Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 48.2020
2020.11.23 — 2020.11.29
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Russia's BRICS Chairmanship: The 2020 Summit and Challenges Ahead (Председательство России в БРИКС: саммит 2020 года и вызовы на будущее) / India, November, 2020
Keywords: chairmanship, summit, expert_opinion

BRICS countries have agreed to strengthen economic and trade cooperation in the next five years, according to China's Ministry of Commerce (MOC).

Member countries have decided to improve trade facilitation and are committed to safeguarding the multilateral trading system as part of efforts to enhance anti-pandemic cooperation, said Chen Chao, an official with the MOC.

Chen described the consensus as one of the important achievements of the 12th BRICS summit.

BRICS countries have formed a strategy for economic partnerships, focusing on three key areas, including trade investment and finance, digital economy and sustainable development.

The strategy also includes goals of cooperation in the areas of supply chain connectivity, innovation and technology, as well as micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

Meanwhile, BRICS countries have pledged to improve the business environment, as well as enhance cooperation in information exchange and capacity building in areas such as intellectual property, digital economy and service trade.

The consensus and achievements reached by BRICS countries will help strengthen cohesion among member states and hasten post-pandemic economic recovery in a world hit by COVID-19-triggered recession and increasing anti-globalization sentiment, said Chen.

The 12th BRICS summit was held Tuesday via video link due to the impact of COVID-19.

How might the pandemic strengthen the future BRICS relationship? (Как пандемия может укрепить отношения БРИКС в будущем?) / China, November, 2020
Keywords: covid-19, cooperation

Editor's note: Alessandro Golombiewski Teixeira is a national thousand-talent distinguished professor of public policy at Tsinghua University's School of Public Policy and Management and a professor of international business at Schwarzman College in Tsinghua. He is a former special economic adviser to the president of Brazil and former minister of tourism, and minister of development, industry and foreign trade of Brazil. He was also president of the World Investment Association, WAIPA. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Leaders of the BRICS bloc adopted a conciliatory tone at the 12th BRICS summit online on Tuesday. Chaired by Russia, the message from each of the speeches from the five member countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – was grave but hopeful, affirming the need to take stronger group action in the battle against COVID-19.

However, exactly how the BRICS nations would carry out this collective action is less than clear.

Already, we have seen Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's attempted denial of the existence and seriousness of the pandemic with devastating effects. China, on the other hand, identified, publicized, and mobilized all resources during a country-wide lockdown to eradicate the virus at record speed. These are two widely different responses to the same problem.

Of course, the BRICS are far from a homogenous bloc. Indeed, the five countries' economic and political trajectories are diverging. On top of this is the challenge of the pandemic and the complex public health and economic measures that are different for each country.

So then how do BRICS come together to tackle the challenges? Could the BRICS by being united in tackling a common enemy – the virus – lead to an even stronger bond and a greater level of cooperation between the five nations?

Cooperation in a bleak time

As a collective, the BRICS are facing devastating domestic economic and social problems. This makes involvement in global initiatives that aren't immediately impactful to domestic challenges even more difficult.

South Africa is now the most heavily affected African country by COVID-19, both in economic and social terms. The impact on society is only worsening with increasing violence and crime rates and an unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2020 of 30 percent. The social pressure facing the country prevents its leaders from making a significant contribution to a joint BRICS COVID-19 response.

In Brazil, Bolsonaro's government is struggling to cope with just the domestic challenges on its plate. Movements and activist networks have stepped in where the government has fallen short to organize food supplies and demand healthcare.

Globally, Brazil is the second-hardest hit by the virus and is facing a public health crisis. In social terms, the country is also suffering what some have called a "job apocalypse" as job losses hit 1.2 million in the first half of 2020.

As for Russia, India and China, while their situations are not as dire as South Africa and Brazil, they are still dealing with the pandemic's "aftershocks." In the entire history of the BRICS agreement, there has never been a more challenging time for all five nations to divert resources towards collective action.

Keeping eyes on the horizon

Taking concrete steps towards global coordination of testing kits, PPE, movement of people and eventually a vaccine is paramount in the upcoming months.

Following Tuesday's summit, one of the main areas where BRICS have agreed to cooperate is the development of vaccines. For starters, the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Center, which was agreed upon two years ago at the Johannesburg summit, must take on a new imperative to begin delivering tangible results.

Perhaps one of the valuable contributions BRICS countries can make to pull the global economy out of this economic rift is to begin rebuilding global value chains.

By actively working to reintegrate production networks and increase the openness of international trade, BRICS countries can mobilize their combined 40 percent of the world population, $4 trillion in reserves and share of over 17 percent of global trade. Global value chains also have an important effect on job creation, which is essential for economic recovery after the pandemic.

Mutual investment and support to build these value chains between BRICS nations will have the dual benefit of both boosting the global economy and strengthening networks between BRICS countries.

One such example is South Africa's planned implementation from January 2021 of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which it is hoped will help mitigate some of the economic fallout and encourage investment from BRICS and across the world into Africa.

Simply maintaining an open trade and investment environment in upcoming months is critical, even through the worst of the pandemic.

Ultimately, facilitating networks of investment now can help embed economic growth between BRICS nations in the future. Informal institutions and emerging powers may still be able to lead the global economy out of the pandemic and emerge stronger for it.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
BRICS ties spur business opportunities (Связи БРИКС расширяют возможности для бизнеса) / China, November, 2020
Keywords: economic_challenges, trade_relations

XIAMEN -- Marcos Caldeira, a 34-year-old Brazilian businessman, has invested more than 10 million yuan (about $1.52 million) in his import venture this year, shipping high-end Brazilian natural stones to China.

In 2013, Caldeira came to the coastal city of Xiamen in East China to learn Chinese. Inspired by the city's entrepreneurial environment, Caldeira started his own company, Marco Stones, selling Chinese stone products to South America.

Caldeira has seen rapid business growth over the years, with the export volume reaching nearly 300 containers last year.

Xiamen is one of China's largest stone import and distribution centers. Caldeira's company has become one of the largest stone exporters to the Brazilian market.

Xiamen hosted the BRICS summit in September 2017, featuring cooperation between the world's major emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

"After the BRICS summit, we reaffirmed our decision to develop the Brazilian and Chinese markets," Caldeira said. "The two markets are big enough. We also want to explore the other three markets in the near future."

Commenting on the recent BRICS summit hosted by Russia, Caldeira said, "The leaders discussed a range of issues, from containing the COVID-19 pandemic and rebooting the global economy, to forging a free and open trade environment." He expressed belief that the summit will further promote trade between BRICS countries and help reach more reciprocal deals.

Meanwhile, more and more businesses of BRICS countries are tapping the markets of each other. Chen Tanxiang, general manager of a Xiamen-based textile company, said he has benefited from the deepened exchanges between BRICS nations.

In 2013, Chen decided to expand his business to South Africa to manufacture non-woven fabric in the region because the industry was then struggling with overcapacity in China.

Chen's company has been developing steadily in the country over the past years. He has forged a sales network with local stores, wholesalers and agents, providing products such as disposal bags, shopping bags and storage supplies.

"Africa is an emerging market and it has great potential. We will further explore the African market," Chen said.

During this year's BRICS summit, Chen particularly kept an eye on member countries' trade policies. "Brazil is a virgin market for our company. In the following three to five years, we want to enter the Brazilian market."

Niren Anand, from Darbhanga city of Bihar in India, established Xiamen Ever Trade Import and Export Co Ltd in 2011, focusing on designing, manufacturing and exporting shoes.

"It was a great honor to join a business forum during the BRICS Xiamen summit. And it gave me more optimism and confidence that all five countries supported multilateral cooperation," Anand said.

In 2018, his company's sales revenue reached $5 million and the number increased to nearly $8 million last year.

In addition to a development center and more than 20 designers and 200 workers in the Xiamen headquarters, he also has another new office in Wenzhou in neighboring Zhejiang province.

His new factory, with an investment of $10 million, in Bhubaneswar, the eastern Indian state of Odisha, is expected to begin operation after the Chinese Spring Festival in February 2021.

"The factory covers an area of 40,000 square meters. About 1,500 to 2,000 local workers will be employed and around 2 million pairs of shoes will be produced every year," Anand said.

"The factory in India will be supported by the China factory and headquarters in terms of research and development, design and raw materials."

Anand's business has been hard hit by the COVID-19 outbreak this year, with his sales declining by 50 percent year-on-year. However, he is still optimistic about his business and actively seeking new opportunities.

"Because of the epidemic, we have more time to think about our plan for the coming years, and we invested in the new factory in India," Anand said. "China is a global business hub and the markets of the BRICS countries are big enough to help me overcome the difficulties."

Anand noted that the latest BRICS summit will help deepen the partnership between BRICS countries, especially in terms of economic and trade cooperation.

"The future belongs to BRICS," Anand said.
Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's answers to media questions following the presentation of foreign ambassadors' letters of credence in the Kremlin, Moscow, November 24, 2020 (Ответы на вопросы СМИ Министра иностранных дел Российской Федерации С.В.Лаврова по итогам церемонии вручения верительных грамот в Кремле, Москва, 24 ноября 2020 года) / Russia, November, 2020
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, mofa, quotation

Question: The coronavirus pandemic has added so many new elements to our lives that we can see this as the emergence of a new world order. Is the new world order still based on the priority of international law when it comes to interstate relations?

Sergey Lavrov: Indeed, the pandemic has had a major impact on all aspects of our lives, including our work and everyday life, but there are principles which Russia always tries to respect. The fact that President Vladimir Putin has received letters of credence from newly appointed ambassadors at an in-person ceremony in the Kremlin, even though there were some adjustments due to security reasons, is proof of our commitment to traditions. This is not just a symbolic gesture. It is very important to respect diplomatic traditions, which are not so much matters of protocol but mutual respect, consideration for each other's interests and a striving to balance these interests in all cases.

In his greetings to the newly appointed ambassadors, President Putin reaffirmed our commitment to the primacy of international law and the principles of the UN Charter, which are based on the results of the bloody Second World War and which continue to underlie the modern world order. When international players act in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter, in particular, respect for each other's sovereignty, non-interference in each other's internal affairs and a peaceful settlement of disputes, it is usually much easier to coordinate decisions, and they are also much more stable. But this does not happen when major powers abuse their authority and influence in regions located far away from their national borders so as to force conditions on conflicting parties. These artificial ceasefires usually do not last.

The main thing is for the conflicting parties to talk with each other. All the other players should only create conditions for this without trying to dictate their will. I would like to cite just one example, which President Putin mentioned at the ceremony today. It is in this spirit, by creating conditions for an agreement between the conflicting parties, that Russia and President Putin coordinated the November 9 agreement on a ceasefire, the cessation of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh and the environment for a lasting settlement of this lingering conflict. There are many more examples of the success of our efforts based on the principles of international law. Regrettably, there is also a growing number of examples when conflicts were complicated and exacerbated because these principles were neglected.

Question: You have already mentioned that the ambassadors of foreign states presented their credentials to President of Russia Vladimir Putin today. Diplomatic etiquette has been retained, and contacts continue unabated. Who can we now call Russia's real friends at a time when sanctions have not been lifted and when groundless accusations against Russia of all deadly sins continue unabated?

Sergey Lavrov: Accusations against Russia continue on any and all pretexts, and more and more often without any pretext whatsoever. As of late, they have been voicing groundless accusations with regard to Russia, although we ask them to present specific facts. This is a small group of countries. An overwhelming majority of states agree with us that it is necessary to respect the principles of sovereign equality, non-interference in domestic affairs and to resolve any disputes through dialogue, for which our Western partners are less and less prepared.

Unfortunately, the European Union is taking a cue from the United States and dictating its will to everyone, placing itself above international law. Our Western colleagues have invented the so-called rules-based world order concept, and they have deliberately made it part of diplomatic and political terminology in circumvention of international law. International law implies complex talks involving all countries without exception. First of all, this concerns the multilateral essence of the UN, which is the main venue for trying to reach agreement.

The West is becoming less and less inclined to waste time on coordinating its approaches with the positions of others. Consequently, the West and an inner circle of its supporters are making decisions that don't reflect the international community's universal will in any way, and they are trying to present them as the ultimate truth. This is how the West acts on such matters as the use of chemical weapons, cybersecurity and human rights. It creates its own convenient formats and is trying to remove the relevant subjects from UN auspices, that is, from universal formats that were established for reaching agreement on all aspects of international life.

Nevertheless, an overwhelming majority of states share our approaches to operating on the international scene. I would like to note the associations that unfailingly honour the principle of equality and a search for a balance of interests. They include the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and BRICS. Today, President of Russia Vladimir Putin mentioned the East Asia Summit, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation and, of course, the G20. It reflects a perception, including of Western countries, that they are no longer able to control the world on their own. The G20 was first established at the top level about ten years ago in place of the so-called G7. It represents the Western countries, all BRICS countries and other states that share the philosophy of the BRICS countries and promote the principles of equality in international affairs.

Today, in addition to the countries that are part of the associations I mentioned, we maintain very warm and friendly relations with many other states. I would like to single out Cuba, a country that symbolises opposition to colonialism, neo-colonialism, dictate and illegal economic sanctions in global affairs. I would like to note our good neighbour Finland, a country that upholds its military and political neutrality and thus makes a major contribution to European security, which now faces very powerful threats. I can name two countries in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, namely, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In 2019, President of Russia Vladimir Putin paid state visits to these countries. We work on resolving very important problems with them in a close-knit and business-like manner. This includes efforts to maintain the stability of global fuel and energy markets, as well as maintaining security in such highly important regions as the Middle East and North Africa. The Vatican is a small state with tremendous influence and potential. We greatly appreciate the fact that the Holy See maintains close relations with the Russian Orthodox Church in order to strengthen the moral foundations of human life and civilisation and to protect the shared moral values of all world religions. The so-called neoliberal trend is now seriously testing them, and this is particularly evident in Europe.

I do not want to offend anyone. We have a positive agenda with virtually all states that are represented here and whose ambassadors have presented their credentials. We don't overdramatise the situation when our partners are not completely prepared for this. We don't impose our friendship on anyone. I am convinced that a realisation of the need to be guided by their own national interests will prevail over a striving to ideologise relations with Russia. When that happens, I believe that we will find many positive aspects in advancing cooperation with these states.

World of Work
Results of the BRICS Future Skills Challenge International Competition: Contest, co-creativity and cooperation (Итоги международного конкурса BRICS Future Skills Challenge: конкурс, совместное творчество и сотрудничество) / Russia, November, 2020
Keywords: cooperation, rating

On 16 November, Moscow hosted the closing ceremony of the international BRICS Future Skills Challenge Competition supported by WorldSkills Russia and the Moscow Regional Coordination Centre. It was held in a hybrid format with the competitors participating from the distributed venues and via videoconference.

Participants from the BRICS countries worked on their competition tasks in real time from the distributed venues in their countries. Winners were announced in 19 skills: Additive Manufacturing; Space Systems Engineering; Internet of Things; Internet Marketing; Quantum Technology; Enterprise Information Systems Security; Machine Learning and Big Data; Digital Capabilities for Business; Robot Systems Integration; Industrial Design Technology; Mobile Application Development; Blockchain-based Solutions; Robotic Welding; Building Information Modeling (BIM); Life-Cycle Management; Digital Factory; Digital Capabilities for Business; Aerial Robotics (Drones Operating); Service Robotics.

"Now each of the five countries has its own heroes — winners in each skills competition. Holding this Championship we wanted to create a competitive environment on the one hand, and develop the skills of cooperation, co-creativity and intercultural communication, on the other. We are happy to hand the flag to our Indian colleagues and are looking forward to an invitation to take part in the BRICS Future Skills Challenge next year!" said Alina Doskanova, Deputy Director-General, International Relations, WorldSkills Russia.

The competitions were held on November 9-16 at the distributed venues in the five BRICS countries. Most of the venues were located at Moscow schools and universities. Moscow also hosted the Competition Management Centres where international and Russian experts evaluated the performance of the competitors.

"The remote format has proven efficient, and now our goal is to integrate it into the educational system. We must develop further international communication for exchanging experience and knowledge. Moscow is always open to cooperation and ready to host such events," Sergei Kukolev, Head of the Department on Developing WorldSkills Russia at the Moscow Centre for Education Quality, emphasized.

The ceremony concluded with the passing the the BRICS Future Skills Challenge flag from Russia to India, which will assume the BRICS Chairship in 2021 and will host the International Competition.

IV BRICS International Festival of Theatre Schools concludes in Moscow (В Москве завершился IV Международный фестиваль театральных школ БРИКС) / Russia, November, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, cooperation

The IV BRICS International Festival of Theatre Schools, held in Moscow on 12-23 November, concluded with Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage and Her Children". The play was shown simultaneously on seven stages and in seven languages.

The Festival, attended by the representatives of theatre schools from the five countries, as well as special guests from Belarus and Armenia, was organized by the Iosif Kobzon Institute of Theatre Art with the support of the Presidential Grants Foundation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

This year the event was held both in-person and via videoconference. "The pandemic has made some adjustments to the format of the Festival, and most the events are now held online. We divided the programme into an educational and a creative part. During the educational week, students and theatre professionals from the BRICS countries delivered and attended lectures and workshops, and shared their unique national skills in theatrical art with their colleagues and spectators," said Dmitry Tomilin, Festival Director, Rector of the Institute of Theatre Art.

"The final production was performed simultaneously on seven stages in seven countries: each country presented its part of the show at home; each show was streamed live, bringing the actors together in one grand international production. Each theatre school produced its own original adaptation of Brecht's play from a unique directorial angle," Natalya Gromushkina, director and actress, said.

In 2020, to honour of the "Year of Memory and Glory" announced by President of Russia Vladimir Putin, the Festival is dedicated to bringing the peoples of different countries together in the fight against war and violence.

The BRICS International Festival of Theatre Schools, held since 2017, is a platform for intercultural exchange between leading theatre schools in the BRICS countries.

The concert and the production is available here.
BRICS Experts to discuss topical issues of Anti-Corruption Education and Training (Эксперты БРИКС обсудят актуальные вопросы антикоррупционного образования и обучения) / Russia, November, 2020
Keywords: social_issues, cooperation

On 1 December, the BRICS Working Group on Anti-Corruption Cooperation (WGAC) is organising an Expert Round Table on Anti-Corruption Education and Training in line with the anti-corruption priorities of the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020.

The programme will be centered on good practices and common challenges of the BRICS in three strictly intertwined areas: raising public awareness about corruption, anti-corruption education in universities and training for anti-corruption practitioners and officials.

Leading anti-corruption experts and trainers, educators of major BRICS universities, law enforcement practitioners, civil servants, representatives of the private sector and civil society from the BRICS countries along with competent officers of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and International Anti-Corruption Academy will participate in the event.

Common challenges and opportunities for strengthening BRICS cooperation in the field identified in the course of the Round Table along with the recommendations of the participants will be reflected in a focused strategic document by the Russian WGAC Chairmanship. The outcome will also lay the basis for several BRICS learning and training projects already planned to be implemented by the WGAC.

The link to the Zoom conference will be circulated to all registered participants two hours prior to the starting time.

The event will be live-streamed on the Facebook page of the Russian BRICS Chairmanship.
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