Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 35.2020
2020.08.24 — 2020.08.30
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
BRICS Heads of Intellectual Property Offices discuss key aspects of cooperation during the pandemic (Руководители ведомств интеллектуальной собственности БРИКС обсуждают ключевые аспекты сотрудничества во время пандемии) / Russia, August, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, top_level_meeting

On 26 August, Mr Grigory Ivliyev, Head of the Russian Federal Service for Intellectual Property (Rospatent), chaired the 12th Meeting of the BRICS Heads of Intellectual Property Offices via videoconference.

The meeting participants summarized the work of the Line Agencies over the previous year, shared the results of joint projects and outlined prospects for further strengthening cooperation between the Agencies and expanding dialogue on new aspects of intellectual property.

Being the Chair of the meeting, Rospatent presented a report on one of the areas of cooperation – staff training for BRICS Intellectual Property Offices. At Russia's initiative, the parties discussed organizing an annual internship for intellectual property experts on industrial design scheduled for October 2020 via videoconference. The Russian delegation informed BRICS partners that the training courses taught by the Russian State Academy of Intellectual Property had been updated based on the countries' requests.

The meeting participants specifically focused on the activities of the Agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, they highlighted the essential role of digital technologies in communicating with applicants and providing services. The Sides also discussed the measures taken to counter the spread of COVID-19. The list of measures taken by each of the BRICS intellectual property offices during the pandemic is available on the Agencies' joint website.

Taking into account that digital technologies are a frequently discussed topic at international venues, the Russian representatives proposed to include digitalization as a permanent item on the agenda of the Meetings of BRICS Heads of Intellectual Property Offices, thus launching a new area of cooperation on this matter.

The meeting resulted in several key agreements, including the coordination of common statements of the BRICS countries to be presented during the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) events scheduled for later in 2020, expediting the exchange of information on the applications related to technologies to combat COVID-19 (submitted via the Agencies' joint website), as well as including digitalization in the field of intellectual property as a new area for cooperation.

Ministry of Education and Science selects Russian candidates for the V BRICS Young Scientist Forum (Минобрнауки отбирает российских кандидатов на V Форум молодых ученых БРИКС) / Russia, August, 2020
Keywords: social_issues

V BRICS Young Scientist Forum under the theme "BRICS Partnership of Young Scientists and Innovators for Science Progress and Innovative Growth" will take place via videoconference on 21-25 September.

This year the programme of the Forum will comprise of three parallel sessions on thematic subjects: ecology, material science and artificial intelligence.

Over 120 participants will be having discussions via the interactive web platform for five days. Each of the five BRICS countries will have more than 20 outstanding young scientists and innovators between 20 and 40 years old invited to take part in the Forum.

The Forum will host the annual BRICS Young Innovator Prize competition with awards for the top three winners. The competition is designed to identify and encourage the best research and innovation projects in three areas: ecology, material science and the use of artificial intelligence that can help find solutions to modern social, economic and environmental issues in the five countries.

The participants will communicate using the interactive web platform developed by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science in cooperation with South Ural State University and the Chelyabinsk Region government.

To actively involve the participants in the Forum's scientific atmosphere, the organisers will hold plenary sessions, workshops, and real time scientific experiments in the University's labs. The scientific and entertainment programme will include intellectual quizzes and Stand-Up Science competitions whereby young scientists from the BRICS countries will show video clips explaining complicated science in simple terms. This competition is aimed at popularizing science.

Anyone who is interested can join the lectures and discussions via YouTube. For detailed information go the Forum's website.
Press release on the consultations of deputy foreign ministers/special representatives of the BRICS countries on the issues of the Middle East and North Africa (О консультациях заместителей Министров иностранных дел/специальных представителей стран БРИКС по проблематике Ближнего Востока и Северной Африки) / Russia, August, 2020
Keywords: mofa, concluded_agreements

On August 26, as part of the Russian BRICS Chairmanship, Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov held consultations, via videoconference, of deputy foreign ministers/special representatives of the BRICS countries for the Middle East and North Africa. The conference was attended by Additional Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs of India P. Harish, Assistant Foreign Minister of China Chen Xiaodong, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa Kwati Mashego-Dlamini and Director of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry Department for the Middle East, Europe and Africa Sidney Romeiro.

The participants discussed in detail the situations in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, the Gulf countries as well as the Middle East peace process.

They stated that BRICS has a substantial potential for promoting collective efforts in the search for political solutions to the problems of the Middle East, and expressed a shared commitment to continuing their cooperation and deepening political dialogue among the five member countries.

The participants agreed that regular comparison of positions and cooperation within BRICS on a broad range of issues of the Middle East, as well as other urgent international problems meet the demands of the time and that such practice should be continued at different venues, including the UN. After the discussion, they adopted the following joint statement:

1. On 26 August 2020, a teleconference of the BRICS Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) was held under the Russian Chairmanship to exchange views on the current situation in the MENA region.

2. The Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys closely followed the spread of COVID-19 in the Middle East and North Africa and supported the efforts made by these countries to actively fight against the pandemics. They called upon the international community to strengthen coordination and forge synergy, provide more support to MENA states to fight against COVID-19 at an early date and help them defeat COVID-19 so as to recreate a sound environment conducive to peace, stability and development.

3. The Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys expressed serious concern over continued conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa that remain a source of threat to regional and international stability and security. At the same time, they stated that regional crises should be resolved exclusively through political and diplomatic means based on unconditional respect for independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of all MENA States.

4. The Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys reaffirmed their commitment to the basic principle that peace and security in the Middle East and North Africa should be achieved and sustained in accordance with, and in full respect for international law and the UN Charter. Confirming the primary role of the UN Security Council in this process, they urged the North Africa countries to respect the AU Charter and the leading role of the AU Peace and Security Council. They advocated for the strengthening of the multilateral framework of international relations, while opposing unilateralism and promoting peace, stability and development in the Middle East and North Africa region.

5. The Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys shared the view that peoples of each of the countries in the MENA region need solidarity and support in fulfilling their legitimate aspirations to enjoy full civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and fundamental freedoms.

6. The Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys expressed serious concern over the humanitarian situation of all religious minorities in the areas of conflict, especially those who were displaced or forced to flee their places of origin or stay in conflict zones or in the territories controlled by terrorist groups and live under the constant threat of violation or infringement of their human rights. They therefore called upon all Middle East states to reaffirm their commitment to respect the rights of every citizen in the areas of conflict.

7. The Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys expressed their solidarity with the people of Lebanon in connection with the massive explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020 which resulted in considerable casualties and large-scale destruction. They called upon all the members of the international community to provide assistance to Lebanon with the purpose of overcoming the consequences of the catastrophe and the speedy normalization of the political and socio-economic situation in the country. They advocated that, taking into consideration the legitimate aspirations of the Lebanese people for political solutions to the current challenges faced by the nation, Lebanese political forces should be able to work together in the current complicated conditions and take decisive steps for the sake of de-escalation of tensions, renunciation of violence and prevention of the situation sliding out of control.

8. The Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys noted that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, whenever, wherever and by whomsoever committed. They reiterated that the fight against terrorism must be conducted under the coordinating leadership of the UN in accordance with the norms and principles of international law, including the principles of respect for sovereignty, independence and equality of all States, and opposing double standards. They reiterated that countries must urgently consider expediting finalization of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) under the UN umbrella.

The Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys welcomed the activities of the BRICS Counter-Terrorism Working Group, in particular the progress achieved on the Draft Counter-Terrorism Strategy. They noted the timeliness of this document and expressed their confidence that it would greatly contribute to the consolidation of the efforts of the BRICS States in the fight against terrorism.

9. Regarding the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, the BRICS Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys reaffirmed their strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the country. They expressed their conviction that there can be no military solution to the Syrian conflict. They also reaffirmed their commitment to advancing a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, UN-facilitated political process in line with UNSC Resolution 2254, culminating in constitutional reform and free and fair elections. They noted in this context the importance of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva launched with the decisive participation of the countries-guarantors of the Astana Process and all states engaged in efforts to address the conflict through political means and welcomed the efforts of Mr Geir Pedersen, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Syria, to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of the Committee. They expressed their conviction that, in order to reach general agreement, members of the Constitutional Committee should be guided by the commitment to compromise and cooperate constructively without foreign interference.

They also welcomed the signing of the Additional Protocol to the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-Escalation Area. They reaffirmed the international obligations to fight terrorism in all its forms and highlighted the importance of unity in the fight against terrorist organizations in Syria as designated by the UN Security Council.

The Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys emphasized the fundamental importance of allowing unhindered humanitarian aid in accordance with the UN humanitarian principles and the post-conflict reconstruction of Syria that would create conditions for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their places of permanent residence thus contributing to achieving long-term stability and security in Syria and the region in general. They also expressed concern with all those in vulnerable situations and condemned persecution on ethnic or religious grounds.

10. Reaffirming their strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Libya, the BRICS Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys called on the Libyan parties to the conflict to show mutual restraint and stressed the importance of establishing a long-term lasting ceasefire in Libya, in order to ensure a comprehensive and sustainable solution through a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process under the auspices of the United Nations. They stated the need to fully implement the decisions of the International Conference on Libya held in Berlin on 19 January 2020 and UNSC Resolution 2510, noting the importance of parallel progress on all three tracks of the intra-Libyan negotiation process (military, political and economic), with substantial assistance from the United Nations Support Mission in Libya. Encouraging the UN Secretary General to promptly designate a Special Representative for Libya, the Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys noted a significant role played by the African Union and the League of Arab States in promoting a peaceful intra-Libyan dialogue and political process.

11. The BRICS Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys reaffirmed their continued support for efforts made by the Iraqi Government towards national reconstruction, development and a mutually respectful and inclusive national dialogue with a view to overcoming common challenges and enhancing stability. Stressing the need to unconditionally respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq and the inadmissibility of any interference in its internal affairs, the BRICS Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys noted the importance of supporting the Iraqi people in their fight against manifestations of extremism and terrorism and promoting economic recovery of the country. They further acknowledged the importance of stability in Iraq for regional and international security. They further condemned in the strongest possible terms the heinous and inhuman violence perpetrated by terrorist and extremist groups, such as the self-styled ISIS, in the territory of Iraq.

12. The Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys expressed their grave concern over the ongoing conflict in the Yemen Republic that affects security and stability not only in that country, but throughout the entire region.

They noted in this regard the need for a full cessation of hostilities and establishment of an inclusive negotiation process in Yemen mediated by the UN. They reaffirmed the general consensus that progress towards resolving the numerous challenges confronting Yemen, cannot be achieved without a constructive dialogue with due account of the legitimate interests of different political forces of the country.

The Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys stressed the importance of providing urgent humanitarian assistance to Yemenis and facilitating the rapid, safe and unhindered access to humanitarian supplies to all people and across all regions of the country. They warned that without sustainable peace in Yemen, the humanitarian crisis will only continue and worsen.

13. The Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys are convinced that failure to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict continues to hamper peace and stability in the Middle East. They remain committed to a just and lasting peace in the region, stating that a two-state solution must be sought, guided by the international legal framework previously in place, such as the relevant UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, resulting in the creation of an independent and viable State of Palestine, existing peacefully side by side with its neighbours. They expressed the need for new and creative diplomatic efforts to achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement and emphasized the importance of an early launch of direct negotiations between the Palestinian and the Israeli sides.

14. The Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys expressed their serious concern over the ongoing tensions, including one-sided actions in the Gulf region. They reaffirmed the support of the BRICS countries for the efforts to resolve the existing disagreements through negotiations and diplomatic engagement, stressed the need for promoting a positive and constructive agenda in the region, in which all countries jointly respond to common threats and challenges.

15. The Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys supported the steps taken by the Sudanese leadership to strengthen national accord and overcome social and economic crisis in the country. Welcoming the commitment of the Sudanese government to the nationwide effort to bring an end to internal armed conflicts, primarily in Darfur, they looked forward to the successful outcome of the negotiations between the Sudanese government and the opposition movements.

The BRICS Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys expressed support for the responsible drawdown of the United Nations – African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and its transition into the future United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), taking into full consideration, in the process, the opinion of the Sudanese people.

16. The Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys committed themselves to meet again in India during its Chairmanship in BRICS in 2021. They also reaffirmed the advisability of holding regular consultations on the Middle East and North Africa at various venues, including the UN, and expressed their readiness for holding relevant working-level consultations when required.
BRICS Foreign Ministers' Council meeting via videoconference (О совещании СМИД БРИКС в режиме видеоконференции) / Russia, August, 2020
Keywords: mofa, foreign_ministers_meeting

A full-format meeting of the BRICS countries' foreign ministers will take place via videoconference on September 4 under the chairmanship of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The participants will exchange opinions on urgent international issues, including regional conflicts, the need to counter new challenges and threats and cooperation between the five member-states at multilateral venues, including on the sidelines of the upcoming anniversary 75th UN General Assembly. The participants plan to discuss cooperation, during the year of Russia's BRICS chairmanship, in three main areas – politics and security, the economy and finances, and humanitarian ties.

The traditional meetings of BRICS Sherpas/Sous-Sherpas will take place before the foreign ministers' meeting.

Syria's Constitutional Committee should work without foreign interference, says BRICS (Конституционный комитет Сирии должен работать без иностранного вмешательства, считает БРИКС) / Russia, August, 2020
Keywords: political_issues, cooperation

MOSCOW, August 28. /TASS/. Deputy foreign ministers and special representatives of BRICS countries for the Middle East and Northern Africa have underlined importance of non-interference in the work of Syria's Constitutional Committee in Geneva, they said in a joint statement following a consultative meeting held via videoconference on Friday.

The meeting participants noted the importance of lunching the committee with the decisive contribution of the Astana peace process guarantors and all other countries involved in the peaceful resolution of the conflict and also welcomed efforts of Geir Pedersen, UN Secretary-General Special Envoy for Syria, to establish a sustainable and effective operation of this body. "Conviction was expressed that to reach common ground the Constitutional Committee members should be guided by pursuit of compromise and constructive cooperation without foreign interference," the text reads.

The parties also reaffirmed their commitment to sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria, noting that the conflict in this country cannot be resolved militarily. "They also reaffirmed their commitment to advancing political process, led and guided by Syrians themselves through the UN cooperation in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which should result in a constitutional reform as well as free and fair elections," the diplomats stressed.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
BRICS+ as an Anti-Crisis Platform for the Global South (БРИКС + как антикризисная платформа для глобального Юга) / Russia, August, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, brics+
Author: Yaroslav Lissovolik

The current global crisis has revealed a number of deficiencies in the global governance framework, whether at the level of global institutions, or at the level of regional integration blocks. With respect to the latter, the lack of response to the crisis from the regional institutions was exacerbated by the lack of contingency measures to strengthen the impact of these anti-crisis stimuli for the regional partners of the leading heavy-weights in the global economy. The current crisis has amply demonstrated the importance of regional factors in the spreading and the containment of the pandemic. This is why new formats of economic cooperation that accord substantial weight to regional and cross–regional cooperation – such as the BRICS+ initiative – may become more prominent in the anti-crisis efforts at the global level going forward.

In fact, the usefulness of the BRICS+ as an anti-crisis framework for developing countries has already been singled out in a recent report prepared by an Argentinian think-tank Observatorio de CoyunturaInternacional y Política Exterior (OCIPEx). The report calls for Argentina to consider its entry into the BRICS Plus circle in view of the potential benefits associated with the country's participation in the projects of the New Development Bank (NDB) as well as access to the resources of the BRICS Contingent Reserves Arrangement (CRA). The resources of NDB and the BRICS CRA are accordingly viewed as alternative instruments to the standard tools of World Bank and IMF loans in countering the severe economic downturn.

Apart from greater optionality in finding additional sources of anti-crisis financing, there is also an important role to be performed by BRICS+ as a platform for coordinating the anti-crisis efforts of the entire Global South as the current crisis has revealed a particular vulnerability of the developing countries in the face of the pandemic and the economic downturn. Indeed, as the pandemic spread across the developed economies during the first stages of the crisis, the subsequent phases of the propagation of the pandemic engulfed the countries of the Global South with great speed, with BRICS countries and developing economies from Latin America being particularly hard hit.

The anti-crisis role of the BRICS+ framework may be predicated on the greater engagement with the regional partners of the BRICS core in areas such as regional connectivity, regional early warning systems as well as anti-crisis measures that are designed to deliver a strong regional (not just national level) effect. This in turn will involve more activism from the New Development Bank in expanding its membership to the regional partners of the BRICS countries and designing anti-crisis and economic sustainability measures for new members. With respect to the BRICS CRA there is a need for a comprehensive analysis of the economic and systemic vulnerabilities (including potential regional spillover effects) across the BRICS+ platform, with the evaluation of the possibility for extending stabilization loan packages to the regional partners of the BRICS countries.

An important element within the BRICS+ anti-crisis framework will need to be the promotion of the use of national currencies as a way to reduce currency mismatches – the NDB and the BRICS CRA as well as the potential creation of a BRICS Pay mechanism could play a crucial role in this respect. Another area to be explored in the area of cooperation among the regional integration arrangements such as MERCOSUR, EAEU or ASEAN may be the promotion of regional and trans-regional value-added chains that may be supported during crisis periods with coordinated policy measures to prevent their fragmentation. And of course there is also the need for the NDB and the BRICS CRA to serve as platforms for the cooperation of the respective regional development institutions – in the case of NDB this would concern the regional development banks, while in the case of the BRICS CRA this relates to the cooperation among the Regional Financing Arrangements (RFAs) of the Global South.

In the end, the BRICS+ framework may turn out to be more inclusive in engaging a wider range of economies from the Global South compared to the QUAD+ project that includes the QUAD core (the United States, Australia, Japan and India) as well as Vietnam, South Korea and New Zealand. While the QUAD+ expansion appears to be focused on bringing additional countries into the fold on the basis of a strategic proximity in interests, the BRICS+ initiative is evolving via bringing together not just individual countries, but regional integration groupings across the Global South. As opposed to the QUAD+ framework BRICS+ includes such regions as Africa and Latin America, regions that are currently particularly hit by the COVID-19 crisis and are at the heart of the global efforts to bolster development and modernization in the developing world. Most importantly, the advantage of a regional dimension in the BRICS+ set-up will enable the grouping to be more effective in delivering growth impulses across a wide range of developing countries that are regional partners of the core BRICS via the coordinated anti-crisis measures.
An Emerging Crisis (Возникающий кризис) / China, August, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, emerging_market, covid-19, economic_challenges

By Professor Albert PARK,
Head and Chair Professor, Department of Economics,
HKUST Business School

Professor Alicia GARCIA-HERRERO,
Adjunct Professor, Department of Economics,
HKUST Business School

"A unique feature of the pandemic's massive economic cost, in comparison to other global crises, is that it creates large shocks to demand and supply at the same time."
The center of the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted to the emerging markets. As of August 5, the countries with the most cases of COVID-19 after the US were Brazil, India, Russia, and South Africa, which along with China, where the pandemic started, form the BRICS, an acronym coined in the early 2000s to signify the world's leading emerging markets. These countries have made important contributions to global growth, especially China. Their struggles with COVID-19 therefore threaten to undermine the global economic recovery. It is not just the BRICS. Highly populous countries with more than 100,000 COVID-19 cases now include Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mexico, Iran, and Egypt. Every country in the world continues to battle the virus and guard against new outbreaks.

A unique feature of the pandemic's massive economic cost, in comparison to other global crises, is that it has created large shocks to demand and supply at the same time. Demand shocks are both external, as other countries hit by the pandemic reduce their demand for exports and reduce travel to and investment in other countries, and domestic, as people in the country reduce spending due to greater unemployment and fear of leaving their homes.

Supply shocks refer to the disruption to work caused by stay-at-home orders, shuttering of businesses, and mobility controls, which wreak havoc on supply chains. This double whammy of demand and supply shocks is especially devastating for emerging markets and developing countries whose economies rely on exports (especially commodities) and tourism. Less developed countries are often less equipped to deal with the pandemic due to weaker institutional capacity and a limited ability to mobilize fiscal and financial resources.

According to the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) June Economic Outlook projections, global growth is expected to be -4.9% in 2020 compared to 2.9% in 2019. Growth in emerging markets and developing countries is expected to be -3.0% in 2020 compared to 3.7% in 2019, which is less of a decline than in advanced countries, which are expected to decline by -8.0% in 2020 compared to 1.7% in 2019. The larger impact on rich countries likely reflects the fact that they were hit harder by the pandemic in the first half of 2020, and their economies rely more on services, which are more adversely affected by social distancing requirements.

However, these projections may already be out of date given the recent surge in cases in BRICS and other developing countries. They also obscure the diverse impact of COVID-19 across countries, and overlook the heightened vulnerability of some emerging markets and developing countries to dependence on external financing. The stakes are particularly high in less developed countries, given their large vulnerable populations at risk of falling into poverty.

Table 1 presents the projected growth impacts of the pandemic on the five BRICS economies, exemplifying the large cross-country variations that exist in pandemic experiences. China is one of the only countries in the world projected to post positive growth (of 1.0%) in 2020, reflecting the fact that it quickly got the virus under control, was the first country to reopen its economy, and had a strong capacity to finance aggressive policy responses to the crisis.
Like many countries, China saw a steep reduction in consumption when the country was in lockdown, followed by a quick recovery after it reopened. But the economy did not fully return to pre-crisis levels due to persistent cautious behavior, and negative external demand shocks that persisted after lockdowns ended. Many countries are also discovering that recovery will be more gradual than originally predicted, for the same reasons.

Among the BRICS, Brazil is projected to be most negatively affected, with GDP in 2020 estimated to decline by 9.1%. As in the US, despite its strong healthcare system, Brazil's president played down the dangers of the virus and failed to implement a national strategy to combat COVID-19, leading to more than 2.75 million COVID-19 cases by early August, which resulted in large domestic demand and supply shocks. Brazil is also an oil exporter, and was therefore hurt by the collapse in oil prices, which reduced from more than US$60/barrel at the beginning of 2020 to less than US$20/barrel in April (recovering since then to just over US$40/barrel in early August).

Russia is the world's second largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and its leading exporter of natural gas, so suffered greatly from reduced global energy demand caused by the pandemic, reducing projected growth to -6.6% in 2020. By contrast, China, India, and South Africa are oil importers, and so benefited from lower oil prices, although demand for oil also fell in nearly every country. South Africa, however, is an exporter of many minerals, and saw external demand fall (except for gold). The country's weak economic position before the crisis (anemic growth, high indebtedness, huge social disparities) limited its ability to respond effectively to the crisis.

India has faced challenges due to its limited health infrastructure, its crowded urban slums which make social distancing difficult, and its huge number of informal workers, who account for 90% of the labor force, and are highly vulnerable to losing jobs when the economy declines.

A new debt crisis?

The spread of COVID-19 to emerging economies has also revealed a vulnerability not fully appreciated before the pandemic hit, namely the excessive dependence of many emerging market countries on external financing. Such dependence historically has left countries vulnerable to financial crises when international capital decides to leave suddenly (e.g., the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s, the Asian financial crisis in 1997-1998, and the Great Financial Crisis of 2007-2008).

The COVID-19 pandemic saw foreign investors exit emerging markets at the fastest speed ever, in search of safer dollar assets. In a co-authored study, Alicia Garcia-Herrero and Elina Ribakova (2020) analyze the factors that made emerging economies vulnerable to a sudden reduction in dollar liquidity due to the pandemic, and assess the potential of different tools available to address the problem, including the role of the IMF.

Emerging markets are highly reliant on dollar liquidity through both capital and income channels. The capital channel refers to net borrowing in the form of capital inflows. The more that emerging markets rely on short-term portfolio inflows, or 'hot money', the more they are potentially exposed to global dollar liquidity shortages. The income channel refers to USD income generation mostly via net exports of goods (including commodities) and services (notably tourism), or payments for the cross-border use of a country's endowments such as remittances, both of which were adversely affected by the pandemic. Thus, the COVID-19 shock sharply reduced emerging markets' access to dollars through both channels.

The sudden stop in portfolio flows into emerging economies has been unprecedented. In fact, the size of portfolio outflows is several times bigger than during the Global Financial Crisis in 2007-2008, the 2013 Federal Reserve taper tantrum when the Fed signaled future quantitative easing, leading to lower prices and higher yields on US treasury bonds, or the China scare caused by its stock market crash in 2015 (Figure 2). Flights to the dollar cause dollar appreciation which makes it even more costly for emerging markets to service external debt. After the pandemic the dollar surged, but later depreciated after the Fed slashed interest rates to zero. In light of the huge outflows, the IMF estimates that the total gross financing need of emerging markets could reach as high as 2.5 trillion dollars. The IMF has already received requests for financial assistance from as many as 100 members. Many of the countries in greatest need of assistance are emerging markets, especially those with large external debts which are most common in Latin America (Figure 3).

How can emerging markets respond to this financing challenge? Four possible responses are domestic monetary policy, capital controls, drawing down foreign reserves, and international borrowing from the IMF. Unfortunately, the potential of the first three methods is limited for most emerging markets. The IMF's current resources also are insufficient to meet the massive demand for assistance, which means that there is a great need for international efforts to mobilize additional resources to assist poorer countries in their time of greatest need. Many central banks in emerging markets have used monetary policy to stimulate their economies in response to economic downturns. However, lowering interest rates or printing more money leads to currency depreciation which increases the burden of dollar-denominated debt, and the benefits from increased exports are limited due to plummeting external demand. The fear of continued depreciation also can accelerate capital outflows. Thus, monetary policy cannot solve the external financing problem.

An obvious shortcut to avoid raising interest rates to stem capital outflows is to impose capital controls. However, for countries that have liberalized their capital accounts, this is a drastic response that can shut off immediate market financing options and lose the trust of investors who may never return once the crisis has passed. Nonetheless, as for previous financial crises, external debt problems may lead countries to take a more positive view toward restrictions on capital movement, a stance which may eventually be reflected in the IMF's integrated policy framework. China has never liberalized its capital account partly to reduce vulnerability to sudden capital outflows.

Of course, large foreign reserves can be a first line of defense in addressing challenges posed by dollar flight and repayment of dollar-denominated debt. Unfortunately, many countries lack significant reserves, and the countries with such reserves are concentrated in Asia and the Middle East. The economic impacts of the pandemic are reducing available reserves because Middle East oil producers are cutting back production in response to the low oil price, and trade surpluses of Asian economies are falling with the sharp decline in external demand.

The IMF is obviously the most appropriate institution to deal with the liquidity problems that emerging countries are encountering due to the pandemic, since helping countries deal with such crises is a core mission of the institution. However, the IMF's available resources are currently estimated at just under US$800 billion, far less than the more than US$2 trillion demanded. An overall quota increase for the IMF is therefore greatly needed, but this is unlikely to be agreed upon quickly by IMF members. It will also be important to fast-track disbursements and provide loans with less conditionality.

More generally, given the global scope of the pandemic, international cooperation and coordination to help countries in greatest need, not just with debt problems but also in curtailing the spread of the virus and providing treatments and vaccines, is desperately needed. But this is a challenge to achieve given geopolitical tensions between the US, Europe, and China and the preoccupation of many leaders in dealing with the pandemic in their own countries. With millions of poor left vulnerable by the pandemic, the stakes couldn't be higher.

Garcia-Herrero, Alicia, and Elina Ribakova. COVID-19's Reality Shock for External-funding Dependent Emerging Economies, Bruegel Policy Contribution Issue No. 10, May 2020.
China plans to establish BRICS innovation base: Minister (Китай планирует создать инновационную базу БРИКС - министр) / India, August, 2020
Keywords: innovations

China has said that it is actively considering establishing a BRICS innovation base to strengthen practical cooperation with the five-member bloc, urging it to focus more on digital transformation, especially in 5G, Artificial Intelligence and the digital economy in the post-COVID-19 era.

China is vigorously promoting the resumption of work across the entire industry chain, and is keen to see more development in new industries such as 5G, AI and the industrial Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Industry and Information Technology Xiao Yaqing said during a video meeting of the BRICS industry ministers on Monday.

The meeting adopted a joint statement on cooperation in new industries among BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries, state-run media reported on Tuesday.

China is actively considering the establishment of a BRICS innovation base in the country in order to strengthen practical cooperation with the BRICS bloc, Xiao said.

He urged the BRICS countries to strengthen their cooperation on digital transformation, especially in 5G, AI, the digital economy and others to promote the digital transformation of enterprises and their innovation capabilities, and to promote sustainable economic and social development.

"At present, growth in China's industrial economy is gaining momentum, in turn supporting the steady recovery of China's overall economy, and contributing to a new impetus and stability in the global industrial chain and supply chain," Xiao said.

China is committed to ensuring the production and supply of key medical materials, meeting China's domestic epidemic prevention and control needs, and providing a large amount of material assistance to countries around the world to fight against the pandemic.

"BRICS countries should cooperate to promote economic recovery, strengthen communication and sharing their experiences in epidemic prevention and control, guarantee medical supplies, resume work and production, and promote economic development during COVID-19," he said.

Xiao urged BRICS countries to strengthen the industrial chain and supply chain, enhance development resilience and the countries' abilities to respond to risks, and jointly create a good development environment, he added.

According to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, more than 813,000 people have died of COVID-19 which has infected 23,676,599 globally.

Nearly 5.7 million cases have been reported in the US, making America the worst-hit country in the world after the disease emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan last year.
World of Work
India plans BRICS Games during Khelo India Games next year (Индия планирует Игры БРИКС во время Игр Кело Индия в следующем году) / India, August, 2020
Keywords: social_issues

Mr. Rijiju's announcement came after he attended a meeting of Sports Ministers of the BRICS nations

India is planning to host BRICS Games in 2021 and may align it with Khelo India Games, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju has said.

Mr. Rijiju's announcement came after he attended a meeting of Sports Ministers of the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on Tuesday.

India will get chairmanship of the five-nation independent international group in 2021.

"BRICS Games 2021 will be held during same time and at same venues as of Khelo India Games 2021 so that our players from various parts of the country who will gather for Khelo India Games will have the benefit of witnessing BRICS Games from close quarters.

"This will be a great morale booster and motivational moment for them," the Minister said in a statement.

He added: "We are hopeful of organizing Khelo India Youth Games and Khelo India University Games in 2021.

"During Khelo India Youth Games 2021, we will invite BRICS member countries to showcase their traditional indigenous games during the inaugural or closing ceremony of Khelo India."
COVID19 pandemic has had many impacts (Пандемия COVID19 оказала множество последствий) / India, August, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, expert_opinion, covid-19
Author: Victoria Panova

Over 23 million people worldwide have been infected by the COVID-19 disease. Nevertheless, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom is optimistic that the health crisis will end within two years. But as the pandemic rages on, peoples and countries are gradually adapting to the new normal.

During the initial days of the pandemic, some expressed hope that the world would come together to fight the common enemy—like COVID-19—given its visible and immediate consequences. Instead, there was a rise of national egoisms and intensified conflicts all over the world, preventing an efficient joint response. The pandemic has made all existing domestic and international weaknesses clear and visible. It has precipitated an economic crisis, deepened political chaos and environmental problems, and exposed healthcare system deficiencies in most countries.

No leader, no ally, no trust

There are several angles to consider when discussing the global impact of the pandemic. First, although countries initially considered joining forces to mitigate the risks from the virus, this was soon superseded by growing global turbulence and enhanced confrontation—rising tensions between the US and China, border clashes between India and China, US-Iran jostling over the nuclear deal, continued tensions in the West Asia region, among others.

Another important issue to consider is the US's abandonment of its global leadership position, and the ensuing chaos, confusion and disappointment among allies and others alike. While Washington did not show any empathy for—or willingness to take on the financial burden of—other countries during the crisis, Beijing—the next potential 'big power'—was not seen as reliable or appropriate to take on the global leadership mantle. China's moves to assist other countries tackle the pandemic—which originated in Wuhan—were met with suspicion.

Finally, a major collateral consequence of the pandemic is the re-ideologisation of international politics, with geopolitical opponents being blamed primarily as a political tool. For instance, over the past few months, the US has actively blamed the Communist Party of China for the pandemic, presenting it as intent on destroying the very essence of American values and lifestyle.

At the same time what exacerbated a bad situation is the lack of trust on all levels—between allies, in multilateral institutions and in government. Externally, there is a growing divide between close allies. Seemingly neutral areas like the internet or financial systems have seen new ideas, such as China and Russia intensively working on their own payment systems for integration within the BRICS over fears of being cut off from the SWIFT financial system. International guarantees, obligations and agreements no longer glue the system. There is deep uncertainty over the future of the disarmament regime after the expiration of the START 3 (a US-Russian arms agreement) in 2021, since the Open Skies Treaty is already compromised and Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces deal having been killed as well.

At the citizen level, the lack of trust has led to bloody protests and Black Lives Matter movement in the US, which spilled over to Europe; a tense situation in Hong Kong with China's controversial moves, among others. While the core causes for these and other citizen-led movements are different, it cannot be ignored that the pandemic has placed a heavier burden on the general public, allowing for the unrest to ignite faster.

US presidential polls

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a big impact on the upcoming US presidential elections. The US has seen over 5.5 million people being infect by the virus, and over over 175,000 deaths. Even though US President Donald Trump's economic packages allowed for those who lost their jobs during the pandemic to receive extra unemployment benefits, socio-economic hardships will likely be the determining factor in the presidential polls, and of Trump's electoral fate. Yet, neither Republicans nor the Democrats have a strategy to come out of the crisis. At the recent Democratic National Convention, Joe Biden appealed to the American people as a "warrior of the light" to fight the 'knight of darkness" (Trump), with some ideas for the economy but not much else. The problem with both political parties is that they look into and appeal to the past but do not propose innovative solutions to systemic problems.

New security concerns

COVID-19 has also caused a shift from hard security issues to socio-economic and humanitarian factors. Non-military issues have become sensitive topics for most countries, and the race to announce a COVID-19 vaccine is the newest addition to international politics. Russia raised the stakes by claiming to have registered the world's first vaccine (named Sputnik V).

New technologies and digitalisation are also areas for rivalries among countries and national security concerns to play out. The US's decision to sanction Chinese tech giants ZTE and Huawei, its addition of 38 companies to the BIS Entity List, and potential ban of Chinese apps like TikTok or WeChat must be seen in this light. India too has banned several Chinese apps over national security concerns. This complements China's restrictions of Google and Facebook, and the overall functioning of the Great Firewall. Although the tech race is not new, the issue has gained recognition amid the pandemic as digital technologies were the only way to continue any sort of communication and activity—e-commerce, e-learning, videoconferencing or telemedicine—during the worldwide lockdown.

Failure of international institutions

Crucially, the pandemic has also demonstrated the lack of systemic and credible responses from the existing international institutions. There have been tussles among the G7 nations over the US's plan to invite India, Australia, Russia and South Korea to the summit. At the same time, the WHO has drawn a lot of flak over its handling of the pandemic, with the US refusing to pay and then moving to leave the organisation, and Brazil threatening to do the same, even as other countries agreed that reform was needed. Although the BRICS New Development Bank should be commended for assisting member states in their fight against COVID-19, a 2018 initiative to create a joint vaccine center has not been realised, even during the current pandemic. The BRICS grouping still has the opportunity to offer new solutions to this unprecedented crisis at the upcoming summit, else it risks becoming another inefficient institution.

The pandemic has laid bare the societal illnesses of our global community. Existing instruments and pills will not help to cure the patient, instead doctors need drastic upskilling. Innovative solution need to be complemented by a willingness and commitment to make them work. Are we ready for that?

Alexei Kudrin proposes joint BRICS clean air and forest management audit (Алексей Кудрин предлагает совместный аудит чистого воздуха и лесоуправления БРИКС) / Russia, August, 2020
Keywords: ecology, top_level_meeting, sustainable_development

On 25 August, Mr Alexei Kudrin, Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation, hosted the 2nd Meeting of Heads of BRICS Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) via videoconference.

The meeting participants discussed the specifics of operating during the pandemic and the role of the SAIs in overcoming its consequences. They also outlined the main areas of further cooperation.

"More than a third of the world's forests are located on the territory of our countries. There are certain problems due to forest fires and subsequent slow recovery. It is necessary to assess the countries' efforts in forest management. As for the problem of air quality, we could work on various aspects of auditing state clean air programmes, at the national level as well as at the level of major cities and regions. Of course, it is too early to talk about joint or simultaneous audits but we could already start making preparations," Alexei Kudrin noted.

Transparency of the SAIs was another issue specifically covered by the meeting. The Chairman of the Russian Accounts Chamber said that public transparency must become one of the key efficiency indicators for government institutions. He shared the results of government body transparency research conducted by the Accounts Chamber. "We looked at whether websites of government bodies are informative enough; how these government bodies respond to inquiries from members of the public and the media. We reviewed the operation of their public councils and their work regarding data processing. To obtain research results, we developed a methodology that was reviewed by top experts. The report has already been published and is now being translated into English. We could possibly conduct a similar analysis across all BRICS countries and thus demonstrate each state's pursuit of higher transparency, which is an important task for the supreme audit institutions," the Accounts Chamber Chairman stressed.

At the end of the meeting, the participants adopted a Declaration.

BRICS Sports Ministers approve Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the field of Physical Culture and Sport (Министры спорта БРИКС одобрили Меморандум о взаимопонимании по сотрудничеству в области физической культуры и спорта) / Russia, August, 2020
Keywords: concluded_agreements, social_issues

On 25 August the first Meeting of the BRICS Sports Ministers under the Russian BRICS Chairmanship took place via videoconference.

The event saw the presence of Mr Oleg Matytsyn, Russian Minister of Sport, Mr Kiren Rijiju Indian Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Mr Gou Zhongwen, Director of China's State General, Administration of Sports, Mr Emmanuel Nkosinathi Mthethwa Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture of the Republic of South Africa and Mr Onyx Lorenzoni, Brazilian Minister of Citizenship.

In his opening remarks, Oleg Matytsyn welcomed his colleagues and pointed out that this year would go down in history due to major changes in people's lives because of the novel coronavirus infection. He noted that this period had reaffirmed the special unifying mission of sports and helped to further consolidate the sports community and define the main tasks and resources for further development.

The participants discussed topical issues of cooperation in the field of sports, in particular, the organisation and holding of sports events during India's BRICS Chairmanship in 2021. The Russian Side expressed readiness to share experience and to provide necessary support to the Organising Committee of the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held in Beijing in 2022.

"We have held our first meeting, which is an important result as it is," Oleg Matytsyn told the media. "The Russian Federation is conducting an extremely open policy in the sports sphere. BRICS is an effective format. The top sports officials of the BRICS countries have expressed readiness to boost interaction not only in sports but also in the fields of scientific research, humanitarian cooperation and combating doping. Of course, the adoption of the Memorandum of Understanding has formalized these agreements."

Following the meeting, the Ministers approved a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the field of Physical Culture and Sport between the relevant BRICS Line Agencies. The document provides for cooperation in the following areas: holding annual BRICS Games in the country of BRICS Chairmanship; exchange of athletes, coaches and sports experts; encouragement of athletes to participate in international sports events held in BRICS countries; cooperation in the field of high performance sports, mass and recreational sports; development of national, traditional and non-Olympic sports; exchange of views on issues of mutual interest in the field of physical culture and sports discussed at international venues; exchange and systematization of the results of research projects; and exchange of information on the introduction and maintenance of sports infrastructure facilities.

"We have been working on the |Memorandum for a long time, so that now it creates a platform for the implementation of our joint projects," the Russian Minister of Sport said. "These projects include BRICS Games, which have not been held, regrettably, in Chelyabinsk this year because of the spread of the coronavirus infection. But our colleague from India, which will assume the BRICS Chairmanship next year, has reaffirmed his country's readiness to host the Games. It is an extremely important aspect of our interaction, because the Games will attract young athletes who are a huge factor in uniting our countries and demonstrating our concern for the future generations. In addition to this, the Memorandum oulines the areas of cooperation related to the development of research projects, education technologies, joint competitions and exchange of coaches."

BRICS Industry Ministers discuss prospects of the introduction of green and the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies (Министры промышленности БРИКС обсудили перспективы внедрения зеленых технологий и технологий четвертой промышленной революции) / Russia, August, 2020
Keywords: innovations, ecology

On 24 August, Mr Denis Manturov, Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation, chaired a Meeting of the BRICS Industry Ministers via videoconference.

The Meeting saw the presence of Mr Carlos Da Costa, Special Secretary for Productivity, Employment and Competitiveness at the Ministry of Economy, the Federative Republic of Brazil, Mr Som Parkash, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry of the Republic of India, Mr Yaqing Xiao, Minister of Industry and Information Technology of the People's Republic of China, Mr Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition of the South African Republic and Mr Li Yong, Director-General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

The experts discussed priorities in the development of industrial cooperation in the BRICS countries during the coronavirus pandemic, including joint development and the broad introduction of green technologies and technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Mr Denis Manturov presented Russia's initiative on creating a Center for Industrial Competencies for the BRICS Countries as a new stage in developing cooperation under the Partnership on New Industrial (Digital) Revolution (PartNIR).

"The Center would speed up the development and integration of leading-edge technologies. Industrial companies, branch associations and the related government bodies in our countries will become the ultimate beneficiaries of the Center. In fact, it will become a new point of growth in BRICS industrial potential and will strengthen the position of this grouping in the global market," said Mr Manturov. He also noted that UNIDO could play a special role in these efforts.

"We invited the UNIDO Secretariat to participate in the development of competencies in the most advanced high-tech sectors. It is possible to do this with Minimal involvement of resources will be required with the creation of a virtual project office. UNIDO expertise would allow all of us to better identify the key trends on the global industrial agenda and find niches we can fill," Mr Manturov said.

Among the priority areas of the Center's activities is an exchange of experience on best available practices on the industrial track, the development of joint startups, including with the involvement of the New Development Bank, and an efficient search for partners for industrial companies. In addition, the Center would be designed to develop a dialogue on technical regulation and standardization, including the adoption of mechanisms on recognizing documents on conformity assessment.

"In this area, Russia is currently upgrading a network of 36 test laboratories for assessing the conformity of products to international standards. As a result, they would be able to make a comprehensive assessment of products to establish whether they meet the requirements of the targeted markets. We are interested in involving specialists from the BRICS countries in this work and see great potential for cooperation with our partners in this area," Mr Manturov said.

BRICS supreme audit institutions approve declaration of cooperation (Высшие органы финансового контроля БРИКС одобрили декларацию о сотрудничестве) / Russia, August, 2020
Keywords: cooperation, top_level_meeting

MOSCOW, August 25. /TASS/. Supreme audit institutions of BRICS member-states approved the declaration of cooperation, head of the Russian Accounts Chamber Alexei Kudrin tweeted on Tuesday.

"The declaration of cooperation was approved at the meeting of supreme audit institutions of BRICS countries. In particular, we will continue sharing the experience of auditing government measures during the pandemic period and monitoring of socioeconomic consequences," Kudrin wrote in Twitter.

The meeting of chief executives of BRICS supreme audit institutions was held online on August 25, 2020.

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