Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 30.2020
2020.07.20 — 2020.07.26
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
BRICS and COVID: Rising Powers in a Time of Pandemic (БРИКС и КОВИД: растущие силы во время пандемии) / India, July, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, covid-19

This is the first in a six-part series that will look at how the COVID-19 pandemic is playing out in the BRICS countries. Tomorrow: Russia.

By now we know that wherever it has appeared, the SARS-CoV-2 virus seeks out and travels along all of the known and concealed fault lines in society, that regime responses are shaped by existing politics but often assume a more extreme form, and that the conditions of fear and isolation make democratic mobilisation extremely difficult. While this is true for all countries, there is some logic to looking at the five BRICS members together.

For some time now, discussions about global political and economic change have been centred on the role played by the so-called rising powers in the world-system – and the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) in particular. For some, the rise of the BRICS countries heralded the coming of a post-western world in which Euro-American hegemony in the world-system is a thing of the past. For others, the emergence of the rising powers was propelling a new development model that departs from neoliberal orthodoxies by bringing back public welfare and active state intervention in the economy. "Not since the days of the Non-Aligned Movement and its demand for a New International Economic Order in the 1970s," Radhika Desai argued in the context of the 2013 BRICS summit in Durban, "has the world seen such a co-ordinated challenge to western supremacy in the world economy from developing countries."

However, the BRICS countries are hardly a homogenous bloc. On the contrary, the grouping is arguably frayed by divergent economic and political trajectories. What is more, the narrative of a 'rising South' jars with the reality of how the growth processes that have fuelled the rise of the BRICS are shot through with economic and political fault lines. First of all, the emergence of the rising powers has been coeval with the surfacing of a new geography of global poverty, in which more than 70% of the world's poor now live in middle-income countries. Indeed, impressive growth rates notwithstanding, the southern BRICS countries (Brazil, India, China, and South Africa) are home to more than 50% of the world's poor.

Persistent poverty is closely related to very deep and, in most cases, widening inequalities. South Africa is, of course, a case in point here – recent research shows that the top 10% earn 65% of all income and own 85.6% of all wealth – but other BRICS countries follow closely behind. In Russia, for example, the top decile of wealth holders controls 77% of all household wealth, a level of inequality that is equal to that of the US, while in India also the top 10% of the population holds 77% of the total national wealth. What these numbers reveal is the fact that, in the BRICS countries, large numbers of people are relegated to the margins of current growth processes as a result of a lack of access to secure and decent livelihoods, absence of basic social protection and essential public services, and exclusion from established political processes.

The diversity of locations in the global political economy included in the BRICS countries, together with the similarity of the broad trends outlined above, make for a compelling set of comparisons in relation to the political economy of a pandemic at this time of world system shifts and contestations. Above all else, the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic shutdown have laid the fault lines of current growth processes abundantly bare. Indeed, new research shows very clearly that poverty is set to rise dramatically in the global South, and this is directly related to the deeply precarious nature of work and livelihoods. The articles in this series explore three dimensions of the crisis across the BRICS countries.

Firstly, the pandemic creates a new political situation in each of these countries, which presents governing regimes with challenges and opportunities as they navigate the complex interface between public health measures and economic measures. How well do they do this, do they emerge strengthened or weakened? Does the crisis present challengers with new opportunities? Does it provide regimes with the opportunity to increase repression?

We demonstrate that in all these cases the pandemic has provoked a more extreme version of existing regime politics.

For example, China's initial attempts to conceal the outbreak followed by an extraordinary mobilisation of resources to contain it is consistent with its interests as an emerging superpower whose internal legitimacy and external stature rests on its technocratic prowess in delivering economic growth, the safety of citizens, and preventing dissent.

South Africa's recent return to neoliberal orthodoxy dictated its adoption of a 'global best practice' lockdown tailored for the wealthy societies of the West rather than its own fractured society and state, and then abandoned this for a shambolic reopening of the economy which may weaken President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Right-wing nationalist regimes have fared worse. Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro has attempted to deny the existence and seriousness of the pandemic with devastating consequences for those he hopes to crush, and his growing isolation from the elites. In India, Narendra Modi has used the crisis to consolidate his Messiah-like image in the public sphere, and there is much that suggests that this has at least been partly successful. In Russia, similarly, it is unlikely that the pandemic will destabilize Vladimir Putin's rule in any substantial way.

Secondly, how does the pandemic affect the dominated classes? It does, of course, have a devastating impact on livelihoods. In fact, in all of the BRICS countries the working poor, precarious and informal workers and unemployed have to bear the brunt of both the pandemic itself, and economic devastation. However, the question is also whether or to what extent these scenarios lead to relief measures and expanding welfare initiatives from above, or whether the crisis is characterised by brutal indifference to the suffering of the poor.

South Africa's response was to allocate resources for grants and food parcels for the poor and retrenched workers, but state institutions broken by 10 years of corruption failed to deliver. The Modi regime in India has systematically disregarded the needs of the country's most vulnerable citizens. The result has been nothing short of a humanitarian crisis. In Brazil, public pressure forced Bolsonaro to order financial relief for the poor, but his brutal indifference to the pandemic is devastating poor communities. In Russia, many vulnerable groups are falling through the cracks of a limited welfare system, and voluntary efforts are unlikely to remedy these shortcomings. In China, the regime's systematic response appears to have protected its citizens, but the comprehensive control over information means it is difficult to tell the situation on the ground, and particularly in the repressed populations of Tibet and Xinjiang.

This takes us to our third dimension: what is the popular response to this crisis and the politics of the regime? Do old and new movements and popular initiatives respond in innovative ways to the crisis? Do they focus on mobilising relief for the poor and marginalised communities? Do they attempt to work with the regime or challenge its responses? To what extent do new demands emerge from below in response to popular desperation?

These questions are important, as inequality and precarity had already thrown up political convulsions across the BRICS countries before the COVID-19 pandemic. In the current situation, the BRICS countries exhibit a wide range of popular responses.

In India, there have been scattered protests by desperate migrant workers and extensive relief work by activist and civil society networks, but little by way of sustained organised protest, given the repressive conditions of the lockdown.

South Africa, in contrast, has seen vibrant organising and mobilising at local levels but unable to achieve the kind of national coordination activists aspire to.

In Russia, protests against the government's handling of the pandemic have taken a variety of forms, ranging from online live-streams to mass gatherings, while Russian authorities have responded with a mix of co-optation and repression.

In Brazil, movements and activist networks have organised mutual solidarity, educating, organising food supplies, and demanding healthcare, but with no connection to or response from left-wing parties or Bolsonaro.

The Chinese government tolerated the efforts of volunteers to support health workers in China, but has tightened its repressive control of the Internet, information, and the revolt in Hong Kong, where activists and the general public provided a coordinated response to the pandemic in the face of its battered authorities' inaction.

What the contributions in this collection of articles bring out, then, are the many ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened existing fractures and fault lines in the political economies of the rising powers in the world-system. And significantly, this complex and contradictory scenario will also be the terrain upon which social movements will organise and mobilise for years to come. Whether or not these movements will be able to chart out alternative developmental pathways that are less unequal and less precarious than those which the BRICS countries have pursued so far, of course, remains to be seen.

What is clear, however, is that this is a moment in which it is imperative to raise an array of critical questions about the nature of growth processes in the BRICS countries. This is necessary both in order to unsettle those narratives that too easily and one-sidedly see the rise of the BRICS as a progressive shift in the world-system, and – to paraphrase the British cultural theorist Raymond Williams – to make hope practical, rather than despair convincing. We hope the perspectives offered in this collection go some way towards that end.

Alf Gunvald Nilsen is professor of sociology at the University of Pretoria; Karl von Holdt is at the Society Work and Politics Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

This collection of articles comes out of a collaborative project comparing neoliberal politics and social movement responses in the BRICS countries, generously supported by the National Institute for the Humanities and the Social Sciences (NIHSS) in South Africa.

Satisfied with India's cooperation in BRICS, says Russia (Россия довольна сотрудничеством Индии в БРИКС) / India, July, 2020
Keywords: cooperation, quotation, covid-19

New Delhi/Moscow, July 23 (IANS) Over a month after the India-China faceoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, Russia on Thursday said that it is satisfied with India's cooperation at BRICS -- the multilateral forum which includes China.

In a webinar on 'Russia-India Relations and Pandemic Test of Global Governance', Russian Ambassador to India, Nikolay R. Kudashev, said, "We are very satisfied with the cooperation with India in the bilateral format as well as in the framework of BRICS, especially amid the Russian Chairmanship in the grouping in 2020."

The Covid-19 threat, he said, represents the opportunity to unite the efforts against the common challenge.

"That is why the relevance of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) is growing, offering platforms for dialogue on a wide range of issues of global and regional cooperation, as well as practical partnership between the five nations," he said.

BRICS, he said, was not invented to fight or contain anyone, rather than to support the efforts of the international community on the issues related to peace and sustainable development, democratisation of global governance, financial and economic architecture reform, and promotion of humanitarian contacts.

The ambassador said that Russia was against any unilateral geopolitically motivated actions and illegal extraterritorial sanctions, which create instability, mistrust and unpredictability. He, however, did not specify whom he was alluding to.

"This shared approach is vividly materialised in our growing coordination in various UN bodies, G20, East Asian Summit, OPCW and other structures. We proceed from the understanding that search for the unifying agenda and expansion of the common ground to find solutions for global challenges," he said.

Kudashev said that there are increasing expectations from India -- as a non-permanent member at the UN Security Council (UNSC) next year -- that it will further enhance its coordination within BRICS on the current international agenda.

"We believe that moving towards these tasks we will approach the upcoming summit of BRICS in St. Petersburg this autumn with solid achievements and plans, which would lay ground for the coming Indian chairmanship in the grouping in 2021," he added.

The Covid-19 outbreak brought a lot of changes, he said, adding that this is a challenge for international relations as well.

"It is particularly important that the principles, which represent the basis of our special and privileged strategic partnership, remain unchanged: Mutual respect, commitment to the central role of the UN, etc.," he said.

Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, Russia and India are "together moving towards just and equal multipolar world", he said.

At the same time, it is equally important that the future of the world should be based on international law and clear principles of the UN Charter, he added.

Piyush Goyal calls for building trust for trade at BRICS meeting (Пиюш Гоял призвал укреплять доверие к торговле на встрече БРИКС) / India, July, 2020
Keywords: top_level_meeting, trade_relations, quotation

Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal called upon BRICS nations to enhance transparency in trade and build trust to prevent losing their role of preeminent trade partner. Goyal's comments came during the 10th meeting of trade ministers attended by member countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—on Thursday.

"It is trust and transparency which determines the sustainability of global supply chains and nations must demonstrate their compliance with global rules of trade to remain a part of global trade flow. Increasingly, nations which trust each other are coming together to build global supply chains with corresponding investments in manufacturing and services," a commerce ministry statement said, quoting Goyal.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, had highlighted the importance of trust in building trade relations between countries during his address at India Ideas Summit organized by the USIBC forum on Wednesday.

Referring to Covid-19 outbreak and its impact on the economy, he said trade can be an engine of reviving growth premised on strengthening of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) based on its principles of openness, fairness, transparency, inclusivity, and non-discrimination.

He called for removing multiple hurdles to accessing medicines at affordable prices created by lopsided WTO rules for protecting intellectual property. "IPRs [intellectual property rights] should not block access to critical medicines and other devices required for the treatment of disease," he said.

Goyal said the pandemic has paradoxically provided nations a window of opportunity to add strength by building capacities, expanding manufacturing as well as by plugging into the global value chains. "As BRICS members are among the most affected countries in the world, we must collectively demonstrate a determined will to emerge stronger, while being prepared to face any such unknown crisis," he said.

The multilateral rules-based trading system is facing serious and grave challenges, including a spate of unilateral measures and countermeasures, deadlock in key areas of negotiations and an impasse in the appellate body, the minister said.

Also Read: Northeast has potential to become India's growth engine: PM Narendra Modi

He said the WTO reform process should take into account the existing realities in the world and should, therefore, be inclusive, balanced and consensus based, leading to prosperity for all.

"It is disheartening that we are seeing some proposals at the WTO seeking to ride on the pandemic for pursuing commercial ends. It will essentially support the quest of developed countries' firms to have unhindered access to the markets in developing countries, while putting constraints on developing countries to establish domestic manufacturing capacities," he said.

Describing 2020 as a turning point in the history of multilateralism, especially for the BRICS grouping, the minister said that any economic partnership must keep in mind the different size and population of each country, unequal levels of economic development and human development indicators, contrasting levels of prosperity, cultural diversity and significantly different political and judicial systems.

"We place humanity at the centre of our global engagement and thus despite being hit hard by the virus ourselves, we have not shied away from providing humanitarian relief to those who sought it," he said. India provided critical medical supplies to around 150 countries in these troubled times.

As the 'Pharmacy of the World' we have catered to the spike in demand for drugs such as Hydroxychloroquine and Paracetamol being used for the treatment of Covid-19, he added.

Talking about India's proactive role in assessing and dealing with the challenges caused by the pandemic, he said saving lives has been India's highest priority.

"Despite being home to nearly 17% of the world population, we have only 8% of Covid-19 affected patients worldwide. Under the leadership of Hon'ble Prime minister Narendra Modi, we implemented one of the severest lockdowns at an early stage thereby breaking the coronavirus transmission chain and prepared the country to become self-reliant in covid care facilities," he said.

"We have done significantly better than many other countries, with a lower death rate and higher recovery rate," he added.

Speaking about the steps taken to mitigate the economic challenges posed by the pandemic and bringing the economy back on track, Goyal said the Prime Minister announced a stimulus package of over $300 billion, called 'Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan' (Self-reliant India Initiative). He said the edifice of this mission stands on five pillars of the economy -- massive infrastructure building, technology, aspects of good governance, leveraging the demographic dividend, and promoting demand.

Meeting of BRICS foreign ministers to be held in September (Встреча министров иностранных дел стран БРИКС состоится в сентябре) / China, July, 2020
Keywords: foreign_ministers_meeting

BEIJING, July 24 (Xinhua) -- According to Russian arrangements, a formal meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs will be held in early September, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Friday.

Wang said as the current international situation is complicated, China looks forward to exchanging views with other parties on prominent challenges facing the international community at this meeting, and preparing for the leaders' summit.

Noting the meeting of BRICS economic and trade ministers was held on Thursday, Wang said the ministers of the five countries agreed that while facing the severe situation of increasing downside risks to the world economy, the BRICS countries should persist in cooperation, overcome difficulties, strengthen cooperation in the supply and value chains, jointly safeguard the multilateral trading system, avoid unilateralism and protectionist measures, support the necessary reforms of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of developing members.

The BRICS countries are emerging markets and major developing countries with global influence, the spokesperson said. He added that under the current situation, the five countries, by upholding the BRICS spirit of openness, inclusive and win-win cooperation and enhancing unity and cooperation in trade, will not only boost economic recovery at home, but also help ensure the safe and smooth operation of global industrial and supply chains, and bring the world economy out of the shadows at an early date. Enditem

The Perfect Brazilian Storm (Идеальный бразильский шторм) / Russia, July, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, covid-19, political_issues
Author: Pepe Escobar

Brazil is facing a lethal trifecta: an interlocking politico-institutional, economic and sanitary crisis. A liquidity crisis and a currency crisis constantly feed on the political crisis, aggravated by the long running — and itself corrupted — Car Wash corruption investigation, writes Pepe Escobar, Brazilian author and journalist, columnist of the Hong Kong-based Asia Times.

On June 19, Brazil broke a grim record: one million Covid-19 registered cases — more than fellow BRICS member Russia and India combined.

That was the graphic result of supremely inefficient public health policies coupled with a hasty exit from partial lockdown — with President Bolsonaro relentlessly sabotaging its own Health Ministry and medical professionals, claiming quarantine would reduce Brazil to the status of a "poor African nation".

When Bolsonaro, in April, sacked then popular Health Minister Henrique Mandetta, he said, "life is priceless, but economy and jobs must be back to normal". Mandetta's successor, Nelson Teich, would resign less than a month later.

Real Covid-19 mortality figures in Brazil may in fact be over 85,000, as of late June, and the real infection rate may be 7 times higher than official numbers. In comparison, neighbor Argentina, by the end of June, had roughly 52,000 infections and only 1,150 deaths.

Brazil is facing a lethal trifecta: an interlocking politico-institutional, economic and sanitary crisis. A liquidity crisis and a currency crisis constantly feed on the political crisis, aggravated by the long running — and itself corrupted — Car Wash corruption investigation.

Bolsonaro, in theory, keeps an electoral base of roughly 30%, even as in May no less than 19 million of Brazil's 84.4 million-strong workforce was idle. Brazil used to be globally recognized in its efforts to fight hunger. Now the World Bank estimates that at least 7% of the population will be affected by hunger by the end of 2020.

Workers' rights and social rights have been rendered more "flexible, which translates as jobs in constant peril and larger swathes of the population depending on the informal economy. Brasilia's neoliberal logic is that the nation is going through a fiscal crisis and the market must prevail by all means necessary over social policies.

The hunger crisis already preceded Covid-19. Brasilia's incompetence only accelerated it — as the central government is completely unprepared to deal with systemic food insecurity.

Compounding the misery, Bolsonaro's Environment Minister, Ricardo Salles, suggested that Covid-19 provides the perfect cover for even more savage forms of deregulation. EU investors were not amused:

"[We] urge the government of Brazil to demonstrate clear commitment to eliminating deforestation and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples."

And if all that was not already gloomy enough, the Senate voted to privatize Brazil's waters — subject to Bolsonaro's certain approval.

Brazil holds two of the largest aquifers on the planet — Guarani and Alter do Chao. The privatization project came up with the dodgy figure of the "water producing enterprise" — which defines the mode of exploitation of what is essentially a common good.

Once again, Covid-19 was the pretext for a majority bought and paid for in the Senate to advance a rip-off of natural resources — endorsed by mainstream media — that may even dwarf vast amounts of protected Brazilian rainforest being bought by foreign capital, which then employs legions of miners and loggers for the benefit of international mining, beef, lumber and soy conglomerates.

I love a man in uniform

Politically, Covid-19 has been a bonanza for the military factions of the Brazilian Deep State. Their apex is the Cabinet of Institutional Security (GSI, in its Portuguese acronym), the equivalent of the US National Security Council, staffed by 1,300-plus military.

As Brazil is a federal republic, states carry plenty of autonomy over public health issues. Governors have unashamedly used Covid-19 to advance their political agendas, profiting from Bolsonaro's inexistent managerial powers, while the bulk of mainstream media — also part of the Deep State — depicts the President as the sole responsible for the sanitary catastrophe.

Then there's the Judiciary branch of the Deep State. The Supreme Court is at war with the President, to a certain extent because most magistrates have been nominated by previous presidents such as Lula.

Yet what's actually taking place is an endless fascinating, elaborate kabuki, complete with interlocking Hybrid War and cognitive dissonance techniques, sometimes trackable at the premier military think tank. Every scenario ultimately leads to the military exercizing total power, either in the shade, behind an out of control, but in fact remote-controlled Bolsonaro, or via Plan B: the accession of power of Vice-President Hamilton Mourao, a four-star general, now clearly relishing his role as moderator and pacifier.

Unlike in Argentina, the Brazilian military dictatorship did not implode in 1985; in a very cozy Brazilian-style "arrangement", it decided to transfer power to civilians and adopt the posture of a "moderating power". But not before they had guaranteed full amnesty for themselves.

For 35 years the military have kept a relatively low profile — even under Lula, which most considered a dangerous communist. Now that's over. Unlike swathes of governors, judges and mainstream media journalists, the military understand very well how solid is Bolsonaro's base.

This is a nation in which half of the population lives with the equivalent of 80 euros a month — less than half the minimum wage. Only 15% are enrolled via a standard job contract, and thus eligible for unemployment insurance. At least 45 million people don't even have a current account.

Crucially, over 40 million people fall into the informal economy — barely surviving only because of what they earn on a daily basis, and now in danger because of the anti-pandemic restrictions. Almost 100 million people — which amounts to nearly half of the total population — are in debt.

As a palliative, Brasilia came up with the "coronavoucher": a monthly hand out for the equivalent of 100 euros, roughly 60% of the minimum wage. Over 50 million Brazilians benefitted, and that may rise to 80 million. It works through a simple app. That has been essential for Bolsonaro's popularity to relatively hold among vast swathes of the lumpen proletariat and even across the Northeast — the traditional stronghold of the Workers' Party.

Bolsonaro also continues to be supported by yet another crucial Deep State faction: the evangelical masses that keep spreading across the largest Catholic nation on earth. So, to a large extent, the traditional catholic pietas keeps being replaced by a bastardized Protestant ethic — where the economy prevails and tens of thousands of Covid-19 deaths are accepted as a fact of life.

For all of Bolsonaro's cartoonish, quasi-fascist outbursts and his colossal incompetence, he remains supported by the powerful Bible, Beef, Bullet lobby as much as when he was elected. Evangelicals, wealthy landowners, Armed Forces and police don't have the impression their agendas are being compromised.

Vast sections of working Brazilians are engaged against social distancing — once again privileging the opening of the economy, just as in Trumpist America. Rumors of a coup or a "self-coup" in Brasilia keep fooling the Brazilian Left over and over again. Yet whatever happens, even considering the dire scenario of a Covid-19 second wave, power in Brazil, as it stands, stays immovable. And under full control by the Men in Uniform.
BRICS Economy and Foreign Trade Ministers to discuss measures to overcome economic consequences of the novel coronavirus pandemic (Министры экономики и внешней торговли стран БРИКС обсудят меры по преодолению экономических последствий новой пандемии коронавируса) / Russia, July, 2020
Keywords: top_level_meeting, trade_realtions, covid-19

The 10th Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Economy and Foreign Trade, to be held on 23 July 2020 via videoconference, will be chaired by Mr Maxim Reshetnikov, Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation.

The event will discuss such key topics as BRICS measures to overcome economic consequences of the novel coronavirus pandemic, support for the multilateral trading system and the WTO reform, investment facilitation, support for small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as the economic development of remote areas. The meeting participants will pay special attention to the updated Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2025, a key document defining the goals and objectives of economic cooperation within the five countries in the near future.

BRICS Ministers of Economy and Foreign Trade are expected to adopt a Joint Ministerial Communique, a Joint Statement on support for the multilateral trade system and the WTO reform, as well as other framework documents on cooperation among BRICS countries in a number of spheres of economy.

SA shares Coronavirus experiences with BRICS (ЮАР делится опытом борьбы с коронавирусом со странами БРИКС) / South Africa, July, 2020
Keywords: covid-19, social_issues, top_level_meeting
South Africa

South Africa has shared its COVID-19 experiences with fellow BRICS member countries.

Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel shared South African experiences of the pandemic during the 10th BRICS Trade Ministers Meeting on Thursday.

Minister Patel outlined national interventions and actions. He also highlighted key lessons that government is drawing from the Coronavirus crisis and how that is shaping thinking about the future.

Patel said government is considering further economic measures, including significant infrastructure investment and developing greater levels of dynamism and competitiveness in the domestic industry.

The Minister highlighted two key observations from South Africa's experience in dealing with the pandemic.

"The first observation is that solidarity and working together is critical in fighting a pandemic. And, as the pandemic is still with us, we need to now further strengthen the solidarity between ourselves: for example in securing critical goods from each other where no local manufacturing capability currently exists," he said.

He also spoke of the need to promote investment in BRICS economies so as to fast-track economic recovery.

The second observation he shared with his BRICS counterparts is that the benefits of highly integrated supply-chains come with enormous vulnerabilities when they are disrupted.

"African countries are learning the hard lesson that if we are simply exporters of raw materials and importers of medication, medical equipment and other critical goods, then our ability to ensure protection of citizens in moments like these is compromised," said Patel.


He added that building resilient and diversified supply-chains must include building domestic manufacturing capabilities as part of building new, inclusive supply-chains.

"An inclusive supply-chain means that manufacturing capacity is diversified across countries and South Africa, and indeed the African continent, is ready to expand production for both existing product lines and new product opportunities," he said.

However, this does not entail disengaging from global trade, investment and cooperation. These, he said, remain important sources of growth and development.

"However, we do not think it wise or the right time to consider new binding global or plurilateral rules in haste at a time of such crisis. We need to retain flexibility to respond with all available policy tools to address the crisis and effect economic recovery."

The meeting also focused on responses to the Coronavirus pandemic, the strategy for the BRICS Economic Partnership, the Multilateral Trading System and other key areas of cooperation.


In the G20 and at the World Trade Organisation, South Africa called for a discussion on the relationship between TRIPS (the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) and COVID-19, arguing that affordable access to technology to produce critical medical supplies remains important.

The South African government has argued that the provisions of the TRIPs Agreement on patents and compulsory licensing should not be barriers to sharing the technology (without royalty) to produce the medical equipment needed to address the crisis.

BRICS countries are an important trading block partner for South Africa, with exports to BRICS countries from South Africa totalling nearly R500 billion in 2019.

In the 10 years since its inception, BRICS cooperation has expanded to many areas, including economy, trade, finance, business, agriculture, education, health, science and technology, culture, think tanks, and friendship cities.

BRICS is the association of the five major emerging countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. -

BRICS trade ministers to discuss COVID-19 (Министры торговли стран БРИКС обсудят COVID-19) / South Africa, July, 2020
Keywords: top_level_meeting, covid-19, trade_relations
South Africa

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to form part of today's BRICS Trade Ministers meeting.

South Africa's Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel is set to participate in the virtual meeting.

"The Trade Ministers Meeting will focus on responses to the Coronavirus outbreak, the strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2025, the Multilateral Trading System and other key areas of cooperation," said the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (dtic) ahead of the meeting.

Patel said BRICS is an important forum for dialogue and cooperation on matters of common interest.

"BRICS provides a platform for cooperation to build trade and investment flows, including a focus on more balanced trade, and higher value-added products," said Patel.

Minister Patel said safeguarding the global economy will require enhanced collaboration to manage debt reduction and ensure a sustainable economic recovery.

BRICS is the association of the five major emerging countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa .
Brazil-Ukraine relations are on the rise (Бразильско-украинские отношения на подъеме) / Brazil, July, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues

Uriel Araujo, researcher with a focus on international and ethnic conflicts.

Brazil-Ukraine relations are indeed on the rise. For instance, the trade turnover between Ukraine and Brazil (in 2019) increased by 21.5% (compared to the previous year). Ukrainian exports, in their turn, grew by almost 65%, and Brazilian imports by 11.8%. Last year, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro met with then president Poroshenko (in Davos) and voiced his support for Ukrainian "territorial integrity". In October 2019, Bolsonaro met current president Volodymyr Zelensky to discuss space industry cooperation and other issues. But there have also been some other interesting political developments.

The political situation in Brazil is getting more and more polarized, as opposition to Bolsonaro grows and demonstrators pro and against him often clash in the streets. Interestingly, key Bolsonaro supporters have been calling for a Brazilian "Maidan". They have appropriated it as a symbol and a model in their protests against corruption and against Brazilian institutions such as Congress and the Supreme Court. Famous Brazilian activist Sara Geromini (nicknamed "Sara Winter), for example, has been calling for the "ukrainization" of Brazil during protests. The president himself has attended such rallies. Ms. Geromini, who has recently been put under house arrest, is a former member of FEMEN (and claims to have been trained as an activist in Ukraine). Olavo de Carvalho has also been calling for such "ukrainization". Mr. Carvalho is a controversial Brazilian intellectual who currently lives in the US and who has met with Steve Bannon. Carvalho is considered to be a sort of "guru" to Bolsonaro and he has even personally influenced the nomination of the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araújo, for instance.

Furthermore, since last month, some of such demonstrators have been displaying Pravyi Sektor flags in their rallies – even at the Paulista avenue (Sao Paulo's main avenue). Curiously, one such activist, Brazilian citizen Alex Silva, who lives in Ukraine but has been in Brazil since March, owns a security firm that trained paramilitary groups in Ukraine during the so-called Maidan revolution. The Brazilian media picked on this fact and such flags have been described as "Nazi" flags. In response, the Ukrainian Ambassador in Brazil, Mr. Rostyslav Tronenko, gave an interview to CNN Brazil denying it and bitter controversy ensued.

Pravyi Sektor, of course, originated in 2013 as a paramilitary grouping of a number of Ukrainian nationalist organizations which included also neo-nazi groups. Scholar Volodymyr Ishchenko, for instance, describes Pravyii Sektor as such. It was very active during Maidan and also took part in paramilitary operations in the Donbass war.

Meanwhile, such incidents have the potential to harm Russian-Brazilian relations – and, ironically even Israeli-Brazilian relations. Russia is of course a key Brazilian partner and both countries are part of the BRICS group. However, Brazil's alignment with the US on the Caracas issue has been a hot topic.

Bolsonaro's foreign policy is clearly centered in establishing very good relations with the US and Israel. It thus makes sense to distance itself from China and Russia. But such approach is not working so well for Brazil. Time and time again, Bolsonaro has given too much to the US and has gotten nothing in return – for example, this year he exempted US citizens from applying for a Brazilian visa but Brazilians shall still be required to do so to travel to the US.

In the same way, Bolsonaro is well known for his strongly pro-Israel stance (which is supported by part of his Evangelical base. Brazil remains a Catholic country, but Pentecostalism is on the rise). For example, he planned to relocate the Brazilian Embassy in Israel from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, which caused something of a turmoil amongst Brazilian diplomats and the military – for it could indeed harm Brazil's traditional relationship with the Arab world. Bolsonaro's Brazil has even been described as "Israel's new best friend". Even so, some tensions occur. For example, when the former Culture Secretary Roberto Alvim gave a speech echoing Goebbels, on February. The latest controversy (over supposedly "Nazi" flags) certainly does not help.

Meanwhile the Brazilian government has been trying hard to attract launch businesses – with a focus on the Alcântara launch site. Last month, Brazil launched a Basic Training Rocket in Alcântara as part of Operation Falcon I. In fact, Brazil and Ukraine used to have a joint venture to launch rockets there, however Ukraine left the project after some technical problems (in 2015). Zelensky has recently suggested to restart this space project.

The truth is that Brazil is more and more isolated in the international sphere – due to Bolsonaro's pandemic denial and disregard for the environment, among other things. Could he turn to Ukraine as a new strategic ally? Ideologically it makes sense because part of the Brazilian right has affinities with the strong anti-communism found in part of the Ukrainian society today. Brazil remains adrift, it seems.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
COVID-19: How Multilateral Development Banks Can Lead Through a Crisis (COVID-19: как многосторонние банки развития могут преодолеть кризис) / China, July, 2020
Keywords: ndb, expert_opinion, covid-19, economic_challenges
Author: Leslie Maasdorp

As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly spread from Wuhan in Hubei province to surrounding regions, the Chinese Government turned to the newest multilateral development bank, the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) for support. Within weeks of the loan approval, the NDB disbursed $1bn to Hubei, Henan and Guangdong, the three most affected provinces in China. This loan, the single largest of the Bank to date, was earmarked to provide financial support for unplanned emergency health expenditure related to the fight against COVID-19.

Like the rest of the world, BRICS countries are attempting to overcome the global health pandemic and it's devastating economic effects. Of huge concern is the real fear that the present crisis has the potential to reverse the hard fought economic progress made in BRICS countries over the past two decades.

MDB's are uniquely positioned to tackle global challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown yet again, just how critical multilateral development banks (MDB's) are in moments of crisis. MDB's are uniquely structured to tackle challenges that cross national borders. Such challenges like climate change or global pandemics, by definition, demand cross border solutions. Furthermore, MDB's play a crucial role to help counteract the pro-cyclical nature of financial markets as private banks tend to lend too much during boom times and then ration credit during economic downturns. In 2008 for example, when few financial institutions were lending during the global financial crisis, it was the multilateral development banks which significantly increased their lending.

The resulting health and economic crisis prompted by COVID-19 called for rapid, large scale and unprecedented responses. To this end, the New Development Bank (NDB) repurposed its lending program and responded swiftly with bold action to help BRICS bolster their defense against the pandemic. Shortly after the outbreak, the NDB announced a $10bn Emergency Assistance Program with a more flexible and streamlined process for processing and disbursing loans. Under usual circumstances, it can take several months for loans to be disbursed for an infrastructure project. Disbursements for COVID-19 related assistance were made as bullet payments within three to four weeks after the loans were approved.

Given the fiscal constraints faced by most BRICS countries, the NDB, alongside other MDB's has become a key instrument to complement the governments limited resources to fight the pandemic. To date, the Bank approved and largely disbursed $4bn, which comprised of a $1bn COVID-19 response loan each to China, Brazil, India and South Africa. The full $10bn to be allocated during 2020 represents additional development assistance which would not have been available if the NDB was not created five years ago.

NDB marks five years

In the midst of the present crisis, the bank is marking its fifth anniversary. It was exactly five summers ago when the BRICS countries launched an ambitious project to create a new multilateral development Bank headquartered in Shanghai, China. The core purpose of the NDB is to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development. Sustainable infrastructure in this sense refers to investments in sectors such as energy generation, water and sanitation, transport and communication. Endowed with a subscribed capital base of $50bn, the NDB has played an indispensable role in providing additional pools of capital to BRICS countries, to fund their sustainable infrastructure and economic development agenda.

The journey began in temporary offices on a single floor, in Lujiazui, the financial heartland of Shanghai, with a team of five executives, each representing a BRICS nation. A complete start-up in every respect, NDB at the time, had no other full time staff, no technology systems or infrastructure of any kind.

What has since been achieved?

- Fast forward to July 2020, and the NDB has an approved loan book of USD18.3bn representing 56 significant infrastructure projects spread across the BRICS countries.

- The Bank has established a reputation as a leader in green and sustainable infrastructure and green finance. NDB launched its first capital market transaction in 2016 as a green bond when it became the first multilateral development bank to issue a green bond in the Chinese bond market. The proceeds of this bond was devoted to finance five renewable energy projects in BRICS countries.

- Since inception the NDB developed a strategy to finance its infrastructure program in local currency of its member countries. To give effect to this, the Bank successfully registered a RMB10bn bond program in China and issued the full amount in successive bond issuances. In addition, the Bank registered a R10bn bond program on the JSE in South Africa and a RUB100bn bond program on the Moscow Exchange.

- In 2019, the Bank registered a $50bn global EMTN bond program and in June 2020, during COVID-19 NDB, successfully launched its debut benchmark USD1.5bn bond issuance.

- Crucially, the Bank obtained two AA+ international credit ratings from Standard & Poor and Fitch and a AAA international rating from Japan Credit Rating Agency and ACRA. The average credit rating of the BRICS countries is BBB-. The Bank has therefore managed to obtain an international stamp of credit worthiness significantly above that of its shareholders, which enables it to lend to its member countries at very competitive rates.

- Finally, the Bank is on course to expand its membership to include new shareholders beyond the BRICS nations and grow into a fully-fledged global financial institution.

These core achievements strongly validate the original rationale and dream of the BRICS nations to create a new emerging market focused multilateral development bank.

Rattling off these milestones may seem that it was all smooth sailing. Far from it, from day one, the Bank faced considerable headwinds and obstacles. Several BRICS member countries faced spiraling fiscal deficits, weak economic growth, political upheaval culminating in sovereign downgrades, which in two instances, namely Brazil and South Africa, led to sub-investment grade status.

The Bank's fifth anniversary marks the end of the single five-year term of the inaugural President of the NDB, KV Kamath. He played an indispensable role in leading NDB from complete start-up, through a growth phase, and now into a fully-fledged, respected new multilateral development bank.

In the turmoil of COVID-19, the NDB has cemented its place as one of the most important sources of external financing to BRICS countries. It's most immediate and urgent challenge is to support the economic recovery and chart a new course for growth as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc in BRICS economies.

Leslie Maasdorp is Vice President and CFO of the New Development Bank and a Young Global Leader alumnus.

NDB approves USD 1 billion COVID-19 emergency program loan to Brazil (НБР одобрил выделение Бразилии экстренной программы COVID-19 на 1 млрд долларов США) / China, July, 2020
Keywords: ndb, investments, covid-19, economic_challenges

On July 20, 2020, the Board of Directors of the New Development Bank (NDB) approved a COVID-19 Emergency Program Loan of USD 1 billion to the Government of the Federative Republic of Brazil.

The resources provided by the NDB will help Brazil safeguard the income of about 5 million people in vulnerable situations, including informal, self-employed and unemployed workers. The basic income guaranteed by the program allows the most economically vulnerable families to gain increased access to food and health-related goods, such as medicines and personal hygiene products, which are vital for the prevention and containment of COVID-19.

The loan will also help the Government of Brazil to ensure that strong fiscal support is in place to combat the outbreak and that priority investment projects will be implemented, thereby contributing to the economic recovery of the country. NDB's project in Brazil supplements emergency loans provided by five other multilateral development banks and development agencies – the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), the German Development Bank (KfW), and the French Development Agency (AFD) – who joined efforts to provide USD 4 billion of financing, to mitigate the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.

"The COVID-19 Emergency Program Loan to Brazil will contribute to the country's ongoing efforts to strengthen social safety nets and address immediate socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, particularly on the most vulnerable population in Brazil," said Mr. Marcos Troyjo, President of the NDB. "It also represents an important milestone for the Government of Brazil and NDB in the fight against COVID-19, in coordination with other multilateral development banks and development agencies."

The loan marks the Bank's fourth emergency assistance program to combat COVID-19, following similar loans to China, India, and South Africa, and thus raises NDB's financial support against COVID-19 to the level of USD 4 billion. It is also NDB's biggest loan approval to Brazil so far, thus contributing to expanding the share of loan approvals in the country from 8.4% of the NDB's total portfolio, to 13%.

Background information

In its Statement on Response to COVID-19 Outbreak, the NDB Board of Governors welcomed the NDB contribution to the ongoing efforts of BRICS countries to address the health and economic consequences of the outbreak and stressed that BRICS would unite to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

On June 16, 2020, the New Development Bank priced its inaugural benchmark USD 1.5 billion 3-year COVID Response Bond in the international capital markets. The net proceeds from the Bond issue will be used to finance sustainable development activities in the NDB's member countries, including emergency assistance loans to the Bank's member countries.

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. The NDB received AA+ long-term issuer credit ratings from S&P and Fitch and AAA foreign currency long-term issuer rating from Japan Credit Rating Agency (JCR).

Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
South Africa's misguided policy on Syria has let us all down (Неправильная политика Южной Африки в отношении Сирии подвела нас всех) / South Africa, July, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues
South Africa

As South Africa's term on the UN Security Council comes to an end, an assessment of its position on Syria reveals a country that has squandered an opportunity to lead with principle.

South Africa, nearing the end of its third term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has found itself entangled in the truculent power dynamics of the five permanent members (USA, UK, France, Russia and China).

Upon its election to the Council, it was hoped and expected that President Cyril Ramaphosa would seize the opportunity to restore South Africa's human rights-based foreign policy. The case of Syria has, however, unmasked South Africa's failings and its inability to maintain an independent foreign policy.

While the South African statements at the UN have been consistent in affirming that there can be no military solution to the situation in Syria, the ambiguity of its policy is reflected in its continued support for the dictatorship of Bashar Al Assad in the name of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Statements by South Africa continue to lay culpability for the crisis at the feet of "non-state armed groups", while failing to acknowledge the complexities of the conflict and obfuscating the flagrant violations of human rights by the Syrian regime, Russia and their allies.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights, an independent, non-partisan, non-governmental organisation, has documented human rights atrocities by all parties to the conflict since March 2011. According to the network, the civilian death toll from March 2011 to July 2020 stands at 226,546.

The Syrian and Iranian militias allied to the regime are recorded as having been responsible for more than 88% of these killings. Three percent of the deaths are attributed to Russian forces, while ISIS is recorded as being responsible for just over 2%, and the armed opposition, or Syrian National Army, are noted to have been responsible for less than 2% of the total number of civilians killed.

The statistics on death from torture reveal the chilling, vicious nature of the regime, which is recorded as having killed 98% of over 14,000 civilians through torture in the same period, using skills acquired when Syria ran black sites for the Americans in their war on terror. The network records that at least 140,000 people are still detained, or forcibly disappeared, at the hands of the regime.

Russia and China have employed the veto on 16 resolutions pertaining to Syria, exposing the Security Council's failure to protect civilians and establish peace and security. The Syrian regime has consistently disregarded resolutions requiring them to stop indiscriminate attacks, some of which include the use of barrel bombs. The most glaring unheeded resolutions have been those pertaining to the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) maintains that Syria remains the largest refugee crisis in the world. The years of war have resulted in the displacement of more than half the Syrian population – 6.6 million refugees have fled to neighbouring countries; a further 6.7 million people are internally displaced; 11 million need humanitarian assistance.

Since 2014, the UN has been authorised to transport humanitarian aid across the Turkish border into Syria. The mandate has had to be reviewed annually and has usually been extended for a period of 12 months. In January 2020, however, the mandate was only extended for a period of six months, following objections from Russia and China.

As the July 2020 deadline for the mandate loomed, the Security Council was fraught with deep divisions. Russia vetoed the first resolution for the extension of the mandate for 12 months and the reopening of the Iraq crossing point, tabled by Germany. Reinforcing Assad's hold on Syria, both China and Russia, supported by South Africa, argued that aid should be directed through Damascus. A counter-resolution was tabled by Russia, with the argument that the recent Caesar Act passed by the USA, imposing sanctions against Syria, was the cause of the humanitarian catastrophe – ignoring the near-decade of war and the Syrian regime's role in stifling its own population.

Ultimately, the council agreed to a third resolution, for a limited extension of the mandate, with only one humanitarian corridor to remain open from Turkey.

The UN estimates that over four million people living outside the areas controlled by the regime are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. The Syrian government claims that the humanitarian aid ends up in the hands of terrorists and that its sovereignty is violated by the limits on its jurisdiction over the northern territories. Damascus has, however, routinely politicised the delivery of aid by blocking humanitarian corridors, effectively employing starvation as a weapon of war.

South Africa, with its policy and cosy relations with Syria's allies at the Security Council, has tacitly endorsed this strategy.

Early post-apartheid foreign policy saw South Africa playing a leading role as a champion for human rights, as it set the standard for mediation and dialogue. At the apex of South Africa's foreign relations, the country engaged strongly on matters of international concern, with fair reasoning derived from the deployment of qualified cadres who judiciously scrutinised threats to global peace and security from an objective perspective.

The case of the War on Iraq and the preceding unscrupulous machinations by the US at the UN is a prime example of how South Africa demonstrated its unwillingness to be swayed in a particular direction without careful, independent consideration of the facts on the ground.

The shift in foreign policy, to one that is centred on economic development, appears to have clouded the objectives SA previously sought to reach, and the domestic decline into kleptocracy has been reflected in its international relations, as senior figures have allegedly eyed lucrative deals that would line their pockets.

We called for the severing of diplomatic ties with Syria for its mass killing of civilians; for Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court; and for the arrest of perpetrators of atrocities in the Syrian regime so that they might be tried for crimes against humanity.

This, instead of being guided by a moral code that would remain faithful to the tenets of the South African Constitution and a vision for a world free of violent conflict and atrocities.

As leadership within the diplomatic ranks dwindled, South Africa has maintained superficial relevance by bullying its way into international governance structures on the back of post-apartheid accolades, and on the elitist and entitled assumption that South Africa is representative of the African continent.

Mature democracies were alert to these ambitions. Some were sceptical, while opportunistic nations found easy access to a malleable marionette. South Africa's vulnerability became more apparent upon its inclusion within the BRICS conglomerate. With an economy far inferior to its counterparts, the country has struggled to garner respect within the bloc, and instead continues to make concessions to the mightier powers.

Growing polarisation between nations has overshadowed the shared values and history that South Africa previously enjoyed with its BRICS partners. Where the country's struggle history once found echoes with the former socialist states, and where its embrace of democratic principles found resonance with the (albeit populist) democracies of India and Brazil, these bonds in the BRICS family have faded as global schisms become more entrenched. This has been visible in the votes at the Security Council over Syria.

In 2018, the South African-based Stop the Bombing Campaign, of which I was part, wrote an open letter to Ramaphosa, ahead of the BRICS summit, urging him to reconsider South Africa's policy on Syria.

We called for the severing of diplomatic ties with Syria for its mass killing of civilians; for Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court; and for the arrest of perpetrators of atrocities in the Syrian regime so that they might be tried for crimes against humanity.

The activists further asked Ramaphosa to apply pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin "to halt his country's destructive role in Syria, including through the use of experimental weaponry, and instead commit to sustainable peace building".

The group was invited to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) three months after publishing the open letter, and a meeting was held with the team responsible for South Africa's interaction with the UN's Human Rights Council. These officials were incapable of expressing views on South Africa's bilateral relations with Syria or the positions within BRICS, exposing the nature of DIRCO's silo system of governance. Assurances that a follow-up meeting would be arranged to include representatives from the other units never materialised.

Since 2018, South Africa's policy on Syria has deteriorated, as it continues to seek affirmation from its new masters in BRICS. Had it maintained a strong independent foreign policy, South Africa could have provided a more nuanced perspective and offered more sustainable solutions and contributions to conflict transformation and peace building.

Instead, South Africa has failed us all, especially those who look to it for its record of overcoming the worst of human atrocities. Its term at the Security Council has been squandered and its lack of a principled foreign policy exposed. DM

World of Work
Presentation of the work of the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre at a meeting of the heads of competition authorities of the BRICS countries (Презентация работы Центра законодательства и политики БРИКС в области конкуренции на совещании руководителей антимонопольных органов стран БРИКС) / Russia, July, 2020
Keywords: fas, cooperation, top_level_meeting

The heads of the BRICS countries' competition authorities met in a new online format. Alexey Ivanov, Director of the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre, made a presentation on the work of the Centre.

Among other things, participants have discussed the extension of the Memorandum of Cooperation between the BRICS countries' competition authorities and closer cooperation in considering global deals of economic concentration. In October 2020, at the UNCTAD platform, it is planned to discuss the FAS Russia initiative to fight cartels at the international level, in the implementation of which the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Center is actively involved. The competition authorities of the BRICS countries have approved the corresponding initiatives of the Russian side.
The heads of the competition authorities of Russia, Brazil, India, China and South Africa also heard a report from Alexey Ivanov, Director of the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Center and the Institute for Law and Development of the HSE-Skolkovo.

At the end of the meeting, Ms Gan Lin, Vice Minister of the State Administration for Regulation of Markets of the PRC, informed the participants of the meeting about the preparations for the 7th BRICS International Conference on Antitrust Law, which is held every two years in different countries of the Association. The Seventh BRICS Antimonopoly Conference will be held in China in Sichuan province in September 2021. The Chinese colleagues invited all participants of the meeting to actively engage in working on the topics and materials of the upcoming conference.
In his report, Alexey Ivanov spoke about the work of the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre over the past five years and about its plans until the end of 2022.

According to Alexey, the main task of the BRICS Center is to provide academic support for cooperation between the antimonopoly authorities of the BRICS countries and unite the scientific communities of our countries.

The key challenge facing antitrust agencies around the world today is the growing concentration of capital and other resources, including data and technology, in the hands of an ever-decreasing number of players. For the BRICS countries, the problems of rising inequality and stagnation in economic development are more acute than for developed economies. In this context, the critical mission of the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre should be to advance the development agenda and strengthen the role of antitrust regulation in overcoming imbalances in the world economy.

The Centre's team sees its role not only in providing scientific support to the competition authorities of the BRICS countries in developing new approaches to antitrust regulation but also in shaping a new global agenda that will help smooth out inequality and remove development imbalances in the world - "In the research projects already implemented by the BRICS Antimonopoly Centre, in close cooperation with our partners from leading universities in China, India, Brazil and South Africa, the problems of promoting development and overcoming inequality in the world economy by means of competition law and policy run like a red thread," said Alexey Ivanov.

The work of the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centtr on the basis of the HSE is a sign of recognition from both the Russian Government and our BRICS partners for the deep expertise formed at the HSE on antitrust law and merit in promoting the development theme at the international level.
The Higher School of Economics has already become a centre of attraction for leading universities from the BRICS countries, which have become partners of the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre. Over the past five years, these universities have actively participated in the Center's key research projects - on global food chains and new approaches to antitrust regulation of the digital economy. The work of the Centre has once again confirmed that on the international agenda, Russian research groups could become drivers of scientific cooperation. Moreover, this cooperation can also turn theory into practice. The outcome of the food project was, in particular, a change in approaches to the coordination of transactions of economic concentration on a global scale in emerging markets. In the discussion on the digital economy, the Centtr pushed the BRICS antimonopoly agencies to take practical steps to transform regulation, which in Russia was expressed, in particular, in the development of the Fifth Antimonopoly Package and a change in several approaches in law enforcement practice. Similar legislative initiatives at the suggestion of our partners in these countries are already being considered in India and China.

Among the promising areas of work of the BRICS Antimonopoly Centre for the next three years, Alexey Ivanov noted the following:
- the second phase of the study on global food chains with a focus on the oligopoly of global grain traders;
- deepening the digital project in the light of the new realities that the pandemic has brought;
- an empirical study on the joint fight of antitrust authorities against cross-border cartels (the presentation of the preliminary results of the study will take place at the UNCTAD international conference in Geneva in October this year);
- a new large-scale research project on competition in pharmaceutical markets.

The pharmaceutical markets project will become a natural continuation of the research work of the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre, based on the established format of cooperation with the antimonopoly authorities of our countries. Thus, for each of the research topics of the Center, working groups were created from representatives of the antitrust authorities of the BRICS countries. The Working Groups on Food Markets and the Digital Economy have set priorities and ensured a strong link between the BRICS competition authorities and the research team of the Center conducting relevant research. The pharmaceutical project, which is being implemented in close cooperation with the working group on pharmaceutical markets, already formed by the BRICS competition agencies, will not be an exception.

The project on competition in pharmaceutical markets includes three key areas: analysis of structural problems of the global pharmaceutical market (which have become especially noticeable in the context of a pandemic); anti-competitive practices of buying up the achievements of competitors, the so-called 'Killer acquisitions', i.e. mergers and acquisitions aimed at eliminating potential competition by buying up competitive projects at an early stage, which significantly hinders the development of innovation and dissemination of knowledge; the problems of reducing barriers to entry to the market for generic drugs and, in general, the problems of increasing the availability of medicines through antitrust regulation.

"There is a clear demand for justice in the world today, for changing the architecture of the world economy, and this demand cannot be ignored. Antitrust law can become one of the effective tools to satisfy this demand if it is actively and coordinatedly applied by our countries, which represent almost half of the world population and economic power ", - said Alexey Ivanov.
BRICS Business Council adopted the Joint Statement on COVID-19 pandemic (Деловой совет БРИКС принял Совместное заявление о пандемии COVID-19) / Russia, July, 2020
Keywords: business_council, off_docs, cooperation, trade_relations

On July 22 BRICS Business Council adopted the Joint Statement on COVID-19 pandemic. On the occasion of the Russian chairmanship, the BRICS Business Council meeting was chaired by Sergey Katyrin, the President of the CCI of Russia and Chairman of the Russian chapter of the BRICS Business Council.

The main issue on the agenda was the Joint Statement of the BRICS Business Council on the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, in which special attention was paid to coordinated joint work to overcome the economic consequences of the pandemic, Sergey Katyrin said in his speech.

It was no coincidence to choose July 22 for the meeting of the Business Council, Sergey Katyrin said, it was the day when the BRICS summit was to take place in St. Petersburg, but the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic forced the format to change.

The pandemic has had a negative impact on the economies of the entire world, and the BRICS countries are no exception. Everywhere there is a difficult socio-economic situation that entrepreneurs and national governments are faced with for the first time.

Sergey Katyrin expressed confidence that all members of the Business Council in their countries, as well as in the Russian Federation, took part in the development of national measures to support entrepreneurship and the restoration of national economies. But there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done to enter the growth trajectory.

He recalled that in 2015, in the final declaration of the BRICS Summit in Ufa, the leaders of the organization's countries included a provision on the need for cooperation and coordination to solve global health problems. It also spoke about the threats to economic and social development around the world due to the continued growth and diversification of infectious and the possible emergence of infections with pandemic potential.

But no one could have imagined the scale of the tragedy and the depth of all the crisis phenomena that the world faced five years later in 2020.

Therefore, in order to ensure the conditions for sustainable socio-economic development in the future, the Joint Statement adopted today emphasizes the need to deepen cooperation and coordination on the global agenda and the willingness of business to actively participate in the development of measures to overcome the challenges of our time and further develop trade and economic cooperation in within the BRICS, said Sergey Katyrin.

Welcoming remarks and comments on the agenda were also made by Jackson Schneider, Chairperson, Brazilian Chapter of the BRICS Business Council, Onkar Kanwar, Chairperson, Indian Chapter of the BRICS Business Council, Capt. Xu Lirong, Chairperson, Chinese Chapter of the BRICS Business Council, Busi Mabuza, Chairperson, South African Chapter of the BRICS Business Council.

The BRICS DC joint statement was adopted unanimously.

Sergey Katyrin informed his colleagues about the plans for the future work of the BRICS Business Council. In connection with the postponement of the Summit of the organization and the recommendations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, it was decided to hold an annual meeting of the BRICS Business Council online this fall. In the context of possible restrictions, it is planned to hold a Business Forum of the organization online on the eve of the BRICS BC plenary session.

Sahil Seth appointed as honorary adviser for BRICS CCI (Сахил Сет назначен почетным советником ТПП БРИКС) / India, July, 2020
Keywords: social_issues

Sahil Seth, Deputy Commissioner of Mumbai Customs, has been appointed as an honorary adviser to the steering committee for the BRICS Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) young leaders for the period 2020-2023.

The role is on a voluntary basis, and no financials are involved, thus making it a no/zero remuneration appointment. "I am extremely happy to be appointed as an honorary advisor and to represent my country. BRICS CCI young leaders is a welcome step in motivating the youth across the country," said Mr. Seth, a 2011 batch Indian Revenue Service officer.

The BRICS CCI is the parent organisation which promotes commerce and industry in the BRICS nations. The chamber, founded in 2012 with the efforts of eminent professionals and entrepreneurs, is a not-for-profit and non-governmental organisation.

The objective of BRICS CCI is to create an enabling support system especially for the MSME segment of businesses and young entrepreneurs from across all geographies. While the BRICS nations will remain at the centre of all activities, the chamber has taken in its credo to reach out to and enable young entrepreneurs from other friendly nations too. It proposes to be the 'voice' of young entrepreneurs and champion their business success.

The main purpose of the honorary advisers committee is to organise themselves in BRICS countries chapters (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), for three years with a chair leading the committee.

Some of the main activities of BRICS CCI are to build a credible repository of data and information that could be used by members, build a database of credible business partners across different geographies and industry verticals, conduct topical research that could be used by members to understand business-relevant issues in enough detail to conduct a successful business in that space, build social and cultural exchange between interested nations by promoting business around local art and culture, provide advisory services free of cost to members on legal as well as other business critical services, and promote business interactions among members by organising regular visits and other forms of interactions.
The first meeting of the BRIСS Women's Business Alliance discusses the promotion of women's entrepreneurship (На первом заседании Женского бизнес-альянса BRIСS обсуждается вопрос продвижения женского предпринимательства.) / Russia, July, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, top_level_meeting, cooperation

On 20 July, the inaugural meeting of the BRIСS Women's Business Alliance (WBA) was held via videoconference.

The meeting was attended by the female representatives of the five countries, who have founded their own business, hold senior positions in large companies and represent women's business associations.

Ms Anna Nesterova, Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Global Rus Trade, Head of the BRICS Business Council Working Group on Digital Economy (Russian Chapter), presented the concept for the WBA activities.

The meeting participants, outlined future areas of cooperation within the Alliance and expressed their readiness to interact in the implementation of joint projects in such areas as digital development and distance learning, tourism, healthcare, food processing, creative economy, green business and light industry, etc. A number of organizational issues as well as WBA structure were also discussed.
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