keywords: Gopal_Baglay, India_China, NSA_meeting

Asked whether the border stand-off was raised by Modi with Xi in Hamburg, Ministry of External Affairs' official spokesperson Gopal Baglay said, "I would leave it to your imagination and common sense on what should be covered in 'range of issues'."

WITH CHINA raising the pitch on the border stand-off over the last two weeks, India on Thursday maintained a measured tone, saying that diplomatic channels were "available" and were "being used" to address the situation. Sources told The Indian Express that National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is likely to visit China on July 26-27 for the BRICS NSAs' meeting hosted by his counterpart, Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi. Both are also the Special Representatives designated by their governments to discuss border issues.

New Delhi, meanwhile, also reiterated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping had a "conversation" on a "range of issues" on the sidelines of the BRICS leaders' meeting last week in Hamburg. The Chinese government had said that there was no official meeting between the two leaders.

Asked whether the border stand-off was raised by Modi with Xi in Hamburg, Ministry of External Affairs' official spokesperson Gopal Baglay said, "I would leave it to your imagination and common sense on what should be covered in 'range of issues'."

Elaborating on Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar's views in Singapore, that there was no reason why India and China will not be able to deal with border issues, Baglay said the two sides have accumulated a lot of experience from the past in addressing various issues.

Without commenting specifically on the aggressive opinion pieces and editorials run by the Chinese state-run media on the stand-off, Baglay said, "It is really not for me to comment on the editorials and opinion pieces appearing in the media. This matter that we are dealing with is a serious matter. It has implications for us, for a number of reasons. Therefore, we remain engaged in addressing that matter. We have outlined our approach… I would like to confine myself to what is the approach of the Government of India, what is our thinking in terms of addressing a situation, a dispute that we are dealing with right now."

On whether the Chinese government had changed its position, the MEA spokesperson said, "What I said was that you should look at the matter comprehensively. I said that last month we issued a statement which reflected our approach/position on that particular matter and also the larger issue. Then I said that there was a conversation between PM Modi and President Xi Jinping on a range of issues after the informal meeting of BRICS leaders at Hamburg on July 7. Then I said that diplomatic channels remain available… I would like to request you to see everything in a comprehensive manner."

Baglay also emphasised that the border has been peaceful in the recent past. "We have accumulated a lot of experience from the past — both sides — in addressing a number of matters. You know it and it has been said not only by us, but by others that the border has been peaceful and that is the result of the efforts of both sides to maintaining tranquility at the border," he said.

Asked about India's strategy following the Chinese statements, he said, "Obviously, I am not an astrologer so I can't predict what will happen tomorrow. But, I can certainly say that the approach that we had underlined and put out at the end of last month, that continues."

On Bhutan's role in the issue, Baglay said it would not be appropriate for him to comment on a "third friendly country".

Asked about China's statements on the situation along the LoC — it expressed willingness to play a "constructive role" — he said India's position on bilaterally resolving all matters with Pakistan, including the Kashmir issue, had not changed.Baglay said the central issue between the two countries was "cross-border terrorism perpetrated on India". "Terrorism was impacting peace in India and peace and stability in the entire region and the world," he said.

Baglay said the central issue between the two countries was "cross-border terrorism perpetrated on India". "Terrorism was impacting peace in India and peace and stability in the entire region and the world," he said.

Asked if Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi had informed the government about his meeting with the Chinese Ambassador, he replied in the negative and said that the MEA does not keep track of the activities of foreign embassies and did not deal with political parties.

This is the second official response from India on the issue over the last fortnight. On June 30, in its first statement after Chinese attempts to extend a road in the disputed Doklam area near Sikkim, the government had said that New Delhi has conveyed that such construction would represent a "significant change of status quo" with "serious security implications" for India.
China-India border dispute China-India border dispute could hurt summit of five emerging economies, analysts warn (Пограничные споры между Китаем и Индией могут нанести ущерб саммиту пяти стран с развивающейся экономикой, предупреждают аналитики) / China, July, 2017
Keywords: India_China, Xiamen_summit, expert_opinion

The stand-off between China and India in a disputed border area could overshadow the aims of the upcoming BRICS summit to boost economic growth and promote the status of emerging powers on the world stage, analysts said.

The two nations have been engaged in a dispute in the Dokalam area of the India-Bhutan-China tri-junction for over three weeks, after the Chinese military began work on a road construction project there.

China is set to host the ninth BRICS summit in the southeastern coastal city of Xiamen in September. But whether or not Beijing and New Delhi can contain the escalating crisis and maintain the unity of the bloc has yet to be seen, according to experts from the two sides.

"The level of uncertainty is increasing," said Pang Zhongying, a senior fellow at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao, Shandong province.

The recent conflict reflects the deep-seated strategic mistrust between the two countries, and "if the stand-off escalates or worsens, it might spill over into the BRICS summit and affect the effectuality of the group in shaping a new global order", he said.

The dispute has already had an impact on trade talks on farm products between the two countries. China recently deferred making a decision on whether to grant market access to Indian rice, beef, okra and pomegranates, while India opted to continue with its ban on imports of apples, pears, milk and dairy products from China, The Hindu reported on Thursday quoting government sources.

BRICS is an association of the world's five major emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – that was fully formed with the induction of South Africa in 2010.

Branded as a major platform to demonstrate the influence of rising powers, the group represents about 40 per cent of the global population and since the end of 2009 has accounted for about 50 per cent of global growth.

Manoranjan Mohanty, former chairperson of the New Delhi-based Institute of Chinese Studies, said that conflict between India and China presents a challenge for BRICS as a whole. Brazil, Russia and South Africa each have close ties with their two co-members, so a dispute between China and India must not be allowed to "derail the multilateral deliberations", he said.

"In the light of Brexit and Trump's assertions, the Xiamen summit should be a new phase for BRICS in taking the initiative on global governance," Mohanty said.

"If the leaders do not seize that opportunity they will be failing their historic mandate."

As a sign of goodwill amid the crisis in Dokalam, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met informally last week on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg. Modi took the opportunity to acknowledge the momentum BRICS had achieved under China's chairmanship this year.

Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said last week in Singapore that India and China had always managed to handle their border disputes in the past, so there was no reason why they would not be able to do so this time.

But on Wednesday, Beijing continued its hardline stance on the dispute, with foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang calling for Indian troops to retreat "without condition, immediately" from the area to resolve the issue "as soon as possible".

Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is expected to visit China on July 26-27 for the BRICS national security advisers' meeting hosted by his counterpart, Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi, The Indian Express reported, citing government sources. The two men are also special representatives designated by their governments to discuss border issues, the report said.

Sun Shihai, a researcher on South Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the upcoming BRICS summit might provide an opportunity for Xi and Modi to discuss the establishment of a road map for resolving future disputes.

Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, a research associate with National University of Singapore, said that the ongoing official communication between the two countries, as well as the continuation of all BRICS-related business – including ministerial meetings – indicate that Beijing and New Delhi are able to contain the crisis.

"Both countries are working through back channel diplomacy and established institutional mechanisms to iron out the differences," he said.

However, the border conflict should not be allowed to overshadow the main focus points of the BRICS summit, including "climate change, counterterrorism, financial inclusion, and cooperation in the fields of space, cybersecurity, research and innovation", he said.
Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
New Development Bank Considering Two Projects in Russia – President (Новый банк развития рассматривает два проекта в России - президент) / China, July, 2017
Keywords: NDB, investments

The New Development Bank (NDB) is studying two projects in Russia worth over half a billion dollars, the lender's chief said.

The NDB is considering two active projects in Russia, Kundapur Vaman Kamath, the bank's chairman, revealed.

"In Russia we have two active projects… [estimated at] $560 million, both of which are sovereign," Kundapur Vaman Kamath said at a video press conference from Shanghai, China.

He said the development bank also had projects in the rest of the five BRICS emerging economies — five sovereign ones in China worth $1.7 billion; six sovereign ones in India worth $1.8 billion; five sovereign and two non-sovereign ones in Brazil worth $800 million; and three non-sovereign projects in South Africa worth $1.2 billion.
BRICS not to break as standing together (БРИКС не cломается, пока стоит вместе) / Greece, July, 2017
Keywords: Expert_opinion

The concept of the "BRIC" began to affect the audiences in 2001 when economist Jim O'Neill first used the term referring to the emerging countries like Brazil, China, India and Russia combined. And later it was added with South Africa. The argument go that the relative size and share of the BRICs in the world economy would rise exponentially and gradually imply for the G-7, which is regarded as the economic hegemony of the West, to make a rearrangement of the world order.

In 2003 scholars like Dominic Wilson echoed the same thesis in the report on "Dreaming with BRICs: The Path to 2050" that in all likelihood by 2025 the BRICs could account for over half of the size of the G-7 in terms of GDP. And in less than 40 years the BRICs' economies together could be larger than the G-7. Although controversial as it was, the key underlying idea behind all discourses is that China and India will arise as the world's principal suppliers of manufactured goods and services, while Brazil and Russia will become similarly dominant as suppliers of raw materials. In addition, what the BRICs have in common is that they all have an enormous potential consumer market, complemented by access to regional markets and to a large labor force. It argues that three key issues that BRICs have to embrace for their partnership development are as follows: inclusive growth, sustainable solution and foreign policy, and the post-Western world.

In the long run, China as the second largest economy of the world has more expectation on the role played by the emerging powerhouses. During the 2017 G-20 Summit in Germany, the leaders of the BRICS nations held informal meeting reaching key consensus on building an open world economy and improving global economic governance. As scheduled to holding the rotating presidency of the BRICS bloc during September of 2017 in China, President Xi Jinping lost no time to reiterate that the member states would establish an open world economy, maintain a multilateral trade system and advance inclusive, balanced and win-win economic globalization. Only in so doing, is it possible to make the fruits of economic growth accessible for all people. Why has the BRICS nations highlighted the tenets of inclusiveness and multiple world order in their further work towards a common vision on critical international issues?

The BRICS nations are important not just because of their recent and current rapid development, but because of the predicated changes that are going to transform the global economy and even change the balance of global economic power. The 2007-2009 financial crises, regarded by many economists as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression in 1929, were relatively well withstood by the BRICS economies. As a result, this crisis reinforced the view that, though debatable, international economic institutions had to be reformed to reflect shifting economic power. Brazil and India had long demanded reform of international economic institutions as well as seat on the United Nations Security Council. So do China and Russia, although they have demanded from different perspectives. Little progress with UN reform were made since then, but considerable change occurred within the WTO, with Brazil and India becoming members of the inner negotiating circle, also being well-known as "new quad" along with the US and EU. For many, a major symbolic step occurred with the creation of the G-20 in 2008. As Andrew Hurrell put it, "The G-20 was a major symbolic of how the structure of global governance were shifting in response to the new geometry of power, and a sign of what the future would bring about." Obviously, all the BRICS nations are now the members of the G-20. At the time of economic globalization, the bargaining power of the BRICS nations' vis-à-vis U.S.-dominated global institutions is growing.

Second, there is no doubt that the BRICS member-states also have their own internal challenges and external divergences on many issues. The central point of the role of the BRICS nations in the world affairs is not where world order is now, but where it was going to in the next decades, to say by 2050. Building on the idea that "a shared voice is stronger than a single voice", the emerging powers realize that they need to cooperate in order to push forward their own agendas. Given this, the new forms of multilateralism led by today's emerging and regional powers—China, India, Brazil and Russia as well—have put the idea of globalism firmly back on the political and intellectual map. In his latest speech in Hamburg, President Xi highlighted the importance of the G-20 and in particular the BRICS in boosting international economic cooperation and improving global governance. At the same time, he also encouraged the BRICS nations to play a leading role in the support of developing countries, especially African ones in terms of infrastructure, mining and energy industries, since this is the practical way to help them make progresses in the highly interconnected world. Thanks to the growing clout of the BRICS nations, the leaders of the bloc agreed that they would keep the good momentum of deepening cooperation on politics, economy and people-to-people exchanges in order to push forward more substantial programs among the BRICS members, for example, the multilateral exchanges of culture and education.

It is held that the BRICS has primarily confined itself to economic issues, but political problems are also being discussed increasingly by the bloc leaders. This is because global issues like climate change, terrorism and growing inequality in the world are high on the agenda of each member-state. Particularly as China is about to become the largest economy of the world by replacing the US, Russia has stabilized economically and decreased its debt while India and Brazil have comparatively high GDP and a large middle class to uphold economic growth. Therefore, the common vision, coordination and cooperation have facilitate the BRICS to be more proactive and constructive on international political issues ranging from war on terrorism, and the Israeli—Palestinian conflict to more topical subjects like Syria, Afghanistan and the Iranian nuclear question and Africa.

The key concern remains how to validate the BRICS nations as a functional grouping rather than just a forum? Globally, it is vital for the BRICS to become a knowledge base for other developing countries in view of substantial and sustainable aid. Technically they should take up some areas like solar energy, ethanol, urban landscape, slum-alleviation, special economic zones, and biotechnology and share its best practices with southern countries. As different from the G-7, World Trade Organization and other Western institutions which are deemed to retain economic hegemony over the vast developing lands, the BRICS nations are committed to multilateralism and human development and social welfare in accordance with the outlines of the United Nations.

For sure, the BRICS still have long way to go in terms of massive education and technology innovation, not to mention the hidden concerns with China's economy towering over the rest of the BRICS states, particularly India and Russia. However, they have already advanced with huge strides in the multilateral direction. The disagreements remain between them, but all are aware that BRICS should not break as long as they stand together.

(*) Edward Lai, Lecturer at Dalian Maritime University, China
Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
BRIC tourists to South Africa recover in 2016, below 2013 levels (Поток туристов из БРИК в ЮАР восстанавливается в 2016 году, но ниже уровня 2013 года) / South Africa, July, 2017
Keywords: Statistics, tourism, SA_BRICS
South Africa

The release of the Tourism 2016 report by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) this week showed that although there was a strong rebound in last year due to the weak rand, which made a holiday in South Africa very cheap for an overseas tourist, the country was still suffering from the imposition of more stringent visa requirements.

The number of overseas tourists, in particular those from South Africa's BRICS partners, remained below their 2013 levels.

The release of the report also highlighted Stats SA's resource constraints as its budget has been cut by R400 million ($30.6 million) this fiscal year. The Tourism report this year was released in mid July, more than three months later than last year's report.

New visa regulations from October 2014 that required an in-person visit for biometric data to South African consulates for visitors from non-visa exempt countries such as China, Russia and India had an impact, but there were other factors at play as only one (The Netherlands) of the top ten overseas source countries showed an increase in 2014 compared with 2013.

The visa requirements were relaxed and the capacity to process them was improved in 2015 and 2016 in a belated attempt to mitigate the effects on the tourism industry. As ten tourists are estimated to create one job, the near 100,000 drop in BRIC tourist numbers from 359,429 in 2013 to 259,444 in 2016 has cost some 10,000 jobs at a time when the unemployment rate exceeds 27 per cent.

The Department of Home Affairs administers the visa requirements. Several countries such as Brazil and most European countries are exempt from visas provided they stay less than 90 days.

Visas are not issued at South African ports of entry, and airline officials are obliged to insist on visas before allowing passengers to board. If a visitor arrives without a visa, immigration officials are obliged to put the visitor onto a flight back to the country of origin.

Chinese plunge

South African hotel groups such as Southern Sun said the removal of South Africa from Chinese tour operator brochures due to the biometric requirements probably explained the 62 per cent plunge in Chinese tourists between November 2013 and November 2014. The annual decline was 45.1 per cent for 2014 after a 14.2 per cent increase in 2013, but in 2016 there was a 38.1 per cent recovery.

India overtook China as the leading BRIC source country in 2014 even though India is also not a visa exempt country, as tourists from India travel far less in tour groups, but rather as families and friends.

But there was still a 23.6 per cent decline to 85,639 in 2014. In 2016 there was a 21.7 per cent rebound and Tourism South Africa is currently busy with a major campaign in India to ensure that Indian tourists to South Africa exceed 100,000 in 2017.

Tourism South Africa has tied up with the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), and under this arrangement, more than 1,500 front-line agents are being trained to promote South Africa in India.

Hanneli Slabber, who is in her seventh year as country chief for Tourism South Africa in New Delhi, said that Indian tourists traveled to South Africa in the lean months, which helped balance out the tourism accommodation industry.

She pointed out that job creation and tour packages were important aspects of travel, not just numbers.

A matter of distance

Although Russian tourist arrivals grew by 14.7 per cent in 2016, they remain 38.1 per cent below the 2013 level.

Mikhail Petrakov, who has been Russia's ambassador to South Africa for five years already, said the main obstacle for growth in Russian tourists was the large distance between the two countries.

"I would dearly love to see more cultural exchanges and increased trade and tourism between South Africa and Russia, but the problem is that it expensive to bring the Kirov or Bolshoi ballet company out here for a tour of the country. We do have Russian companies investing in South Africa and South Africa runs a large trade surplus with Russia, so we have a base, but I would love to see our relationship deepen even further," Petrakov told The BRICS Post.

International tourist arrivals worldwide grew by 6 per cent in the first four months of 2017 compared to the same period last year, with business confidence reaching its highest levels in a decade, according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.

Sustained growth in most major destinations and a steady rebound in others drove results.
World of work
Social policy, trade unions, actions
Time to Restate the Organising Principles of BRICS - Samir Saran (Время для повторения организационных принципов БРИКС - Самир Саран) / India, July, 2017
Keywords: Expert_opinion

The text of the speech delivered by ORF Vice President Samir Saran at the inauguration of the 9th BRICS Academic Forum in Fuzhou, China

We, the BRICS Think Council met to take stock of all that transpired under the Indian leadership of BRICS in 2016 and to deliberate on what we would like our governments to pursue under the Chinese Presidency. We will, at the end of the two days, put forward an outcome document that will capture our wish list flowing from the conversations that will happen here. Each of you — through your presentations and interventions will co-author this document — so I encourage all to participate vigorously in the debates that lie ahead.

This is a special year. We are meeting at the 9th Academic Forum, and at the end of this year, we will be completing 10 years of our cooperation.

The BRICS next year will be turning 10 as an institution.

As we complete the first decade of this partnership, it is perfect moment to look back and look ahead. It is perhaps time to restate the BRICS agenda, relocate the role of BRICS in the world of today — that is changing fast — and reaffirm the organising principles that brought us together.

The BRICS agenda and its role must continue to be shaped by two words: "change" and "alternative".

We came together to change the lives of millions in our countries, and in countries around us, that have been left out of the economic mainstream and have been left behind. Their lives must change, their aspirations need to be catered to. We must consider their future to be ours. This ambition is now encapsulated in the SDG Goals and other development challenges that humanity has accepted as being vital. BRICS must lead this process with their energy and leadership, with their experience and resources and with compassion — a changed development paradigm must be at the core of the BRICS agenda for the next 10 years.

The second word we must always focus on is "alternative". We must achieve this change through alternate pathways, one that are inclusive, democratic, participatory and sustainable. A BRICS counter-narrative, an alternative must be crafted amongst the academic community. We are unlikely to change the world if we follow the same pathway that the developed world discovered. Be it healthcare or wellness , be it migration policies, be it the way we organise our cities and fuel them, educate our people and unleash their creative energies, we will need to discover and document BRICS solutions that will offer a counter point to the knowledge regimes that define the world of yesterday. And this must be a central quest of the BRICS academic community.

As we move towards being this force of positive change, we will need to create more institutions and frameworks to make it happen. The New Development Bank, the Contingency Reserve Arrangement are just the beginning. The BRICS institutionalisation would be a pre-requisite for its success. In 2016, the Indian Presidency recognised this to be the single most important aspect of BRICS development — it proposed research institutions, rating agencies, bodies that would strengthen trade and commerce and frameworks that would deepen intra-BRICS cooperation. This project must indeed be continued under the Chinese leadership as we move to South Africa in 2018.

I mentioned that we need to relocate BRICS in the new world. Indeed it is a new world, since we last met in New Delhi, change has swept through US and Europe and more change is coming. Some of the assumptions of the past decade around trade and globalisation may no longer be valid and nationalism and petty politics seems to be a secular phenomenon.

The BRICS leadership is needed at these times.

It seems BRICS will need to be the architects and new champions of a new format of multilateralism and indeed of globalisation 2.0.

As we infuse energy and leadership into these two processes, revitalise global trade, global financial flows, movement of people and ideas and indeed challenge the disruption to the process of global integration, it will require all of us to make a new case and a new blue print — where our individual roles and collective responsibilities will need to be reaffirmed. We will need to navigate this process through our own political systems, something that clearly is not easy for some of us.

A quick note of caution, even as we witness power vacuum and leadership gap, we must resist the temptation to fill those spaces with more of the same, The hegemonic structures and actors must not be replaced by a new hegemon. The paternalistic political structures must not be now owned by a different country or group of countries, otherwise we will not be agents of change and creators of counter-narratives. We will remain the servers of status quo and prisoners to power.

It is time to restate the organising principles of BRICS as I see them. Two factors more than any other have allowed us to come together and work together over the past 10 years.

Respect for sovereignty of each other, and those around us, and,

The common demand for pluralism and democracy in the conduct of international affairs.

BRICS has always respected sovereignty and sovereign equality. It is only here at BRICS that irrespective of our GDPs and military might, each of us have equal voice, equal voting rights and plural discursive space. We have respected each others' sovereign concerns admirably and we have served the cause of democracy in the conduct of international relations well. We have to preserve and re-serve these organising principles.
BRICS Inching Towards Complementarity - Neelam Deo (БРИКС: На пути к взаимодополняемости - Нилам Део) / India, July, 2017
Keywords: Expert_opinion

The annual BRICS Summit—to be held in September this year–is usually prefaced by numerous conferences that the host country organises at various official and unofficial levels, including those among the think tanks of the five countries, to refine some of the key issues feeding into the agenda that it prepares for discussion at the flagship event.

The theme for the 9th BRICS Summit, to be held in 2017, is 'Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future', and China, the host country, has set up several think tanks, institutions, and research centres in universities, solely for the study of BRICS, many of which have organised some high-quality interactions so far.

Similarly, in 2016, when India hosted the 8th BRICS Summit, on the theme, 'Building Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions', the government of India organised over 50 events to develop substantive 'action points' for the summit that could be followed up later. Such interactions in different cities achieve a dual objective: first, to identify the priorities of the host country's government, and second, to popularise the idea of BRICS within its own geography.

I was invited last month to participate in one of the several conferences of the BRICS 2017 Think Tanks Forum, held in Beijing, whose subject was, 'The Co-ordination of BRICS Development Strategies: Ways to Shared Prosperity'. It was jointly organised by the National Institute for Global Strategy (NIGS), the University of International Relations (UIR), and, in a first, Guangming, a think tank that also owns a local newspaper, which meant that journalists were present throughout.

At the conference, I was struck by the angst with which some of the members still questioned the viability of the BRICS grouping due to the immense diversity in the size of the countries, and their varying stages of development and degrees of industrialisation.

Another point of concern is their membership in regional groupings, like the South African Development Community (SADC), Mercosur, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and the Eurasian Union. As big countries, they also have leadership aspirations within these respective regional groupings.

That the members harbour distinct strategic objectives is also evident: China is a superpower, Russia is highly industrialised and also the second largest energy exporter in the world, India is growing rapidly, but Brazil and South Africa are mired in domestic political troubles. As commodity exporters, Brazil and South Africa are beneficiaries of China's economic expansion, but they are simultaneously distressed because their infant manufacturing industries, particularly shoes and readymade garments, are being ravaged by cheap Chinese exports.

To my mind, however, despite the very real differences, members of BRICS see themselves as a "not-Western grouping" but not "anti-West" in thinking. In addition, they share a broad agenda to influence and shape the present global governance structures.

One of the early achievements of BRICS was the broad international agreement to increase the voting share of developing countries in global institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, after that was stymied by the U.S. Congress, BRICS went ahead to create alternate financial institutions and frameworks like the New Development Bank (NDB), and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) parallel to the IMF-World Bank structure.

Although the theme at the Beijing BRICS Think Tank Forum was 'The Co-ordination of BRICS Development Strategies: Ways to Shared Prosperity', there were few concrete suggestions on how the development strategies of the members could be made more complementary to the common purpose.

The South African delegation brought up cross-cutting issues, such as social inequality, unemployment, and BRICS countries' membership in multiple regional organisations, which made it difficult to prioritise common strategic objectives.

The Russians pointed out that all the activity among the BRICS countries was on a bilateral, not multilateral basis, but they saw value in disseminating the soft power of member countries. They proposed collaboration in education and science, and the need to shape the global governance agenda by utilising the combined intellectual capacity of BRICS.

The Brazilian delegate had some specific recommendations, which included:

- developing a 'BRICS Credit Card', and leveraging the linkages of China's Belt and Road Initiative with the ASEAN countries and Eurasia, to popularise its use;

- creating a mechanism similar to Bitcoins for BRICS members;

- achieving common infrastructure policies by focusing on sustainability. One mechanism proposed for this was that the NDB and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in projects funded by them;

- fashioning a common stand on select issues, such as the problems in the Middle East and in UN bodies, recognising that it is not possible to take up sensitive issues, like Crimea and the India-China border;

- creating a common BRICS TV Channel, which disseminates content produced by the different member countries, such as CCTV (Chinese News Channel), RT (Russian Television Network), Bollywood films, African music and Brazilian soap operas to promote the BRICS's soft power.

The Chinese experts were keen on linking BRICS directly to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), citing the joint statement between Xi Jinping, and Vladimir Putin, in which Putin called Eurasian integration "a civilisational project for the future".

Since none of the other countries were keen on the Forum being subsumed by BRI, Chinese experts suggested a new 'Friends of BRICS' grouping, to include those seven G20 countries that are not a part of G7 or BRICS. This will mean associating countries like Argentina, Australia, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Turkey, with the BRICS Forums. However, even this was not uniformly agreed upon and the consensus principle under which BRICS operates, prevailed.

The Indian delegates argued for BRICS to move forward together on a consensus principle. My intervention was about recognising the growing importance of trade in services, which already constitutes one third of global trade, amounting to $4.4 trillion. As the most vibrant sector in most economies, its promotion could also address the common problems of unemployment and income inequality.

Commitments to trade in services are being gradually included in all the new bilateral, regional, and multilateral trade agreements. India's comprehensive trade agreements with Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Singapore already have commitments. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)of which india is a part, also have committments to trade in services. But at the multilateral level, the developed-country-promoted Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is the only comprehensive one. Since TiSA does not include BRICS, it is imperative that the BRICS countries support India's proposal for a Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in services that it submitted to the World Trade Organization in November 2016.

Unlike trade in goods, where border controls are of utmost importance, trade in services has to be regulated "behind the border" by domestic regulatory institutions. Therefore, it is important that a Trade in Services Facilitation Agreement is pursued by BRICS. Such an agreement gains urgency because more and more services are becoming tradeable across borders due to digitisation.

Since the negotiating process is complex and can be long drawn out, BRICS countries could begin, as a first step, to increase interaction among their regulatory authorities. Further, if BRICS regulators gain familiarity with each others' standards they can swiftly harmonise thier standards or sign Mutual Regulatory Agreements sooner. In turn, these will feed into the negotiations for an intra-BRICS Trade in Services Agreement.

The response to the suggestion for an intra-BRICS Trade in Services Agreement, as to those made by other participants, was lukewarm.

Although there was some overlap on issues like soft power, and the achievements remained meagre, the outcome of the conference was that it was useful in reducing differences. So far at least, while BRICS has a grand vision, there is inadequate identification of specific objectives. Once this is done, their implementation will bind the members together.

Neelam Deo is Co-founder and Director, Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations, Mumbai and is a former Indian Ambassador.
Young SA Scientists to Experience BRICS (Молодые ученые ЮАР наберутся опыта с БРИКС) / South Africa, July, 2017
Keywords: ASSAF, Young_Scientist_Forum
South Africa

At least ten young South African scientists and three senior researchers have been nominated by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAF) to attend the 2nd BRICS Young Scientist Forum in Hang Zhou, China this month.

In a statement released, the ASSAF said the joint venture with the Department of Science and Technology would see the talented young scientists' attend the forum themed - "Building Young Scientists' Leadership in Science, Technology and Innovation. Around 200 delegates from across the BRICS nations are expected to attend the forum.

The forum will comprise four thematic areas: energy, material, biotechnology & biomedicine, as well as one cross-cutting field of science, technology and innovation policies, science communication and science popularisation.

ASSAF said the forum would provide a high-level platform of academic and policy exchange for young scientists as well as scientific personnel from BRICS countries to help them grow their skills and improve academic and policy qualifications.

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