Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 50.2017
2017.12.04— 2017.12.10
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
The New Great Game Moves from Asia-Pacific to Indo-Pacific (Новая великая игра переходит из Азиатско-Тихоокеанского региона в Индо-Тихоокеанский регион) / Thailand, December, 2017
Keywords: expert_opinion
Author: Pepe Escobar

Is the world's center of gravity shifting to the heart of the Indo-Pacific – a new pivot to Asia?

In the context of the New Great Game in Eurasia, the New Silk Roads, known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), integrates all of China's instruments of national power – political, economic, diplomatic, financial, intellectual and cultural – to shape the 21stcentury geopolitical/geoeconomic order. BRI is the organizing concept of China's foreign policy for the foreseeable future; the heart of what was conceptualized, even before President Xi Jinping, as China's "peaceful rise."

The Trump administration's reaction to the breath and scope of BRI has been somewhat minimalistic. For the moment, it amounts to a terminological switch from what was previously known as Asia-Pacific to "Indo-Pacific." The Obama administration, up to the former president's last visit to Asia in September 2016, always referred to Asia-Pacific.

Indo-Pacific includes South Asia and the Indian Ocean. So, from an American point of view, that does imply elevating India to the status of a rising global superpower able to "contain" China.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could not have stated it more bluntly: "The world's center of gravity is shifting to the heart of the Indo-Pacific. The United States and India – with our shared goals of peace, security, freedom of navigation, and a free and open architecture – must serve as the eastern and western beacons of the Indo-Pacific. As the port and starboard lights between which the region can reach its greatest and best potential."

Attempts to portray it as a "holistic approach" may mask a clear geopolitical swerve where Indo-Pacific sounds like a remix of the Obama era "pivot to Asia" extended to India.

Indo-Pacific directly refers to the Indian Ocean stretch of the Maritime Silk Road, which as one of China's top connectivity routes, features prominently in "globalization with Chinese characteristics." As much as Washington, Beijing is all for free markets and open access to commons. But that must not necessarily imply, from a Chinese point of view, a single, vast institutional web overseen by the US.


As far as New Delhi is concerned, embracing the Indo-Pacific concept entailed quite a tightrope act.

Last year, both India and Pakistan became formal members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which is a key element of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

India, China and Russia are BRICS members; the president of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB), headquartered in Shanghai, is Indian. India is a member of the China-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). And until recently India was also participating in BRI.

But then things started to unravel last May, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi refused to attend the BRI summit in Beijing because of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key BRI node that happens to traverse Gilgit-Baltistan and the sensitive region Pakistan defines as Azad Kashmir and India as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

And right on cue, at an African Development Bank meeting in Gujarat, New Delhi unveiled what might be construed as a rival BRI project: the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) – in partnership with Japan. AAGC could not be more "Indo-Pacific," actually delineating an Indo-Pacific Freedom Corridor, funded by Japan and using India's know-how of Africa, capable of rivaling – what else – BRI.

For the moment, this is no more than an avowed "vision document"shared by Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe to do some very BRI-like things, such as developing quality infrastructure and digital connectivity.

And adding to AAGC comes the Quadrilateral, which the Japanese Foreign Ministry spins as projecting "a free and open international order based on the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific." That once again pits the "stability of Indo-Pacific region" against Tokyo's perception of "China's aggressive foreign policy" and "belligerence in the South China Sea" which imperils what the US Navy always describes as "freedom of navigation".

As much as Xi and Abe may have recently lauded a new start of Sino-Japanese relations, reality says otherwise. Japan, invoking the DPRK threat but actually fearing China's fast military modernization, will buy more US weapons. At the same time, New Delhi and Canberra are also quite worried about China's economic/military onslaught.

Essentially, AAGC and the Quadrilateral link India's Act East Policywith Japan's Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy. Reading these documents in tandem, it's not far-fetched to qualify the Indo-Japanese strategy as aiming for a "Eurasifrica."

In practice, apart from the expansion in Africa, Tokyo is also driven to expand infrastructure projects across Southeast Asia in cooperation with India – some in competition or overlapping with BRI. The Asian Development Bank (ADB), meanwhile, is mulling alternative financing models for infrastructure projects away from BRI.

As it stands, the Quadrilateral is still a work in progress, with its "stability of Indo-Pacific region" pitted against Beijing's avowed desire to create a "community with a shared future" in the Asia-Pacific. There are reasons to worry that this new configuration might actually evolve into a stark economic/military polarization of Asia.

A split at the heart of BRICS

Asia needs a whopping $1.7 trillion in infrastructure projects a year, according to the ADB. In theory, Asia as a whole would benefit from an array of BRI projects coupled with some others that are ADB-financed and AAGC-linked.

Considering the extremely ambitious breath and scope of the whole strategy, BRI enjoys a substantial head start. Beijing's vast reserves are already geared towards investing in Asia-wide infrastructure in tandem with exporting excess construction capacity and improving connectivity all around.

In contrast, New Delhi barely has enough industrial capacity for India's own needs. In fact India badly needs infrastructure investment; according to an extensive report, India's needs amount to at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade. And on top of it India holds a persistent trade deficit with China.

A tangible would-be success is the Indian investment in Chabahar port in Iran as part of an Afghan trade strategy (see part two of this report). But that's about it.

Apart from energy/connectivity projects such as the national digital ID Aadhaar system (1.18 billion users) and investing in an array of solar power plants, India has a long way to go. According to the recently published Global Hunger Index (GHI), India ranks at 100 out of 119 countries surveyed on child hunger, based on four components: undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting, and child stunting. That's an extremely worrying seven notches below the DPRK. And only seven notches above Afghanistan, at the bottom of the list.

New Delhi would hardly lose if there were a conscious bet on building up on India-China cooperation under the BRICS framework. And that includes accepting that BRI investment is useful and even essential for India's infrastructure development. The doors remain open. All eyes are on December 10-11, when India will host a trilateral Russia-India-China – all BRICS members – at the ministerial level.
India, Russia, China to make strong pitch in fight against terror (Индия, Россия, Китай делают большой шаг в борьбе с терроризмом) / India, December, 2017
Keywords: foreign_ministers_meeting, terrorism
Author: Jayanth Jacob

NEW DELHI, Dec. 10 -- Counter-terrorism is set to get a stronger expression of intent and plan of action in the joint communique to be issued after the meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, India China (RIC) here on Monday.

The statement is also likely to make a more detailed mention of Asia-Pacific region and the primary role of 'East Asia Summit' in maintaining peace and stability and in the regional security architecture as well as reflect 'continuing' support of Russia and China for India becoming a member of the Asia Pacific Economic Forum (APEC).

Though greater emphasis on terrorism wouldn't mean much in terms of China lifting its opposition to Indian efforts to get leaders of Pakistan-based terrorist outfits such as Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Mazood Azhar listed under United Nations Security Council Sanctions list, some experts see this as three countries finding greater common ground on fighting international terrorism.

Ahead of the meeting, officials of the three countries are working on the joint communique which will be vetted by the ministers before it is issued.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will host her Russian and Chinese counterparts Sergei Lavrov and Wang Yi, respectively, for the 15th edition of the meeting of the foreign ministers of the three countries.

Sources familiar with the developments said principal efforts are on getting a statement with a heavy accent on counterterrorism that would reflect 'common ground' among the three countries have to deal with the menace in the region with bigger resolve.

The indications from the meetings are the statement would have the following: primary role and responsibility the states have in countering terrorism, stopping the cross country movement of terrorists and mentioning of Pakistan-based terror groups that target India, and early adoption of UN convention on International Terrorism.

This would help the grouping address India's concern over Pakistan-based terrorist groups and role "Pakistani state refuses to play" in countering "non-state actors". "Terrorism is a common concern for the three countries, so groups that are of concern to each country is a common concern when it comes to addressing terrorism," said a source.

Experts agree to the larger sentiment on countering terrorism that can be reflected in the statement, but they doubt whether it would translate into China changing its position on Pakistan-based terrorist outfits.

Beijing consistently torpedoed Indian efforts to bring Mazood Azhar under UN Sanction list. The listed entities and individuals face asset freeze, travel ban and other measures that cripple their ability to carry out terror strikes.

"The statement can make the larger point of the three countries having greater common ground on how to deal with international terrorism. The leaders would also have a free and frank exchange on the issue that is always helpful," said former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh.

But he said this should not be taken as China changing its position. Strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellany agreed with Mansingh and also questioned the relevance of the RIC, which has "become largely irrelevant, especially after the formation of BRICS". "An RIC statement on any issue will carry little weight, but especially on terrorism, given the way China blocks UN action against Azhar and other Pakistan-based terrorists."

The joint statement will also reflect the common approach of three countries in Asia Pacific. They would stress on the role of East Asia Summit.
India-Russia Consultations on Disarmament and BRICS issues (Консультации между Индией и Россией по вопросам разоружения и БРИКС) / India, December, 2017
Keywords: foreign_ministers_meeting, mofa

India-Russia Consultations between the two Foreign Ministries were held in New Delhi on 6th December 2017 on Disarmament, Non-proliferation and other issues of mutual interest. Dr. S. Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary of India and Mr. Sergei Ryabkov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation lead their respective delegations for the consultations.

In addition, Deputy Minister held discussions on BRICS related matters with Mr. Vijay Gokhale, Secretary (Economic Relations), Ministry of External Affairs.

In October 2016, India and Russia signed a Protocol on Foreign Office Consultations for the period 2017-18. In the past one year consultations on nine areas of common interest under this Protocol have been held.
Russia-India-China trilateral meet: Modi to flaunt independent foreign policy (Трехсторонняя встреча Россия-Индия-Китай: Моди выставляет напоказ независимую внешнюю политику) / India, December, 2017
Keywords: expert_opinion, foreign_ministers_meeting, sergey_lavrov, vladimir_putin
Author: Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury

NEW DELHI: The forthcoming edition of Russia-India-China (RIC) foreign minister level trilateral meet in Delhi on December 11, aimed at removing any misgivings about India's pro-West tilt, would provide an opportunity to showcase the Modi government's independent foreign policy approach.

The platform of the three major BRICS powers is aimed at facilitating common position on key global challenges -- radical ideas, terror threats, Afghanistan and West Asia. India is eyeing a strong commitment from the RIC states against terror groups active in South Asia similar to the formulation in the last BRICS Summit.

The RIC meet after BRICS will be yet another forum for India to interact with China on a way forward in bilateral relations in the post-Doklam era and serious differences over connectivity initiatives primarily OBOR. The Sino-Pak nexus that safeguards key anti-India terror masterminds is also key irritant in Sino-Indian ties.

Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, who will be first minister from Beijing to visit India after the Doklam episode, will discuss all major issues in their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of RIC with an eye to take forward bilateral ties through confidence building measures (CBM).

The Chinese foreign minister's visit for RIC will be followed by Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi's possible trip to Delhi in the third week of December for boundary talks with Indian NSA and Special Representative.

Simultaneously, coupled with RIC -- which will be attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov -- Delhi and Moscow will be engaged in a series of consultations in December and January beginning this week to expand bilateral economic & strategic agenda. Lavrov's visit is being preceded by his deputy on Wednesday and will be followed by Russian deputy PM on December 23. Lavrov and Swaraj will review bilateral ties at their separate meetings.

Yet another senior minister from Moscow will be here in January as Delhi pushes its Eurasian agenda through connectivity initiatives – INSTC & Chabahar Port. SCO membership has allowed India an entry as a key player into the geopolitics of Eurasian region.

Simultaneously Eurasian Economic Union membership will also enable India to realise the untapped economic potential in the region where China has made significant inroads.

"India's FTA with the Eurasian Economic Union can be a gamechanger for Delhi to further its economic agenda in the region. India and Russia need to discuss China's role in Eurasia including any misgiving that Delhi has over OBOR in Eurasia," Sergey Yurievich Glazyev, adviser to President Vladimir Putin, currently in India, told ET.

However, the tricky issues in RIC will be on any mention of OBOR and South China Sea disputes in the groupings joint communique. India is opposed to OBOR as it not only passes through PoK but its model of financing is creating a debt burden and its end goal is not clear. The three countries are, however, expected to have a common position on Syrian situation and the Ukraine question.

The significance of the RIC lies in the fact that unlike some of the other trilateral and quadrilaterals there is a joint communique and not separate statements by the three countries.
Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
BRICS Accounts for One-Third of Iran's Non-Oil Trade (Торговля с БРИКС составляет треть от всей ненефтяной торговли Ирана) / India, December, 2017
Keywords: trade_relations

Trade between Iran and BRICS member countries amounted to $18.26 billion during the eight months to Nov. 22, which comprises one-third of Iran's non-oil trade during the period.

The latest data released by the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration indicate an 8.12% growth in trade between Iran and BRICS member states compared with last year's corresponding period.

BRICS is the acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa that are all leading developing or newly-industrialized countries, but they are distinguished by their large, sometimes fast-growing economies and significant influence on regional affairs; all five are G-20 members.

Iran exported $7.73 billion worth of non-oil goods to BRICS countries during the eight months, registering a 7.71% growth year-on-year.

Imports from the five countries amounted to $10.5 billion, which is 8.42% higher YOY.

Financial Tribune's analysis also shows that China accounted for the largest portion of Iran-BRICS trade with 75%, up from last year's 69%. India came next with an 18% share from the total.

Iran's trade with its main trade partner China increased by 18% during the period, standing at $13.7 billion. With a total trade value of $3.39 billion, India was the second largest BRICS partner of Iran during the eight-month period, recording a 3.72% growth YOY.

Following were Russia and Brazil with $627 million and $563 million, respectively. Trade with Russia and Brazil registered significant drops during the period, 52.1% and 25% respectively, according to the IRICA data.

South Africa's trade with Iran amounted to $47 million, 3% down lower compared to last year's similar period.

Iran exports to BRICS amounted to $7.73 billion during the eight months to Nov. 22, registering a 7.71% growth compared with the same period of last year.

China accounted for the largest portion of the amount, importing $5.7 billion worth of non-oil goods from Iran. India and Russia came next with $1.78 billion and $165 million worth of imports from Iran respectively.

IRICA data put Iran's exports to South Africa and Brazil at $28.7 million and $9.2 million, respectively.

Exports to Russia increased by 50% during the period, while non-oil exports to Brazil experienced an 87% decrease YOY.

As for Iran's imports, the country imported $7.9 billion worth of non-oil goods from China, marking a 22% growth YOY. Imports from India grew by 18.12% to stand at $1.5 billion.

Russia exported $460 million worth of non-oil goods to Iran during the period, recording a 61% drop compared with last year's $1.198 billion.

Brazil and South Africa exported $553 million and $17.6 million worth of goods to Iran respectively.

> Ambitious Targets

Iran-China Chamber of Commerce has predicted that trade between the two countries would reach $38 billion by the end of the current Iranian fiscal year (March 20, 2018).

The two countries have set a long-term bilateral trade target of $600 billion annually. The two countries are hoping that development of China's Belt and Road Initiative will help them meet that target in the coming years.

Back in September, a new freight train service bound for the Iranian capital of Tehran was launched from Yinchuan City of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

Passing Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, the train travels 20 days faster than a ship, and is expected to greatly lower our delivery costs. China was expected to send more cargo trains to Iran through the route by the end of 2017.

Saurabh Kumar, India's ambassador to Tehran, recently said trade between Iran and India could be increased to $30 billion.

He said the two countries will soon sign a preferential trade agreement, which could help boost trade relations. Phase 1 of Chabahar development project (Shahid Beheshti Port), which was inaugurated earlier this week, is also expected to contribute to expansion of trade relations between Tehran and New Delhi.

Asadollah Asgaroladi, the head of Iran-Russia Chamber of Commerce, believes political, cultural and social relations between Russia and Iran are mutually agreeable, yet Iran has not been able to gain a foothold in the Russian market and is losing the game to its rivals, mainly Turkey.

Bilateral trade has the potential to be much higher than the current level, Asgaroladi told Financial Tribune earlier in August.

Iran and Brazil also have set a target to increase trade from the current value to $5 billion annually. However, lack of banking relations has become an obstacle for reaching the target.

Iran's Ambassador to South Africa Mohsen Movahedi Qomi said the two countries have decided to increase two-way trade to $2 billion by 2020.

> Improving Environment Post Sanctions

Export credit agencies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have each gradually improved Iran's rating in their risk classifications since the nuclear deal was implemented, Arash Shahr-Aeini told Financial Tribune.

The implementation of the nuclear deal, formally known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in January 2016 marks the removal of international nuclear sanctions against Iran as part of a deal signed between Tehran and five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (China, Russia, the US, France and the UK) plus Germany in July 2015.

The elimination of sanctions opened the gates of trade to Iran's economy after years of stringent restrictions on doing business with the Islamic Republic.

China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation, a major state-owned enterprise also known as Sinosure, has given Iran a BB risk rating of five from a scale of nine.

The Export Insurance Agency of Russia, well known as Exiar, has designated a risk rating of four out of seven to Iran while it has managed to acquire a B+ or three out of seven from the longstanding Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India founded in 1957.

The Export Credit Insurance Corporation of South Africa, added Shahr-Aeini, has put Iran's risk classification at five out of seven.

> Prospects of Iran's BRICS Accession

Lately, there have been talks about Iran joining BRICS. Back in November, Speaker of South African National Assembly Baleka Mbete said her country is interested to see Iran join BRICS and will push for that, stressing that the 80-million-nation could lend considerable weight to the bloc.

However, Hossein Jaberi Ansari, deputy minister of foreign affairs, said Iran prefers to wait for an invitation from the association.

"We always welcome being a member of the international group. If all five countries come to the decision about the entry of Iran, we would welcome it," he said.

Russian And BRICS Debt Dynamics Since 2012 (Динамика долга России и БРИКС с 2012 года) / USA, December, 2017
Keywords: economic_challenges, expert_opinion, rating
Author: Constantin Gurdgiev

Back in 2014, Russia entered a period of recessionary economic dynamics, coupled with the diminishing access to foreign debt markets. Ever since, I occasionally wrote about the positive impact of the economy's deleveraging from debt. Here is the latest evidence from the BIS on the subject, positing Russia in comparative to the rest of the BRICS economies.

In absolute terms, Russian deleveraging has been absolutely dramatic. Since 2014, the total amounts of debt outstanding against Russia have shrunk more than 50 percent. The deleveraging stage in the Russian economy actually started in 1Q 2014 (before Western sanctions), and the deleveraging dynamics have been the sharpest during 2014 (before the bulk of Western sanctions). This suggests that the two major drivers for deleveraging have been: economic growth slowdown (2013-1Q 2014) and economic recession (H2 2014-2016), plus devaluation of the ruble in late 2014-early 2015.

The last chart on the right shows that deleveraging has impacted all BRICS (with exception of South Africa) starting in 2H 2013 - 1H 2014 (except for China, where deleveraging only lasted between 2H 2015 and through the end of 2016, although deleveraging was very sharp during that brief period).

In other words, there is very little evidence that any aspect of Russian debt dynamics had anything to do with the Western sanctions, and all the evidence support the proposition that the deleveraging is organic to an economy going through the structural growth slowdown period.

Russia-China real gold standard means end of US dollar dominance (Золотой стандарт России и Китая означает конец доминированию доллара США) / Russia, December, 2017
Keywords: economic_challenges, expert_opinion, trade_relations

The BRICS counties are considering starting an internal gold trading platform, according to Russian officials. When this happens, the global economy will be significantly reshaped, and the West will lose its dominance, predicts a precious metals expert.
In 2016, 24,338 tons of physical gold were traded, which was 43 percent more than in 2015, according to Claudio Grass, of Precious Metal Advisory Switzerland.

Gold moving from the West to the East

"We have to put the BRICS initiative into a broader context. It is just part of a geopolitical tectonic shift which started decades ago. We have seen a constant outflow of physical gold from the West to the East. At the same time, the West has lost the economic war, and as a consequence, the focus now turns to the financial system. China dominates the world economy and has displaced the US as the world's most formidable economic powerhouse," he told RT.

The creation of a new gold standard by BRICS is also a step to end the US dollar's domination of the global economy

"As Bejing and Moscow understand that America used the dollar to control the world, by implementing a new kind of 'Gold standard 2.0' they want to distance themselves from this control. Furthermore, the vast majority of the people in Asia sees gold as superior, or 'real' money, something the West has forgotten, because of all the paper wealth (credit) they have accumulated," said Grass.

The expert notes the BRICS countries account for 40 percent of the world's population and around 23 percent of the world's domestic product.

"In combination with the announcement of pricing oil in yuan, using a gold-backed futures contract in Shanghai, the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank, China is setting up an alternative to the post-Bretton Woods establishment. This is certainly a game changer," said Grass.

Physically backed precious metals market spells the end of paper gold trade

The level of trust between BRICS countries can help them establish intragroup gold trading, which would be 100 percent physically backed.

"This will present a viable challenger that could over time lead to a break up of the current system since the West will likely still trade paper gold in the meantime," Grass said.

According to London gold clearing statistics for 2016, the total trading volume in the London Over-the-Counter (OTC) gold market is estimated at the equivalent of 1.5 million tons of gold. The volume of 100oz gold futures on New York's COMEX reached 57.5 million contracts during 2016 or 179,000 tonnes of gold, the analyst notes.

The amount of mined gold is much smaller

"If we now take into consideration that only approximately 180,000 tons of gold have actually been mined up to today the scam is just gigantic and obviously unsustainable. The paper scams in London and New York will either blow up when the paper price of gold drops to zero or when just a fraction of investors insists upon receiving physical gold in return," Grass said.

The expert believes that with paper gold trading, the established gold exchanges could cease to exist sooner or later.

"They will likely become obsolete and lose their importance over time. Although one cannot predict exactly how fast this will happen, the trend is clear: OTC and COMEX are working toward their own destruction," he said.

Gold prices could explode if trading were backed by physical precious metals

"It will definitely lead to higher prices for physical gold. Imagine if you could buy on COMEX and OTC gold at a much lower price and still have the option to sell it in Asia for a much higher price; this would kill the old paper scams immediately. Therefore, I would guess that both could come up with new restrictions that only cash settlements will be allowed to avoid this. We know for example that even today 99.96 percent of COMEX gold futures are settled in cash," Grass wrote.

The final battle: Gold vs. US dollar

The analyst recollected the Heartland Theory of Halford Mackinder, a British geostrategist at the beginning of the 20th century who influenced the likes of Kissinger and Brzezinski. Following the theory, we will soon face a war between physical gold and the US dollar.

"As per my understanding, we are moving into the final phase, the battle between currencies – one that will be backed by a hard asset which was real money since time immemorial until 1971 and the other one, backed by promises that future generations will pay through debt, inflation and ever-rising taxation," he said.

Getting away from fiat currencies will be good for gold

"I would like to conclude with a final thought from my friend Jayant Bandari: the combination of negative yields, massive political risks around the world, and any attempt to move away from traditional currencies will be positive for gold and will take it to the next level. Investing is very much linked with geopolitics - once you understand the big picture, it becomes apparent what you should invest in," Grass told RT.
BRICS and blocs - Beware of categorizations (БРИКС и блоки - Остерегайтесь категоризации) / USA, December, 2017
Keywords: economic_challenges, emerging_market, expert_opinion, rating
Author: Alexander Monge-Naranjo

Understanding the global economy has become more important for policymakers, given the increased interdependence in trade and capital flows. For the same reason, though, tracking the different economies has also become more complex. So it's not surprising analysts find it convenient to group countries in blocs according to a characteristic or commonality. Examples include the G-7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, U.K., and U.S.), meant to designate the largest economies in the world, and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), meant to designate the most significant emerging economies for their size and fast growth. And then there are the so-called PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain), meant to designate European countries that were struggling to service their external debt a few years ago.

These classifications can be useful at certain points in time, but analysts and policymakers should keep in mind at least two important limitations. Countries in these blocs can behave very differently. And the classifications can very quickly become outdated, even if they continue to remain in use. I'll illustrate these two limitations with FRED data for the BRICS.

Let's look at real total GDP for these five countries, normalized so they all equal 100 in 1990. Using an index allows us to abstract from the large size differences of these countries and also gives a more transparent picture of how quickly each of these countries has grown between 1990 and 2014. The graph shows some large differences, indeed. China has grown dramatically since 1990—by a factor of 6. India is a distant second, growing by a factor of 4. Both Brazil and South Africa, in the middle, have doubled the size of their economies. Russia, which is last, has grown by barely 18% during the sample period; in fact, if anything, Russia's economy was below its initial 1990 size for much of the 1990s and early 2000s.

So, should the BRICS be grouped together as a bloc? Only Brazil and South Africa behave in a reasonably similar way. Otherwise, these countries have big differences in economic behavior and their resulting relative importance.

A similar exercise could be done for the G7, where the relative importance of countries has also changed considerably. You may have known this already, but the G-7 no longer represents the seven largest economies: Canada and Italy have been replaced by China and India. And the internal rankings have also changed for the European countries, with Germany in 4th place, the U.K. in 5th, and France in 6th.

How this graph was created: Search for "real GDP at constant national prices for [country]" where [country] can be replaced by the actual name of the country you want. Select the units so that all variables are scaled by an index that sets the value of 100 for 1990. Choose 3 for the width for all lines.
Why you won't be sorry for investing in BRICS (Почему вы не пожалеете об инвестициях в БРИКС) / South Africa, December, 2017
Keywords: economic_challenges, expert_opinion, investments, rating
South Africa

CAPE TOWN - Investing in emerging markets is a calculated risk. It can either go swimmingly well or horribly wrong. Here's is what you need to know about investing in BRICS.

BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) account for 40% of the world's population and an estimated 25% of its GDP.

Considering the valuable contribution these countries make to the world, they possess the potential to yield profitable return for investors.

For instance, Brazil has the largest economy in Latin America and is a large contributor of energy whereas India is a global leader in manufacturing.

Significantly, China, the largest BRICS member by population and GDP, has foreign reserves which was approaching R28 trillion in 2009.

"Brics gives us an opportunity to create jobs, and work in tangent with the partnership to re-skill and up-skill our workforce," says Dr Iqbal Surve.

"We have to credit our government for realising the goal for SA to be a partner in this multinational forum. The state continues to amend policies and laws to create attractive conditions to draw investments. It was after intense lobbying with economic giants and wealth-creating nations, Brazil, Russia, India and China, that we joined the partnership seven years ago. We set ourselves on a course and to roll back centuries of economic drought", added Surve.

Risks of BRICS

Brics investments are risky because the nation's markets are underdeveloped. This leads to issues with transparency and reporting in general. In addition to this, a general lack of liquidity creates an increase market volatility.

This is depicted by South Africa's volatile economy. On September 13 year, the rand slipped to its weakest in three weeks.

The rand slid to R13.1683 to the dollar at 5pm, 14.71c softer than at the same time on Tuesday. Ratings agency, Moody's then warned that the rand could fall further as political pressure mounted closer.

Similarly, the rand also took a dive when Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba presented his maiden budget statement on October 25. This was attributed to South Africa slashing its projected gross domestic product (GDP) by almost half. From 1.3% forecast in the February budget to 0.7%.

The decline in business and consumer confidence is what drove the rand to the ground.

Benefits of BRICS

There is the possibility that BRICS nations will outperform their first world counterparts in the next decade. However, it is not certain that all BRICS nations will do well. Based on this, any investment in BRICS should be allocated wisely. If one's overall emerging market allocation runs between 5% and 8%, no more than half of this should ideally be devoted to that BRICs investment.

Bearing in mind that BRICS does not appear on the stock market, it is a long term investment.

Investors are spoiled with a variety of investment options in BRICS states. They can either invest in ETFs, mutual funds and closed-end investment funds. To invest in specific firms however, ADRs are considered the best investment.
World of work
Social policy, trade unions, actions
JMI's Nanoscience Centre Bags International BRICS Project Award (Центр Нанонауки JAM's запускает международную премию за проект БРИКС) / India, December, 2017
Keywords: innovations, social_issues, award

NEW DELHI: Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI)'s Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology has bagged the prestigious International BRICS project award for the year 2017-18. Prof S.S. Islam, Director of the Centre will lead the BRICS Multilateral Research and Development Project as Project Investigator (PI). Two other international PIs who will be a part of the project are from Russia and China.

BRICS Scientific, Technological and Innovation (STI) Framework, under the aegis of multilateral R&D projects, provides an excellent research opportunity by facilitating domestic STI development with the multilateral platform among the member nations.

International projects are awarded to competent scientists and researchers from the participating BRICS countries ---Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa-- based on project innovation and scientific robustness to attain the global goals of sustainable development.

The group of five major developing economies has become an important multilateral body at the global stage. Apart from being a successful grouping in terms of policy formulation and economic co-operation, BRICS nations endeavour to achieve scientific and technological excellence through collaboration among the researchers and institutions in the consortia from the member countries.

JMI's Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology was established in 2011 with a focus on advanced research in the development, characterization and applications of nanomaterials.

The centre is equipped with specialized clean room infrastructure with a controlled environment and associated facilities critical to nanoscale research. These include nanofabrication, nanomaterials characterization as well as testing and measurement instruments. The centre currently runs M. Tech. and PhD programmes in nanotechnology with an objective of preparing a rich human resource pool in the fast-growing field of nanotechnology.
BRICS' solutions on aging 'will benefit world economy' (Решения БРИКС по проблемам старения «принесут пользу мировой экономике») / China, December, 2017
Keywords: economic_challenges, social_issues

Collaboration among BRICS nations on the issue of aging could help boost global economic development and social welfare, according to a senior Chinese official.

Wang Jianjun, the director of China's National Committee on Aging, said all members of the bloc — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — share a common problem.

"They each have a huge and fast-growing aging population," he said. "This means they must strike a balance between aging and economic development. Successfully doing so will benefit economic development and social welfare, among the BRICS and beyond."

He was speaking at the first BRICS Meeting on Aging, which opened in Beijing on Wednesday. The event, attended by 100 representatives for the five countries, is themed "Building Consensus for Concerted Responses".

Wang, who said China has the world's largest aging population, urged BRICS nations to standardize and institutionalize cooperation on aging, and take each other's policies for reference.

Countries should also improve exchanges in skills, technologies and standards to boost development of public services and industries related to aging, he added.
China ranks No 2 in internet talents among BRICS countries (Китай занимает 2-е место среди интернет-талантов в странах БРИКС) / China, December, 2017
Keywords: innovations, rating, social_issues

China ranks second in the number of internet talents after India among the BRICS countries, according to a report released at the 4th World Internet Conference on Monday.

The 2017 Internet Talent Development Report, complied by the National Academy of Innovation Strategy in Beijing, shows that the number of internet talents in China accounts for 27 percent among the five countries, while India takes up 52.2 percent, almost as twice large as China.

The number of internet talents is distributed unevenly worldwide, said Ni Guangnan, a researcher at the Institute of Computing Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"Chinese IT talents are highly competitive in innovation ability, diligence and other aspects, but enterprises at present are facing the pressure of a lack of talents," he said.

In China, the major eight enterprises such as Huawei, Tencent, China Mobile have a total demand of about 169,000 internet talents this year. However, the major eight universities including Peking University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University can only provide about 14,900.

The report also shows that emerging internet startups are in a fierce contest with established internet companies for these talents.

Startups offer higher salaries to attract talents than the three major internet companies - Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (BAT). The average salary in some new companies, including DiDi and Meituan, is higher than BAT by 21 percent, according to the report.

Startups offer higher salaries to attract talents than the three major internet companies - Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (BAT). The technical employers with one to three years' work experience in some new companies, including DiDi and Meituan, earn higher salaries than employees of BAT by 21 percent, according to the report.

"In a world where the boundaries between the internet and traditional industry are blurring, companies need the best talent to keep on top of the game," said Yu Chengdong, CEO of Huawei's consumer business group.

42 pct of World's Elderly in BRICS Countries (42% пожилых людей в странах БРИКС) / China, December, 2017
Keywords: economic_challenges, rating, research, social_issues

BEIJING, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- The elderly population of BRICS countries hit 380 million as of 2015, accounting for 42 percent of the world's elderly population.

More than 200 million and 100 million elderly people in China and India respectively made up the the majority of the BRICS elderly population, according to the United NationsPopulation Fund (UNFPA) Representative Office in China and Renmin University at a BRICS conference on aging Wednesday

The statistics suggest that by the middle of the century, the elderly population of the five countries will reach 940 million, accounting for 45 percent of the world population.

Jointly held by China's national association on aging, Renmin University and the UNFPA Representative Office in China, the conference was the first international conference on aging held between BRICS countries.

"The conference will analyze the major problems related to the elderly population, to summarize the experience on how to cope with them, and to put forward suggestions and cooperation frameworks for BRICS and other countries to positively deal with an aging population," said Wang Jianjun, head of China's national association on aging.
Different Approaches for Promoting Development in Developing Countries (Различные подходы к содействию развитию в развивающихся странах) / Brazil, December, 2017
Keywords: sustainable_development

The event Towards a shared understanding of effective development co-operation: learning from different actors and approaches was held onNovember 24th, in Paris, at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) conference center. The BRICS Policy Center was represented by its General Supervisor, Prof. Paulo Esteves

The meeting was the first of a series that has, as its goal, to present innovative solutions for the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Researchers from developing countries discussed the results and perspectives of the different modalities of cooperation, including North-South, South-South, and triangular cooperation.

The General Supervisor of the BRICS Policy Center, Prof. Paulo Esteves, participated on the first panel of the conference, "Effective Development Co-operation for the 2030 Agenda: Enhancing Shared Understanding on Challenges and Opportunities". He commented on the presentation "Should China join the GPEDC? The prospects for China and the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation", by Li Xiaoyun from China Agricultural University. The other panels presented during the conference were Joining forces to achieve the 2030 agenda - Inclusive Dialogue and Knowledge Exchange with Southern Partners e Way Forward to Learn from Diverse Approaches and Further Engage Stakeholders from Emerging Economies.

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