Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 13.2018
2018.03.26— 2018.04.01
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
China handed over the chairmanship in the BRICS Business Council to the Republic of South Africa (Китай передал ЮАР председательство в Деловом Совете БРИКС) / Russia, March, 2018
Keywords: Business_Council, top_level_meeting

At a meeting of the BRICS Business Council in Shanghai, Sergey Katyrin, the President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation and the head of the Russian Chapter of the BRICS Business Council summed up the five-year work cycle.

In his welcoming remarks he recalled that on March 27, 2013, exactly five years ago, at the BRICS summit in South Africa, a declaration on the creation of the BRICS Business Council was signed. On a global scale, this was a very young structure but it faced great challenges that still need to be fulfilled, said Sergei Katyrin.

In his opinion, it was extremely important to develop direct contacts between business circles of the BRICS countries. This opportunity was provided by the largest Russian congresses and exhibitions such as the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. This year the SPIEF-2018 will host a traditional session on the development of cooperation with the BRICS countries.

Meetings and discussions of working groups on finance, industry, infrastructure, energy and green economy, agriculture, professional development, regional aviation and deregulation took place within the framework of the forum. The Business Council decided to establish a new working group on the digital economy.

In addition all the national parts of the BRICS BC supported the Russian initiative to create a separate structure aimed at the development of women's entrepreneurship. It was about creating a kind of BRICS women's business club for professional communication of women entrepreneurs. The working name of this association was the BRICS Women Council. The establishment of the Council will be held on July 25-27 at the BRICS Summit in South Africa.

At the end of Shanghai meeting China handed over its chairmanship to the BRICS Business Council of the Republic of South Africa.

By CCI of Russia news reports

Opinion: Xi's envoy aims for treble missions in his South Africa trip (Мнение: Посланник Си нацелился на тройные миссии в своей поездке в ЮАР) / China, March, 2018
Keywords: FOCAC, top_level_meeting, expert_opinion, global_governance
Author: Liam Lee

China and South Africa are now gearing up for Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) slated to happen in Beijing this September. The event, co-chaired by the two countries, was also upgraded to a Summit "in order to respond to the strong needs by the South African side and the practical needs for the development between China and African countries."

After the annual meetings of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), presidents of Cameroon, Namibia and Zimbabwe visited China one after another. It is also worthy to notice that Yang Jiechi, special representative of Chinese President Xi Jinping, visited South Africa on March 23 with triple missions, expected to exert a positive influence on China's ties with South Africa and the wider African continent in the new era.

Yang's first mission is to confirm the time for this year's FOCAC, a set of ministerial conferences held every three years, with the first one held in October, 2000 in Beijing and the latest in 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

As a senior diplomat, Yang has a deep insight into Chinese policy toward African countries. His visit to Cape Town to meet Cyril Ramaphosa, the newly elected president of South Africa, shows that China not only attaches great importance to the role of South Africa in Africa, but also hopes to extend the stable cooperation of the two countries in the continent.

FOCAC, along with BRICS, are events to further build the bilateral ties of the two countries. South Africa would hold the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg in July, aiming for new achievements in the cooperation frameworks.

Yang also prepared for the meeting of the two presidents. Xi Jinping will visit South Africa to attend the BRICS Summit, after his last trip to the country three years ago. Against the background of integrated free trade in Africa, BRICS countries are expected to endorse free trade based on common interests.

The third mission is to further promote the bilateral relations between China and South Africa. For a long time, many people mistook China-South Africa relations with China-Africa relations. Though South Africa plays the leading role among African economies, it cannot represent the whole Africa. And there is a voice in South Africa calling to upgrade the China-South Africa ties in an all-around way, making it a win-win cooperation.

An important historic background for these events is that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and South Africa. Besides the cooperation in industrialization and infrastructure upgrading, high-quality agricultural products, internationalized finance and media industries can also meet the needs of a country that is undergoing a new round of economic structure reform. China cooperates with

Trump distracts America from the task of facing three existential threats (Трамп отвлекает Америку от задачи столкнуться с тремя экзистенциальными угрозами) / United Kingdom, March, 2018
Keywords: global_governance, economic_challenges, donald_trump, political_issues
United Kingdom
Author: Michael H Fuchs

As Trump forces America's attention span to shrink, we are unable to address the threats that could fundamentally endanger American national security

'The seas are rising, imperiling hundreds of millions of people in coastal communities from Shanghai to Miami.' Photograph: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images Donald Trump's daily assaults on American democracy and the pillars of America's role in the world are disastrous – and they are also distracting America from even bigger global challenges. At just the moment when the United States must be joining together with the rest of the world to confront three existential threats – climate change, challenges to democracy, and the rise of China – Americans are forced to spend every waking minute mitigating Trump's damage.

In Trump's America, it's hard to keep up. The news and controversies come so quickly they eat into each other's news cycles. Actions by the Trump administration that previously might have brought down a presidency (or at least merited a congressional inquiry) pass in a matter of hours as the next jaw-dropping scandal explodes.

As Trump forces America's attention span to shrink (was that even possible?), we are unable to address the three threats that could fundamentally endanger American national security.

First, climate change. It's hard to overstate the magnitude of this threat. The seas are rising, imperiling hundreds of millions of people in coastal communities from Shanghai to Miami. Climate change is likely enhancing the devastation of extreme weather like storms and heatwaves.

Unless national and global actions are taken, the World Bank estimates that by 2050, more than 140 million people in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia will be forced to leave their homes because of climate change. The near to mid-term effects of the heating planet could affect hundreds of millions. The long-term effects could wipe out humanity.

Preventing the worst effects of climate change and reversing its course would require a global effort the likes of which we've only seen in the movie Independence Day, in which the countries of the world put aside their disagreements to fight an alien invasion threatening all of humankind. That's how difficult this would be in normal circumstances.

But in Donald Trump's world, we are moving backwards, from announcing the intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement to gutting the federal government's role as a defender of the environment.

The necessary efforts of actors like the US Climate Alliance to encourage US states to continue the transition away from dirty fuels can only do so much in the absence of presidential leadership. And America has vacated the global effort – and abandoned its leadership role – to forge solutions.

Second, the rise of China. China is increasingly willing to throw its weight around the world and to invest in the foundations of long-term global influence. China's bullying of neighbors in the East and South China Seas and Doklam reveal a brazenness of a more militarily powerful China.

The creation of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) bank are Chinese moves to extend its economic and strategic sway. In the coming years, China may have an extraordinary ability to shape the world's economic and strategic landscape in ways that could undermine the interests of the United States, from sparking instability in Asia to bolstering the strength of authoritarians.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump can't figure out what he thinks of China. He praises Xi Jinping – expressing jealousy of China's removing presidential term limits – while planning tariffs on Chinese goods. He criticizes China's relationship with North Korea while ignoring China's destabilizing acts in the South China Sea. At the same time that China is finding new confidence in its global role, the one country capable of pushing back is missing in action.

Third, the endurance of liberal democracy. From Poland to the Philippines, Hungary to Turkey to the United States and beyond, democracies are under attack from within by demagogues, authoritarians and radical populists. America's prosperity and stability has long depended on friends that share democratic values and today that foundation is under pressure. If the ranks of democracy wither, America will face growing threats to its peace and prosperity.

Democratic values are in jeopardy in Trump's America too. Trump is attacking democratic institutions from the judiciary to the FBI. He is eroding norms once thought sacred, such as avoiding business conflicts of interest. He exhibits authoritarian impulses like asking officials for personal loyalty. And he is stoking white nationalism while pursuing discriminatory policies against minorities.

In the face of this grave danger to American democracy, many Americans are resisting. Honorable government officials, civil society organizations and concerned citizens are working hard to safeguard laws and institutions. This battle to protect American democracy itself is the most urgent task – and without a strong, democratic America, it will be difficult to tackle the other existential threats.

Unfortunately, much of the work shoring up democracy in America amounts to bailing out the sinking ship as Trump pokes holes in it – trying to stay afloat rather than building a more powerful democracy. And as we try to save our own ship, liberal democracies across the world must face their own existential challenges without America's help.

Today, America is fighting to safeguard its identity as a welcoming, tolerant, democratic country. But when we emerge from our Trumpian nightmare – assuming we do so intact – America will have lost precious time to tackle global existential threats that are growing.

  • Michael H Fuchs is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and a former deputy assistant secretary of state for east Asian and Pacific affairs
Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
Fiscal sustainability in BRICS countries: Evidence from asymmetric unit root tests augmented with Fourier fucntion (Фискальная устойчивость в странах БРИКС: данные об асимметричных тестах на единичный корень, дополненные функцией Фурье) / Germany, March, 2018
Keywords: research, economic_challenges
Author: Andrew Phiri

ABSTRACT: The study's main focus is to demonstrate the importance of accounting for nonlinearities and unobserved structural breaks in testing for stationary in fiscal budgets. This is achieved by applying the KSS unit root tests augment with a flexible Fourier form to the fiscal budgets of BRICS counties. We find that when unit root tests do not account for structural breaks, the fiscal budgets tend to contain a unit root whereas when structural breaks are considered without accounting for nonlinearities the series ae stationary. Simultaneously accounting for asymmetries and unobserved structural breaks more effectively segregates the data into stationary and nonstationary series.


Following the coining of the acronym of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) by O'Neil (2001) and the subsequent inclusion of South Africa into the blog in 2010, much research has been dedicated to the BRICS countries as a collective emerging economic force against other powerhouse economic alliances such as the G7 economies. On a global platform, the BRICS countries collectively account for 40 percent of the world's total foreign reserves, 40 percent of the total world's population, 25 percent of the world's land mass, 45 percent of the world's total labour force, 40 percent of the share in world's total merchandise trade and 20 percent of the world's total GDP. Furthermore, the emergence of the contingency reserve agreement (CRA) as well as the recent launching of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) which possess as a challenge to the US-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), has further escalated the optimism for the future dominance of BRICS countries on a global competitive podium.

However, much criticism has been placed on these BRICS economies on account of their dysfunctional public finances, poor government sustainability and high levels of socioeconomic inequalities. Therefore, in response to these criticisms, BRICS countries are placing increasing emphasis on investment in human capital to attract foreign investment, increase technology transfer and develop indigenous innovative capabilities (Mostafa and Mahmood, 2015). Such social investment spending will, in turn, require increased government revenue in the BRICS economies which could potentially lead to increases in the already lingering high levels of public debt in these countries if such expenditure is not met with accompanied increase in non-debt revenue accumulation. It would thus be interesting for policymakers, other academics and even financial analysts to know as to whether or not fiscal budgets are sustainable in BRICS countries.

Currently, there exist a number of studies which have investigated the sustainability of fiscal budgets for BRICS economies (see Baffes and Shah (1994) and Ewing and Payne (1998) for Brazil, Dhanasekaran, (2001) for India, Li (2009) for China and (Nyamongo et. al. (2007), Ndahiriwe and Gupta (2010) and Phiri (2018) for South Africa). Despite the ever-expanding empirical research on the revenue-expenditure nexus, there are a number of hiatuses that can be identified from the current literature concerning BRICS countries. For instance, with the exception of Phiri (2018), the remaining studies have assumed linearity in their empirical process. However, as demonstrated by Ewing et. al. (2006), this may be too restrictive in accounting for the dynamic evolution of the fiscal budget. Moreover, there appears to be no existing empirical literature investigating the integration properties of the fiscal budget as a time series for BRICS countries. Lastly, and on a broader level, there are no studies which exist, to the best of our knowledge, we have combined nonlinear unit root testing which account for unobserved structural breaks. This last point is very important considering that over the last decade the world economy has hit by a global financial crisis as well as recessionary period which require empirical analysis to account for such structural breaks.

In our paper, we challenge these shortcomings by employing the nonlinear unit root testing procedure of Kapetanois et al. (2003) (hereafter KSS) augmented with a flexible Fourier function (FFF) to test the integration properties of fiscal budgets in BRICS economies. Essentially FFF are low frequency components from a Fourier approximations which are capable of capturing one or more structural breaks (Enders and Lee, 2012). Moreover, FFF based unit root tests circumvents common problem of selecting structural break dates, the number of appropriate dates and the form of these structural breaks. Hence FFF based unit root tests are gaining increasing popularity in more recent literature as other unit root tests account for endogenous breaks which consider a maximum of two structural breaks (see Lee and Strazicich (2004, 2013)) due to fear of losing regression power.

Against this background, we organize the remainder of the paper as follows. Section 2 of the paper presents the methodology used in the paper. The data and empirical analysis of the study is provided in the third section of the paper. The study is then concluded in the fourth section of the paper.
Cover Story: Integrating African Trade (История с обложки: интеграция африканской торговли) / India, March, 2018
Keywords: trade_relations, expert_opinion, economic_challenges
Author: Mridu Kumari

To say that Africa would become a torch bearer on political and economic fronts in days to come, would not be an exaggeration. In fact, both Europe and Asia need to sit down and take notice of the development surrounding the African continent which, despite being in the mire of insurgency, poverty, hunger and unemployment, has shown that it can achieve prosperity if it remains united. After all this is what the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) promises. But the same promises seems to have dissipated from the European Union and South Asia; SAARC.

Several countries are skeptical. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, whose government had previously endorsed the project, decided at the last moment not to travel to Kigali, effectively boycotting the signature of the CFTA treaty. Buhari has called for more consultations on the document, after Nigerian business leaders and unions made clear their objections to the African Union(AU) plans.

Sani Yan Daki, deputy director general of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), told DW why: "Nigeria is still a developing economy. The infrastructure critical to manufacturing is not really there in Nigeria today." According to Daki, while the countries that are pushing for the CFTA, including Morocco, Egypt or Tunisia, are smaller than Nigeria in terms of national resources "in terms of development they are far ahead." For Daki, a main problem for Nigeria is the lack of electrical power which keeps the country from developing its industries and thus becoming competitive in the continental market.

Economist Tope Fasua, CEO of Global Analytics Consulting Limited in Abuja and president of the Institute for Service Excellence and Good Governance, disagrees with Buhari's decision not to sign the CFTA treaty. "Nigeria is meant to be the largest economy in Africa," he told DW. Fasua said there was a reason why Germany, the largest economy in the European Union, pushes hard for a common market on that continent. "Nigeria should be doing the same. We should actually be rallying the other countries behind us to say: 'Guys, we can get this done!'" Currently, African countries only do about 16 percent of their business with each other.

Signed by 44 of total 55 African Union members in Kigali in Rwanda, this economic bloc promises to fulfill a major part of the integration efforts under Project 2063 of the African Union. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that AfCFTA has the potential to boost intra-African trade by 53.2 percent by removing import duties. It proposes to reduce tariffs on 90 percent of its products. Best part of this trade agreement is that, upon ratification by all participants, it would emerge as the largest bloc. Even the World Trade Organisation would look pygmy to it.

But then 10 countries including Nigeria have not signed it. Even South Africa, which is a fast developing economy, signed only the Kigali Declaration. However, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who was present in Kigali during the summit leading to the creation of the AfCFTA said his country would join it after fulfilling some legal formalities. South Africa's Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said his country didn't sign the agreement due to technical reasons. "South Africa is very much part of this process. We are not holding back. We don't have reservations or differences‚" Davis said. He noted that South Africa had actively participated in the preparation and negotiations of the AfCFTA‚ which was launched at an extraordinary summit of the African Union. South Africa has high expectations from the trade bloc. Ramaphosa said that his government welcomed the "historic moment" saying that it had been dreamt of by the founding fathers of the AU. "We are part of this process of opening up Africa for trade. All that is holding us back from signing the actual agreement is our own consultation process. We still need to consult at home, to consult in Cabinet, to consult the partners at the National Economic Development and Labour Council and finally to consult Parliamentarians," Ramaphosa said.

So we are really going througha clean- up process of ensuring that everybody is on board. As far as we are concerned as South Africa we are very much part of it. The agreement therefore is very much alive, it's not dead in the water. We as South Africa want free trade in Africa because we are an important player in the African continent," he added. The South African President said this is an opportunity that is going to yield great benefits for all countries of the continent as well as big business, small companies and traders. Earlier, in remarks prepared for delivery to the Summit, in his capacity as the Chair of the South African Development Community, President Ramaphosa said the trade-focused Kigali Summit was a "forward step in the arduous journey to translate the African Continental Free Trade Area legal instrument into an effective conduit for increased trade and investment across the African continent". He also added that "Africa's vulnerabilities and limited participation in global trade are indicative of its traditional reliance on the export of raw commodities and the import of value-added products."

But South Africa also wants a single African currency. Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Kigali, the South African President made it clear that a single African currency would be the next natural step. At the same breath, he, however, said he was not sure what exactly a single African currency might look like. "We will begin to interface with the idea and notion of a single currency, possibly even a digital currency, and it's possible that a digital currency will precede a real single currency because it is easier than having a proper full currency," Ramaphosa said. Digital currencies like Bitcoin have become increasingly popular in recent years. Resistance to a single currency has previously come from African leaders concerned about economic sovereignty. But that is changing, Ramaphosa observed.

Such positive sound was sharp missing from Nigeria, the second largest economy of Africa after South Africa. Interestingly, Nigerian experts were involved in negotiations with African countries over the formation of the AfCFTA, but the country distanced itself from the bloc once it became a reality. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said his country doesn't want to become a dumping ground for goods from African and European countries, who would use smaller countries to gain free entry into their markets. This only brought to focus the embarrassing lack of coordination within the Nigerian government and its principal actors. The Nigerian Vice President Oluyemi Oluleke had landed in Kigali to facilitate his country's entry into the economic block, but he was denied to do so by his President, bringing the Nigerian delegation a complete embarrassment.

But what stopped the Nigerian President to sign the African free trade agreement in the last minute? It is fear of Chinese goods swamping the Nigerian market and its consequent effect on the country's manufacturers involved in apparel and other consumer goods industries is what is said to be the prime reason why Nigeria withdrew itself from signing the trade agreement. With an estimated GDP of $405 billion, Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa despite on-going slowdown. It has to be understood that 85 percent of African trade is done with countries outside Africa. Intra-Africa trade is only about 15 percent. Even if in some African countries, there is a demand for enlarging local manufacturing base, lack of money, skill and experience stop them to move forward. Taking benefits out of it, countries like China dump their cheap goods in African markets.

In Uganda, Chinese people's presence is becoming a major headache for the country's authorities. The East African nation which has also not signed the AfCFTA, is worried about rising incidents of Chinese men marrying local Ugandan girls to gain residency and continue their business interests in the country. China is a top investor in Uganda. It is involved in major infrastructure projects like Uganda's Mandela National Stadium, $1.7 billion hydropower dam and the highway connecting Entebbe to Kampala. Attracted by the country's political stability and demand for cheap goods, Chinese businessmen started opening factories and retail shops. According to an estimate, there are between 10,000 and 50,000 Chinese in Uganda. This has impacted government-to-government relations between the two countries. Last year, Ugandan parliamentarians summoned a Chinese executive of the state-owned Chinese Communication Construction to explain how his company secured $475 million contract to build an expressway in Entebbe.

Even as this was the reason why Uganda didn't sign the trade agreement in Kigali, there were also some other reasons which factored in Kampala's decision to stay away from the trade agreement. In fact, so touchy is ties between the two countries that even a minor issue snowballs into a major one. Ugandan President Museveni cancelled his trip to Kigali in the third week of March for the signing of the AfCFTA, because Ugandan and Rwandan security teams charged with mapping out the itinerary of President Museveni failed to agree. It is said that Museveni's advance team had arrived in Kigali on March 12, but by March 18, the hotel to host the President was not booked nor was made clear which vehicle the Ugandan President would use. Frustrated with this, the Ugandan authorities returned Kampala and informed their President that the Rwandans were uncooperative. After hearing this, the Ugandan President decided to form a new economic club with support from the rest nine members of the African Union, including Nigeria. However, one has to wait till Uganda comes out with different economic bloc. But it should not be forgotten that AfCFTA will work as a binding force in Africa. The African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry rightly elucidated that the objectives of the CFTA include:

Creation of a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African customs union.

  • Expand intra-African trade through better harmonisation and coordination of trade liberalisation and facilitation regimes and instruments across RECs and across Africa in general.
  • Resolve the challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships and expedite the regional and continental integration processes.
  • Enhance competitiveness at the industry- and enterprise-level through exploiting opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources.
The African Union was itself born in 2002 through a reordering of the Organization of African Unity of 1963. It had faced the challenge of integration squarely. It had to contend with a vast multitude of regional institutions and groupings in Africa, but chose to engage with eight of them. Of these, the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) was the true precursor of a preferential trade area. It engaged with the efficiently run Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC) which jointly tried to negotiate common FTA and their joint Summit in 2008, started the negotiating process to bring all their three areas together. By 2012, this had acquired sufficient momentum to have an endorsement by the AU summit in January, which adopted a decision to establish a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by 2017.

It should be remembered that by creating a single continental market for goods and services, the member states of the African Union hope to boost trade between African countries. Intra-African trade is relatively limited; UNCTAD, the main UN body dealing with trade, said it made up only 10.2 percent of the continent's total trade in 2010. David Luke, coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre at UNECA, hopes the free trade area will correct this "historical anomaly". Colonialism created a situation where neighbours stopped trading with each other. The main trading route was between African countries and European countries and between African countries and the US. Removing barriers to trade is expected to not just grow trade within Africa, Luke said, but also grow "the kind of trade this continent needs". Between 2010 and 2015, fuels represented more than half of Africa's exports to non-African countries, while manufactured goods made up only 18 percent of exports to the rest of the world, a UNECA report said.

According to experts, the AfCFTA on implementation will be able to attract from BRICS and other groups more business and investments into Africa and will create skilled jobs across the continent. After the 1995 formed World Trade Organisation, AfCFTA will be the world's biggest trade agreement. Talking effusively about this newly created African economic bloc, experts say while it will boost intra-continental business by 52 per cent following the removal of trade barriers, it will also facilitate free movement of people and goods across 44 African nations. Besides, AfCFTA has a combined GDP of over $2.5 trillion. According to the 2017 IMF report, BRICS contributed to 23.6 percent to the world economy last year and by 2022, it is expected to contribute to 26.8 percent to the world economy. Therefore, the combined strength of BRICS and the AfCFTA has a potential to transform the world economy, observed some experts. BRICS countries such as India have also shown eagerness to have FTA with Africa's continental free trade agreement. "The AfCFTA will be unique in nature and will be beneficial to Africa's needs," Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu said recently while addressing the inaugural session of the 13th CII-Exim Bank Conclave on "India-Africa Project Partnership." Nonetheless the signing of the AfCFTA is a milestone in a process that began with the creation of eight sub-regional economic communities, the building blocks of the African Economic Community established in the 1991 Abuja Treaty, which provided the overarching framework for continental economic integration.

From the Editor: BRICS nations a growing force in grain (От редактора: страны БРИКС набирают силы в производстве зерна) / United States, March, 2018
Keywords: expert_opinion, rating, economic_challenges
United States

One of the more fascinating developments in global agriculture over the last 20 years has been the emergence of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) as a growing force in grain production and trade.

Defined by growth and expansion in virtually every way imaginable over this period, this bloc of nations represents nearly half of the world's population, 25% of its land and about 45% of its agricultural output.

A report released in November 2017 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service entitled "The Global Landscape of Agricultural Trade, 1995-2014," included a section that outlined the BRIIC's increasing importance in agricultural trade (In its study, the USDA included Indonesia – hence, the second I – and did not include South Africa, which was formally admitted by the bloc of nations in 2010).

Among the findings in the ERS report:

  • The countries' share of nominal agricultural import value rose to 19% in 2011-14 from 13% in 1995-99, and their share of export value rose to 23% from 14% over those same time periods.
  • Real GDP growth per person in all BRIIC countries but Brazil was historically high from 1995-2014, with China's per capita GDP increasing by an astounding 400% during that period.
  • From 1995-2012, BRIIC countries achieved annual total factor productivity growth in agricultural products above the global average of 1.52%, with Brazil at nearly 3.5%, China at 3%, Russia at 2.5% and Indonesia at 2.25%.
Looking to the future, the USDA predicts that continued economic growth in China, India and Indonesia will spur consumption growth and that the BRIIC's share of the global economy will reach 27% by 2025, exceeding that of both Europe and North America.

While many arrows appear to be pointing up for this bloc of emerging nations, it must be noted that Goldman Sachs, whose chief economist Jim O'Neill coined the acronym "BRIC" in his 2001 paper in which he argued that these emerging countries would likely dominate the 21st century globalized economy, shut down its BRIC investment fund several years ago after its assets dropped significantly.

Certainly, these countries have their share of issues to contend with. The commodities collapse in recent years has had a negative impact, particularly on Brazil and Russia. And as the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations notes in a recent briefing, there's not much that unifies the BRICS countries besides the fact that they are large and non-Western. In the case of China and India, there has even been recent military tension as Indian and Chinese troops spent last summer in a standoff in territory disputed by China and Bhutan, an ally of India.

Thankfully, from an agricultural standpoint, there does appear to be sincere cooperation taking place. The countries have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the establishment of the BRICS Agricultural Research Platform. It is envisaged as a virtual facility to promote food security, sustainable agri-development and poverty alleviation through strategic cooperation in agriculture within the BRICS countries.

In addition to India working on setting up the virtual research platform, the action plan involves Russia preparing a document on international trade and investment; China working on the establishment of an agri-database for the countries; Brazil working on the issue of food security for the most vulnerable people; and South Africa developing a strategy on climate change.

If the cooperation in this endeavor is genuine, and meaningful knowledge and information is gained and shared between these countries on these topics, one can only envision this bloc of nations becoming an even more formidable force in agriculture in the years to come.

BRICS puts its stamp on global innovation growth (БРИКС демонстрирует свою точку зрения на глобальный рост инноваций) / China, March, 2018
Keywords: innovations, economic_challenges, expert_opinion
Author: Zhang Zhao

Five major emerging economies achieve sustained progress

Intellectual property cooperation among Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - collectively known as BRICS - has achieved sustained progress over the past few years and is playing an increasingly important role in the world's IP landscape, according to officials.

The comments were made at a recent meeting of representatives of the five major emerging economies in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

The IP authorities of the five countries have cooperated in training, information services, application processing, IP strategies for small and mid-sized businesses, as well as holding international forums, said Shen Changyu, commissioner of China's State Intellectual Property Office, at the 10th Heads Meeting of BRICS IP Offices on Monday.

Established in 2013, the cooperation mechanism of the BRICS IP offices is "having greater influence on the world IP field", Shen said.

Om Prakash Gupta, controller general of patents, designs and trademarks in India, said at the meeting that multilateral cooperation is even more important in today's world, leading to significant achievements that are "to a larger benefit of all the developed, developing and the least developed countries".

All the BRICS countries are promoting innovation-driven development strategies, such as the Technological Innovation Act in Brazil, the Innovation Strategy 2020 in Russia, the Decade of Innovations 2010-20 Roadmap in India and the Research Infrastructure Roadmap in South Africa.

The heads of the five offices have agreed on a number of objectives for future cooperation, including promoting IP development in their respective countries, providing better services to IP users and the public, and enhancing the voice and representation of BRICS countries in the development of the global IP system, according to a joint statement unveiled at the meeting.

To achieve those objectives, the authorities will launch cooperation projects focusing on seven areas: exchanges and cooperation on IP laws; regulations and policies; capacity building to provide convenient and efficient services to the public and IP users; exchanges and cooperation on enhancing public IP awareness; IP education; sharing and utilization of IP information; coordination at international IP forums; and strengthening the BRICS cooperation mechanism.

Grigory Ivliev, director general of Russia's Federal Service for Intellectual Property, said that each of the BRICS members has its strengths in the cooperation framework. For example, China is doing well in information sharing and service, while Russia is taking the lead in personnel training and exchanges.

The BRICS cooperation mechanism is closely connected to and encouraged by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

"Multilateral platforms among the BRICS members could be complementary to each other, contributing to the same objective of promoting sustainable development in the world," said Wang Binying, deputy director general of WIPO.

The BRICS economies, representing 42 percent of the global population and 26 percent of the world GDP, "enjoy a lot of commodities and shared aspiration, despite their different focuses based on their national situation", Wang added.

Key moments

October 2012

BRICS IP heads meet at the WIPO General Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the possibility of a regular meeting mechanism.

May 2013

The first Heads Meeting of BRICS IP Offices is held in Johannesburg, South Africa, where seven areas of cooperation are decided. India did not participate.

September 2013

The second BRICS IP meeting is held in Geneva to add India into the partnership.

September 2014

The third BRICS IP meeting is held in Geneva to review the achievements made since the prior meeting.

June 2015

At the fourth BRICS IP meeting, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, six areas of cooperation are decided.

September 2015

The fifth BRICS IP meeting is held in Geneva, where Russia proposes annual training and exchange programs and China suggests an expert meeting ahead of each BRICS IP meeting.

June 2016

A total of six major projects are passed at the sixth BRICS IP meeting, held in Moscow.

October 2016

The seventh BRICS IP meeting is held in Geneva, where participants decide to continue patent examiner exchanges, launch seminars for small and medium-sized businesses and online training.

April 2017

The eighth BRICS IP meeting is held in New Delhi, India, where participants decide to launch a website for their cooperation.

October 2017

The ninth BRICS IP meeting is held in Geneva to discuss hot topics related to IP.

March 2018

The 10th BRICS IP meeting is held in Chengdu, Sichuan province in Southwest China.

(China Daily 03/29/2018 page17)

BRICS preparing proposals to remove administrative barriers for summit in South Africa (БРИКС готовит предложения по устранению административных барьеров на саммите в ЮАР) / Russia, March, 2018
Keywords: economic_challenges, quotation, Business_Council, SA_Chairmanship

SHANGHAI, March 27. /TASS/. Russia expects proposals aimed at removing excessively complex administrative barriers within BRCIS to be prepared by the Business Council by the next summit in South Africa scheduled for July 2018, President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sergey Katyrin, who heads the Russian delegation, said at a meeting of the BRCIS Business Council in Shanghai on Tuesday.

"One of the main tasks of the Business Council is to identify problems and difficulties, which hinder growth of economic, trade, business and investment cooperation between BRICS countries, as well as to prepare proposals and recommendations on measures to trigger it," he said.

The initiative was discussed at the meeting of the working group on deregulation earlier on Tuesday, Katyrin said. "Hopefully, all colleagues will support the initiative and we will be able to come up with a roadmap already at the upcoming BRICS summit in South Africa in July this year," he said, adding that this document will substantially facilitate the trade and economic cooperation between BRICS member-states, which has been lagging behind its potential despite positive dynamics in recent years.

The BRICS Business Council, the key mechanism for promotion of business cooperation between member-states, was established during the 5th BRICS Summit held in March 2013 in Durban, South Africa. In includes five representatives from each country. Its task is to identify problems and bottlenecks to ensure greater economic, trade and investment ties amongst the BRICS countries and recommend solutions accordingly. Seven working groups in the areas of Infrastructure, Manufacturing, Financial Services, Energy & Green Economy, Skills Development, Agribusiness and Deregulation operate under the aegis of the BRICS Business Council.
OPINION: New economic world order is emerging - and Brics will be at the centre of it (Мнение: Появляется новый экономический мировой порядок - и БРИКС будет в его центре) / South Africa, March, 2018
Keywords: economic_challenges, expert_opinion
South Africa
Author: Dr BBL Madhukar

JOHANNESBURG - The rise and rise of the Brics bloc is a definite indication of the new emerging world order, one that is both political and economic in nature and is a reflection of the global power shift and realities of the twenty-first century. The Brics countries have a lot going for them. Together they encompass more than 25percent of the world's land coverage and 40percent of the world's population and hold a combined gross domestic product of $18.5trillion (R216.5trln).

In October 2003, Goldman Sachs, the world's leading global investment banking, securities and investment management firm, had published a paper predicting that, by 2050, the Bric economies would be larger in US dollar terms than the G-6.

The term "Bric" was coined in 2001 by its then-chairperson of Asset Management, Jim O'Neil, in a publication.

The Brics theory from Goldman Sachs believes that China will become the world's biggest supplier of manufactured goods; India will become the world's dominant supplier of services, while Brazil and Russia will become dominant as suppliers of raw materials.

From the year 2000 to 2008, the Bric countries' combined share of total world economic output rose from 16 to 22percent. Together, the Bric countries accounted for 30percent of the increase in global output during the period.

With the global power balance slowly tipping towards the non-western world it was only natural that a new grouping would eventually emerge to advance mutually co-operative goals. The foreign ministers of the initial four Bric states (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) met in New York City in September 2006 on the margins of the UN General Assembly, beginning a series of high-level meetings and laying down the foundation of Brics.

Officially called Brics after the inclusion of South Africa, the bloc meets annually for summits to discuss global challenges and to co-ordinate their actions within and outside global institutions.

The Brics CCI

To further advance the broad agenda of Brics nations, the Brics Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) was founded in the year 2012 by eminent professionals and entrepreneurs. It is a not-for-profit and non-governmental organisation and has been actively promoting commerce and industry in the Brics nations.

The chamber's vision is to build an enabling ecosystem, especially for entrepreneurs and the small and medium enterprise segment from different parts of the country.

To this end, it organises trade fairs, exhibitions, seminars, symposiums, lectures and business campaigns from time to time to enhance institutional links and business relations between Brics countries and other friendly nations.

It promotes business interactions among members by organising regular visits and other forms of interactions in key areas of digital economy, food processing and agri business, manufacturing, rural and affordable health care, logistics and supply chain, skill development and entrepreneurship and social development.

While the Brics nations remain at the centre of all activities, the chamber has taken in its credo to reach out to and enable young entrepreneurs from other friendly nations too. It proposes to be the "voice" of young entrepreneurs and champion their business success.

The Brics grouping has been important in strengthening ties between its members, which have been traditionally weak.

The story so far

The bloc is an important mechanism to help correct that, through providing an institutionalised annual meeting between the presidents, ministers of foreign affairs, education, agriculture, health, national security, and many other areas.

In the same way, there are now regular meetings between think tanks, mayors and academics. Issues of economic reform, strengthening the rule of international law, development of counter terrorism strategies, co-operation on energy, giving more credit to Brics nations' currencies over the US dollar have dominated the themes of the summits thus far, leading up to the establishment of the New Development Bank (NDB), the Contingency Reserve Agreement (CRA) and the Shanghai Co-operation Development Bank.

It offers the chance to transform the powerful symbolism of the group into a source of action, by empowering the Brics with the real capacity to apply their vision.

With steady steps, Brics is gearing up for the future by planning to set up a credit rating firm to compete with the western hegemony in the world of finance. The NDB, coupled with the CRA, forms the apex of inter and intra-Brics economic governance.

The CRA is generally seen as a competitor to the International Monetary Fund and along with NDB is viewed as an example of increasing south-south co-operation.

The initial total committed resources of the CRA will be $100 billion. It will provide support to Brics countries through liquidity and precautionary instruments as a response to economic crises.

With initial starting investment of $50bn, and a capital increase of $100bn over time, the NDB will mobilise resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in Brics and other emerging economies and developing countries, to supplement existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development. With its focus on building infrastructure, it is one of the several new initiatives that will slowly help adapt global structures to the new reality of multipolarity.

The creation of the NDB thus points to a future with a larger number of important institutions that are not Western-led. India has been a key player in the attainment of the Brics goals. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently attended the 9th Brics summit held in Xiamen, China, only 73 days after the Doklam stand-off.

However, at the summit, Beijing signed off on New Delhi's initiative to name two Pakistan-based terrorist groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, in the Xiamen declaration, expressing concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by these outfits. This is the first time that a Brics declaration has named these terrorist groups.


Prime Minister Modi also observed that India is rapidly transforming into one of the most open economies in the world, with an increasing ease of doing business.

He also highlighted programmes like Digital India, Start Up India, Make in India and Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code that are changing the economic landscape of the country.

In his intervention at the Dialogue with Brics Business Council, he also pitched the Goods and Services Tax in a big way, touting it as India's biggest financial reform.

He spoke about furthering aspirations in key areas like agriculture, energy, environment, climate change, sports and culture, poverty eradication, better healthcare, food security, sanitation and education.

The Brics vision for 2025 is the institution of a new global financial system with a significant presence of the five nations, allowing the economies to support each other.

It also envisions increased humanitarian and cultural exchanges with improved infrastructure and better standards of living in the nations.

The long-term Brics vision is committed to exploring and shaping new models of global governance that shall strive to achieve more equitable development and inclusive growth.

It was a mutual desire for peace, security, economic progress and co-operation and a shared vision for future development that brought the Brics nations together. Brics is working together for a more equitable and democratic representation in the international political and economic order. This has been further reiterated by the establishment of the NDB and the CRA.

Signing of the agreement for the establishment of the NDB is expected to allow India to raise and obtain more resources for the much needed infrastructure development, the lack of which is coming in the way of inclusiveness and growth as of now.

Looking beyond and ahead of the current Brics agenda, steps will be taken to initiate dialogue with non-Brics countries and to embrace cultural diversity and promote people to people exchange to garner more popular support for Brics co-operation through traditional friendships.

Dr BBL Madhukar is the director-general of the Brics Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

World of work
Social policy, trade unions, actions
BRICS Business Council 2018 midterm meeting held in Shanghai (В Шанхае состоялось промежуточное заседание Делового Совета БРИКС) / China, March, 2018
Keywords: economic_challenges, ndb, business_council

On March 27, 2018, BRICS Business Council 2018 Midterm Meeting was held in Shanghai. About 250 delegates from the Council's five national chapters and the New Development Bank (NDB) attended the event, where the rotating presidency of the Business Council in 2018 was officially handed over to the South African chapter.

The meeting was presided over by Capt. Xu Lirong, Chairman of BRICS Business Council and Chairman of China COSCO SHIPPING Corporation Limited. Dr. Iqbal Survé, Chairman of the South African Chapter and founder and Chairman of the Sekunjalo Group, Mr. Sergey Katyrin, Chairman of the Russian Chapter and Chairman of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation, Mr. Naveen Kapur, Sherpa of Mr. Onkar Kanwar, Chairman of the Indian Chapter and Managing Director of Apollo Tyres Ltd., and José Serrador Neto, Sherpa of Mr. Paulo Cesar Souza e Silva, Chairman of the Brazilian Chapter and Chairman of EMBRAER, were present at the meeting. NDB President Mr. K.V. Kamath, Vice President Mr. J.B. Sarquis and Vice President Mr. Vladimir Kazbekov attended the plenary session and delivered remarks.

At the plenary session, the Council reviewed the major work and achievements during China's presidency in 2017, and listened to the reports by eight working groups on energy and the green economy, financial services, deregulation, manufacturing, infrastructure, agribusiness, skills development, and regional aviation.

To implement the consensus reached during the BRICS XIAMEN SUMMIT, the first meeting of the Working Group on Regional Aviation and a dialogue with the NDB were hosted. Meanwhile, the Council approved the release of the BRICS Digital Economic Development Initiative, endorsed the proposal of setting up a working group on digital economy, and deliberated the proposal of establishing the BRICS Business Women Club.

Capt. Xu Lirong addressed in the plenary session that, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) following the Xiamen Summit will create new opportunities for the development of and cooperation amongst BRICS nations. China will adhere to reform and opening-up, further promote the development of the Belt and Road, and help foster new international relations featuring mutual respect, fair, justice, and win-win. He called on business communities in the five countries to build a community of shared interests, further implement The Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership, and enhance cooperation in innovative growth, digital economy, international production capacity and connectivity.

The incoming chairman of the BRICS Business Council, Dr. Iqbal Survé acknowledged the excellent leadership demonstrated by the Chinese chapter during its presidency. "We are ready to take on this major responsibility, knowing that we build on the foundation that has been laid. We will be strengthening the economic partnership between our countries through viable initiatives which are aimed at benefitting the citizens of our respective countries.

Mr. Sergey Katyrin marked the importance of continuous work on trade and investment deregulation and reduction of administrative barriers. He also mentioned the establishing of BRICS Energy Platform aimed at preparation of analytical research and prognoses on energy development and furthering cooperation in the sector. Mr Katyrin also noticed the necessity for information exchange and development of cooperation with New Development Bank. Chairman of Russian Chapter invited BRICS Business Council members to take part in the SPIEF 2018 (24-26 May, 2018) where special BRICS session will be held.

José Serrador Neto indicated that the BRICS Business Council is coming to the end of a cycle and should focus its attention on a pragmatic list of goals. He affirmed that the Brazil Chapter supports the new MOU with the NDB and the creation of the Digital Economy WG. He also informed that the Brazil Chapter has circulated a study on travel facilitation among the BRICS and requested the support of the other chapters for its approval as Council recommendations.

Mr. Naveen Kapur stated that we have had a fruitful year under China's Presidency and as we complete the full cycle of 5 years of the BRICS Business Council, we can clearly see the positive outcomes of business co-operation under this mechanism. He added that we started with five working groups in 2013 and today we are discussing on a larger ambit under eight working groups. In-fact, the BRICS Business Council has not only expanded areas of co-operation but also moved from 'conceptualisation' to 'implementation' under China's Presidency. In our last meeting at Shanghai, we were successful in implementing eight key deliverables. He mentioned that Indian Chapter would like to compliment the leadership of Capt XU Lirong and his team for making this happen and we are looking forward to the Council's activities under the Chairmanship of South Africa led by Dr. Iqbal Surve.

"As an innovative and reliable development partner for all BRICS member countries, the New Development Bank is looking forward to working closely with the BRICS Business Council during the South African chairmanship in 2018. In August 2017, the NDB opened its first regional office — Africa Regional Center in Johannesburg. We will open Americas Regional Office in Brazil later this year and consider opening offices in Russia and India in line with our evolving business needs to support identification and preparation of bankable infrastructure and sustainable development projects. We hope that our cooperation with the Business Council would contribute to identifying and implementing projects, including public-private partnerships projects in all member countries of the Bank," said Mr.K.V.Kamath, the NDB President.

Prior to the plenary session, parallel meetings were held by the eight working groups to review their progress and exchange views on cooperation in next steps.

As an important mechanism for BRICS cooperation, the BRICS Business Council was founded in Durban, South Africa in March 2013 to further develop the economy, trade, and investment of the BRICS countries. BRICS Leaders attach great importance to the Council, and have a dialogue with the Council members every year.
OPINION: African aviation could take off at the Brics summit (Мнение: африканская авиация могла бы взлететь на Саммите БРИКС) / South Africa, March, 2018
Keywords: social_issues, expert_opinion, speech
South Africa
Author: Javed Malik

JOHANNESBURG - The forthcoming Brics (Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa) Summit in July presents unlimited opportunities in aviation for those who will be present.

South Africa is especially proud of hosting this rotating event and the country's aviation industry as well as the rest of Africa should try to take advantage of the event's presence in the southern-most part of the continent. I call upon South Africans and African executives to be supportive of the event to make it a success and others intending to be part of the global gathering to ensure that they participate in huge numbers.

As the co-chairperson of the Regional Aviation Working Group of the South African Chapter of Brics Business Council (SA-BBC), I am working hard to ensure potential opportunities are not lost for aviation operators across the continent. I reckon that those with aviation in mind should leverage on the events coming to the African doorstep.

My role within the chapter is to ensure that opportunities presented are maximised and beneficial for both South African and Africans; that there is increased travel and tourism and good aviation connectivity in the pan-African continent and sound aviation links with the Brics in a global world. This year the summit is inviting African businessmen and women, and I encourage them to be well-equipped to network and interact to maximise on airline-specific and related opportunities.

The continent has the much-welcomed Open Skies Policy, which has resulted in a lot of people from outside and inside the continent developing a huge interest to come to the summit and hear for themselves - especially those with the drive to have a piece of the aviation cake on a continent that is much touted globally as the next biggest business area to experience high-growth rates.

My view is that South Africans and Africans have the chance to positively impact on the prevailing high-unemployment rates across the continent and there are likely to be golden opportunities at the summit to drive economic growth and prosperity from Cape Town to Cairo.

While the issue of sustainable jobs remains one of the major stumbling blocks for the entire continent to realise its full potential, there were countless aviation opportunities to be leveraged, such as in aircraft manufacturing, for both big and small commercial planes for passengers and cargo.

African cargo businesses include agriculture, mining and military industries. All these industries were anticipated to experience high growth and expansion as a result of the ever-increasing population numbers, which is reported to have surpassed the 1billion mark.

Given all this, there is unlimited aviation and related business potential, whichever way one looks at the emerging continent. There is no better timing to explore the potential than thoroughly preparing to register now and be part of the promising event.

The responsibility was on executives from the rest of the continent, since in several cases they had limited opportunities at their doorstep of Africa, and although the continent is very big, they should treat the hosting of the summit in South Africa as equivalent to having the event "right next door".

With the Brics nations having one of the biggest populations globally - numbering over a couple of billion - the chance for aviation business-minded executives seeking to enhance African connectivity through this platform are high. Therefore, every potential business person or anyone who thinks big and wants to go into business or existing airlines and related businesses seeking to expand should consider to be counted as part of the summit's proceedings.

Aviation in the south of the continent and the rest of it readily offers an unprecedented experience in regards to growth and expansion.

I would like to urge all African executives or people with access to finances in aviation and related businesses to prepare themselves now. They should not blame anyone when the opportunity has gone should they not be part of this.

As a person who has been in the aviation industry for a long time and presenting papers at various gatherings I am speaking with authority that the timing is right for anyone who sees themselves having a stake in African aviation. Aviation in Africa has enormous potential for business growth opportunities.

I urge the rest of the continent to work in harmony or in close partnership with the private and public sector to leverage the aviation industry within Africa.

Considering that the Brics summit is being held in South Africa, which is a high-net worth economy, backed by its globally acclaimed and already existing and proven international facilities across the board, it is attractive for those with the best eye for aviation business growth or to initiate new and related airline operations.

Factor in the host country's greater aerospace industry, reportedly contributing up to R80billion to the economy, and you have a host country in good standing in global aviation. The sweetener for those who intend to participate is that this mark could well be surpassed when one considers positive factors, mainly around growth and expansion being recorded in aviation across the rest of the continent.

Globally, South Africa's reputation is well documented, based on indisputable excellence and international best practice. Its aviation industry has all the trappings found in developed countries such as in technological capacity and innovation, which can be used to anchor any prospective or related business across Africa.

If one looks at the fact that growth of aviation traffic internationally is expected to hit the 5percent mark year-on-year into the next two decades, there is adequate scope to inspire the launch of scores of new airlines and related business players at the global scale.

By 2035, the current worldwide fleet of 25000 aircraft will be estimated at 50000 while the passenger numbers will be more than 7billion and Africa will definitely have a say as growth for air travel continues.

At the summit will be increased co-operation between African governments and the private sector that will result in robust aviation industries backed by well thought-out policies and regulation.

I, together with others, hope to see a successful Brics Summit and true African hospitality at play.

Javed Malik is the co-chairperson of the Regional Aviation Working Group of the South African Chapter of the Brics Business Council.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Hope Rises for a World Free of TB: BRICS Countries Can Lead the Charge (Надежда растет для мира, свободного от туберкулеза: страны БРИКС могут возглавить борьбу) / United Kingdom, March, 2018
Keywords: social_issues, research, expert_opinion, economic_challenges
United Kingdom
Author: Madhukar , Director of Global Health & Professor, McGill University

World TB Day 2018 is turning out to be special — never in the history of tuberculosis (TB) control has there been greater political attention and commitment to tackling the infectious disease that causes nearly two million deaths a year.

I was recently fortunate to be in New Delhi, where I witnessed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launch the TB Free India campaign at the Delhi End TB Summit.

In his opening speech, he declared that "India is determined to address the challenge of TB in mission mode. I am confident that India can be free of TB by 2025." He made the remarks in the presence of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), and several other international global health leaders and ministers.

This follows two major TB commitments in 2017. First, in July, the G20 leaders' declaration from Hamburg included TB in a plan to respond to the antimicrobial resistance threat. Second, in November, a WHO Global Ministerial Conference on TB was held in Moscow, Russia, for the first time — culminating with the Moscow Declaration to End TB and the agreement of 75 ministers to take urgent action to end TB by 2030.

To cap off this crescendo, later this year, in September, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) will hold the first-ever high-level meeting on the fight against TB. This will be the third time the UN has called for such a meeting on a health issue.

Ending TB finally looks like a goal that could be met — if, and only if, political leaders globally can step up with investments and actions to match their political declarations.

Tuberculosis as a disease has always suffered from neglect and lack of urgency. This is reflected in the chronic under-investment in TB care and control in most high-burden countries.

Not surprisingly, the TB epidemic has raged on in many low- and middle-income countries.

In 2016, there were an estimated 10.4 million new TB cases worldwide. TB continues to rank as the leading infectious killer, and 1.7 million people died from this curable, bacterial infection during 2016.

Recently, the Global TB Caucus released "The Price of a Pandemic 2017," a new report that estimates that deaths from TB will cost the global economy nearly US$1 trillion over the next 15 years.

So unless there is serious political commitment, funding and execution, it will be impossible to meet the global End TB targets.

This is why the G20, Moscow, Delhi and UNGA meetings are so critical — to convince our political leaders that they need to wake up to the realities of the TB epidemic, and step up with clear actions and commitments.

Will our leaders deliver? Following the Delhi End TB Summit, I am feeling optimistic they will, because they've seen the impressive progress made in global HIV and malaria control, and have understood the human and societal benefits to tackling killer diseases such as AIDS and malaria.

India's leadership, in particular, is absolutely fundamental to meeting global End TB goals.

India accounts for a quarter of the global TB cases, and nearly a third of all TB deaths. TB is a huge drain on India's economy. So without progress in India, there is no hope for ending the TB epidemic.

While everyone has welcomed India's ambitious plan of TB elimination by 2025, the world is watching whether India will follow up on the prime minister's commitment with the substantially increased budget that is required, and rapidly execute the ambitious TB Free India campaign. 2025 is just seven years away and the clock is ticking!

The 2025 target is audacious. Anyone who understands TB knows the 2025 goal is not realistic. But the international TB community appreciates the ambition displayed by India. It is great to aim high, and even if India doesn't reach that goal, it would still represent progress if the TB Free India campaign is implemented.

A big question for the TB community now is this: How do we hold our leaders accountable for their big declarations and commitments? What kind of sustained effort would be required to convert the political aspirations into tangible progress on the ground?

Thinking beyond India, I am convinced other high-TB countries also have a key leadership role to play.

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) together account for 46 per cent of all incident cases of TB and 40 per cent of all TB-related mortality.

With strong economic growth in BRICS, and their growing stature and leadership in the political as well as scientific arena, these countries are well-placed to lead the charge against a disease that is a leading killer of their citizens and a huge drain on their economies.

Lastly, investments in TB must occur as part of overall health systems investments required to realize the goal of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

UHC is a human right, and all countries have agreed to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals with the following target by 2030: Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines for all.

If countries achieve UHC, the battle against TB can be won.

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