Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 17.2021
2021.04.26 — 2021.05.02
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Telephone conversation between External Affairs Minister and State Councilor & Foreign Minister of China, H.E. Mr. Wang Yi (Телефонный разговор между министром иностранных дел и государственным советником и министром иностранных дел Китая Ван И) / India, April, 2021
Keywords: top_level_meeting, speech

The External Affairs Minister had a phone conversation this evening with the State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China, H.E. Mr. Wang Yi. The call was arranged at the request of the Chinese side to convey their sympathy and solidarity with India at this juncture.

The External Affairs Minister thanked Foreign Minister Wang Yi for his sentiments and apprised him of the ongoing efforts to meet the challenge posed by the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic in India. He said that the Government was fully determined to do whatever was necessary to overcome this challenge.

External Affairs Minister highlighted in this regard that Indian entities were already in the process of commercially procuring required products and raw materials from suppliers in China. The Minister said that this process would be facilitated if various transport corridors and cargo flights remained open and the necessary logistics support ensured expeditiously. The Minister emphasized that serious challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which had affected all countries, required serious international cooperation.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi described the COVID-19 as a common enemy of mankind and agreed that there was a need for coordination on a concerted response. He said that China supported the efforts of Government of India and would ensure that all the required materials flow to Indian entities without any delay. Chinese companies would be encouraged and supported to deliver requisite materials. Airports, customs and airlines would also be instructed to smoothly facilitate movement of goods. Chartered flights from India would be welcome and specific problems raised by the Indian side sorted out quickly. Foreign Minister Wang Yi offered any other appropriate assistance required from the Chinese Government.

The two Ministers also discussed the outstanding issues related to disengagement from all friction points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh. External Affairs Minister conveyed that while the process of disengagement had commenced earlier this year, it remained unfinished. He emphasized that it was necessary that this process be completed at the earliest. Full restoration of peace and tranquility in the border areas would enable progress in the bilateral relationship. The two Ministers agreed to continue further dialogue at the official level on this matter.

The telephone call concluded with a brief discussion on the BRICS and RIC Meetings of Foreign Ministers which are scheduled to take place in the near future under the Indian Chair. Foreign Minister Wang Yi confirmed his participation at these events.
Telephone Conversation between Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and President of the Russian Federation H.E. Vladimir Putin (Телефонный разговор Премьер-министра Шри Нарендры Моди с Президентом Российской Федерации Владимиром Путиным) / India, April, 2021
Keywords: top_level_meeting, speech

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on telephone today with President of the Russian Federation H.E. Vladimir Putin.

The leaders discussed the evolving Covid-19 pandemic situation. President Putin expressed solidarity with the people and government of India and conveyed that Russia would extend all possible support in this regard. Prime Minister Modi thanked President Putin and noted that the prompt Russian support to India was a symbol of our enduring partnership.

The two leaders noted the ongoing cooperation between the two countries to fight the global pandemic. Approval for emergency use of Sputnik-V vaccine in India was appreciated by President Putin. The leaders noted that the Russian vaccine will be manufactured in India for use in India, Russia and third countries.

Both leaders attached importance to further deepening bilateral cooperation in various sectors in the spirit of our special and privileged partnership. Prime Minister Modi conveyed appreciation for the support received from Russia for India's Gaganyaan Program and the completion of the Russian phase of training of the four Gaganyaan astronauts.

The leaders noted the scope for increasing cooperation in the area of renewable energy, including the Hydrogen economy.

The leaders decided to establish a new 2+2 dialogue at Minister level comprising Foreign and Defence Ministers from both countries.

The two leaders recalled the important decisions taken during their last Summit meeting in Vladivostok in September 2019. Prime Minister Modi conveyed that he looks forward to President Putin's visit to India later this year for the Bilateral Summit which would provide an occasion to continue their personal and trusted conversation. President Putin assured the Prime Minister of Russia's full support for the success of India's Presidency of BRICS during 2021. The two leaders agreed to remain in close touch on bilateral and international issues.

UFPel scholar: "Russia is a strategic partner of Brazil" (Ученый UFPel: «Россия - стратегический партнер Бразилии») / Russia, April, 2021
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues

To analyze Russia's role today as a multilateral actor, its contributions to international stability and its relations with Brazil, Sputnik interviewed Charles Pennaforte.

Despite the alignment of Brazil with the United States announced by the government of Jair Bolsonaro, the expert interviewed by Sputnik maintains that, inside and outside the BRICS, the Brazilian government has sought to maintain pragmatic and strategic relations with Russia.

On Wednesday, April 21, the Russian president spoke to his country's parliament highlighting Russia's activities with the BRICS and other international initiatives to which Moscow is a party. According to Vladimir Putin, Russia seeks to develop relations on the basis of mutual respect with the absolute majority of the countries of the world and seeks to expand contacts with its partners within the framework of the various blocs of which it is a member.

In the same speech, the head of State also spoke about Moscow's conflict mediation and its efforts in favour of international strategic stability, which go hand in hand with the development of modern weapons systems, including nuclear weapons.

Also according to the Russian President, despite Moscow's search for relations based on diplomacy, Russia is a constant target of the ill will and meddling of certain governments, which even tend to lead other partners to adopt anti-Russian attitudes.

BRICS: Brazil y Russia

The participation of Russia in the BRICS, also formed by Brazil, India, China and South Africa, is an important way for the Russian insertion in the international scene, especially for a country that seeks multilateralism as a form of diplomatic action. This is what the professor of the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel-Brazil), Charles Pennaforte, also general chairman of the Center for Geopolitics and International Relations Studies (CENEGRI) said in the interview with Sputnik.

"From this multilateral perspective, I believe that Russia plays a very important role in this contemporary scenario," the Brazilian scholar pointed out.

Pointing out that Russian participation in international discussions and mediations causes a certain unease in countries like the United States, which despite the passage of time and changes in government, still looks at Moscow in the eyes of the Cold War era.

According to Pennaforte because of the hostilities that Russia has historically had to deal with and the consequent concerns for its security, the Russian participation in international forums and organizations also serves as a platform for Moscow to make clear its intentions to those who are concerned about the strengthening Russian military capabilities.

• " Russia always tries to point this out by following the dynamics of multilateral relations, in international forums, UN, Security Council, BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It is a way for Russia to ensure its security, but I think it has no interest in expanding or going against any nation. Today, Putin made it clear in his speech".

• "Despite the expectations of an automatic alliance between Brazil and the United States during the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro, unlike other self-proclaimed allies of the United States, Brazil, during the last two years, didn't adopt a totally anti-Russian stance".

• "Also even during the administration of Donald Trump (Bolsonaro's supposed personal friend) the Brazilian government was "called to reality," according to the UFPel professor, by businessmen, political groups and diplomats who managed to raise the lack of sense of getting into trouble with a BRICS partner, whose bank even granted credit to Brazil in a much more advantageous form than the country would have, if it would had asked help to the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank" Pennaforte concluded.

Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Spotlight on BRICS, SOEs and Governance Issues (В центре внимания БРИКС, ГП и вопросы управления) / South Africa, April, 2021
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues
South Africa

The governance failures of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) may most likely be a result of political leadership and their attitudes towards them.

These were the common views expressed during a high-level panel discussion with participants from around the world who were discussing the governance challenges of SOEs within the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) group and their inability to fulfil their developmental mandates.

Head of Governance at Wits University Professor Mzukisi Qobo said South Africa had become far too accustomed to masking its problems with SOEs using the state capture commission.

"These days everybody is fixated with state capture as if all the problems with SOEs are linked to that, but there are a number of deep-seated problems. One of them is the failure of political leadership to grasp the purpose of SOEs and the failure to re-orient SOEs post-apartheid to clearly defined developmental objectives."

Qobo also said merit-based appointments needed to become very important and this needed to be done on the basis of having an independent executive board.

"Beyond just focusing on corruption, tough questions need to be asked on the sets of relationships between political leadership, the boards and executives of these entities," he said.

The University of Pretoria's Professor Natasja Holtzhausen said: "Although South Africa has all of the pieces of legislation, regulations and policies in place, SOEs still seem to be mostly poorly managed and involved in corrupt activities.

"By default, being state-owned one would expect, although not ideal, political interference. Can the principle ever be removed from the agent? What would the real solution be?"

Pointing to how the underperformance of SOEs undermined development, Associate Professor William Gumede, also from the Wits School of Governance, said: "Corruption is systemic in many of our SOEs.

"There's often political interference in activities and instead of focusing on development, they focus on patronage. Also because they operate as a monopoly, they do not operate competitively and know that they will be bailed out, thus they are not always run effectively as a business."

Gumede said South Africa could draw lessons from China where corrupt officials are jailed for not managing SOEs properly.

The China Development Bank's Li Yijun said although the BRICS was currently experiencing challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, this period presented a window that could be used to look at areas of collaboration between the BRICS to strengthen SOEs.

World of Work
India Hosted a Virtual BRICS Seminar on Energy Storage Technologies (В Индии прошел виртуальный семинар БРИКС по технологиям хранения энергии) / India, April, 2021
Keywords: cooperation, energy

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India hosted a virtual BRICS Seminar on Energy Storage Technologies (EST). Delegates from BRICS countries representing respective Governments, industry and businesses participated in the Seminar. Seminar had three distinct sessions.

Representatives from Governments presented EST status, technological and deployment outlook in respective countries and detailed opportunities for BRICS cooperation. In the industry session importance of business to business collaboration for exploring market in BRICS countries was underlined.

The Panel discussion highlighted key technological issues specific to BRICS countries and deliberated upon the possible areas of cooperation in research, product development and manufacturing. It emerged that unique expertise of BRICS countries provide ample opportunities for strategic cooperation on EST which could help accelerate the transition to climate friendly clean energy. The delegates also under lined the need for exchange of information on different aspects of energy storage technologies.

The BRICS delegates appreciated the need and requirement of Energy storage and agreed upon exploring opportunities for collaborative approach on technology, manufacturing, business prospects and extended their cooperation and support for future partnerships.

Announcement: Seminar on social infrastructure financing and use of digital technologies (Анонс: Семинар по финансированию социальной инфраструктуры и использованию цифровых технологий) / China, May, 2021
Keywords: digital, social_issues

On May 13, 2021, the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Ministry of Finance of India will co-host a virtual Seminar on Social Infrastructure Financing and Use of Digital Technologies, in connection with the BRICS 2021 Economic and Financial Cooperation Agenda.

The Seminar will include contributions from leading public and private sector actors in social infrastructure development in the BRICS and beyond, with opportunities for viewer-interactions through Q&A across a high-level panel and two thematic sessions.
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