Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 9.2022
2022.02.28 — 2022.03.06
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Is South Africa's stance on Russia/Ukraine conflict connected to BRICS? (Связана ли позиция ЮАР по российско-украинскому конфликту с БРИКС?) / South Africa, March, 2022
Keywords: political_issues
South Africa

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday maintained his stance towards the war, which is of a similar nature to China. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi emphasised the need to stay committed to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, Xinhua reported.

Last week, South Africa decided to abstain from the UN's resolution vote.

Ramaphosa said South Africa's response to the war did not mean it had no regard for human rights.
"There have been some who have said that in abstaining from the vote condemning Russia's military operation in Ukraine, South Africa has placed itself on the wrong side of history.

"Yet, South Africa is firmly on the side of peace at a time when another war is something the world does not need, nor can it afford.

"A cessation of hostilities may indeed be achieved through force of arms or economic pressure, but it would be unlikely to lead to a sustainable and lasting peace.

"The historical tensions between Russia and Ukraine make it all the more important that whatever agreements are brokered are sustainable in the long run and address the concerns of both parties to the conflict.

"Our own experience with ending apartheid, and our country's role in mediating conflict elsewhere on the continent, have yielded a number of insight.

"Our country is committed to advancing the human rights and fundamental freedoms not only of our own people, but for the peoples of Palestine, Western Sahara, Afghanistan, Syria and across Africa and the world," Ramaphosa said.

While some in the country are of the view that SA's loyalty towards Russia is currently on display, others say SA's opinion on geopolitics is of little value to the world.

Economist Dawie Roodt said to some extent, there is an element of loyalty towards the Brics countries.

"I would say yes, there is a connection to Brics. I think there is a historic political loyalty to Russia as well. I don't think it is the only reason for the country's stance but it certainly is a valid one for South Africa's neutral stance because we are members of Brics," Roodt said.

Political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe said that South Africa's views in a global context have never been valued in the past and will not start now. He said countries like China and India had some influence on global matters because of their economic strength.

"When you have multilateral agreements, their position will also be informed by those. It's not something that can be ignored because there are certain commitments that need to be kept.

"Those commitments also mean sharing a common understanding on world affairs. It is not just a partnership of convenience. It's also a partnership of inconvenience.

"But a bigger problem is that South Africa over-rates its importance. We make a big deal about what South Africa's stance is. South Africa's stance does not matter in world affairs. I lived in the United States, the entire African continent did not matter to them," Seepe said.

Russia and South Africa mark 30 years of diplomatic relations (Россия и ЮАР отмечают 30-летие дипломатических отношений) / South Africa, February, 2022
Keywords: cooperation
South Africa

This year Russia and South Africa celebrate an important anniversary, as on 28 February 1992 our countries established diplomatic relations. We would like to congratulate our South African friends on this occasion – for thirty years our countries have been walking together on the path of mutual understanding, respect and friendship.

Traditionally friendly ties between our countries date back to the times of struggle against the apartheid regime. The trust and people-to-people ties we have forged back then grow stronger as years pass. We can say with confidence that this served as a basis for our relations – our people have never been indifferent to the fates of one another. Many prominent ANC members, stalwarts of revolution such as Josiah Gumede, Moses Kotane and John Beaver Marks visited the Soviet Union in the 1920-1930s. This line of interaction between our peoples continued well into 1960's and 1980s when the USSR rendered assistance to liberation movements that fought against the apartheid, first and foremost – to South African Communist Party and ANC. The Soviet Union provided humanitarian, financial, organizational support, as well as training for military and civilian specialists among the black population of South Africa. Meanwhile the Soviet diplomacy worked tirelessly to attract the international community's attention to the anti-human nature of the regime of racial segregation. Such resolve was fully supported by the common citizens of the Soviet Union, who experienced the horrors of Nazis' wicked racial theories themselves.

We in Russia are honoured with the fact that South Africans cherish the memory of those Soviet citizens who sacrificed their lives to assist the liberation struggle in the region of Southern Africa, including the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. The Russian section of the Wall of Names with the names of 67 Soviet military specialists was solemnly unveiled on 13 December 2018 in Freedom Park, heritage memorial complex in Pretoria. This day is now rightfully one of the commemorative dates in the calendar of Russian-South African bilateral relations. Russia also preserves the memory of our common history. In 2015, the ashes of Moses Kotane and John Beaver Marks, who had been buried in Moscow in the 1970s, were given to the South African side for reinterment; their cenotaphs are being kept at the cemetery as a memorial. Beside that, the Russian side is working with the government of Moscow on giving one of the city's administrative and territorial unit (a street or a square) the name of Nelson Mandela in light of the personal input of South Africa's first democratically elected President in fight against apartheid regime as well as colonial yoke over African continent as a whole.

Today the ties between our countries are based on two fundamental bilateral treaties: Treaty on Friendship and Partnership 2006 and Joint Declaration on the Establishment of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership 2013. As of today, the legal framework of Russian-South African relations includes over 80 treaties in various areas of cooperation. Interesting fact: South Africa became the first country of the Sub-Saharan region to be visited by the head of the Russian state. President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin visited SA in 2006, when he and the President of the Republic of South Africa signed the Treaty on Friendship and Partnership mentioned above.

Another dimension of our cooperation at the political level that is worth mentioning is the parliamentary and intergovernmental interaction. The United Russia and the African National Congress are maintaining steady party-to-party ties. The representatives of both lower and upper chambers of the SA Parliament took part in observing the 2021 legislative elections in Russia. As for intergovernmental interaction, we are actively cooperating on a wide range of issues such as education, science, sports and preservation of historical memory. A series of mechanisms of intergovernmental cooperation have been established, including the Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation (ITEC).

Our trade and economic cooperation are also developing steadily. A number of major Russian companies, such as "Renova", "Kaspersky", "Severstal" or "Transmashholding" are operating in South Africa. In their turn, "Naspers", "SABMiller" and "Mondi" are working actively in Russia. According to Russian statistics, the total turnover after 3 quarters of 2021 reached 1,04 billion USD. The trade between our countries shows positive dynamics, and in this area, we still have vast opportunities to explore.

Russia and South Africa successfully cooperate in the international arena within the framework of various international fora such as the UN, G20 and, of course, BRICS, since 2010 when South Africa joined this association. Our two countries, as well as other BRICS partners, steadily develop mutually beneficial cooperation in all three major tracks: politics and security, economy and finances, humanitarian area. Russia attaches great importance to joint work within BRICS, as today it is one of the world's leading associations promoting a more just world order based on the principles of adherence to international law, non-interference in domestic affairs, mutual respect and understanding. We see South Africa as the African continent's voice in BRICS – a platform that unites three continents in total: Eurasia, Africa and South America, as well as over 40% of the world population. In the upcoming year of 2023, South Africa will attain BRICS Chairmanship. We have no doubt that the anniversary XV BRICS Summit as well as other events under the aegis of BRICS will be a success.

In 2019 the first Russia-Africa Summit was held in Sochi. We are delighted to say that our South African friends expressed interest in and support for this initiative. President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa attended the Summit where he held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. We see this Summit as a platform to turn a new page in Russia's relations with the African continent. We are confident that together with South Africa, as well as other African nations, we will be able to make that page in history truly glorious. We in Russia are committed to achieving that goal with the second Russia-Africa Summit that is scheduled for 2022.

We would like to congratulate our South African friends once again on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and South Africa. We wish you peace, happiness and prosperity. With the rich history of bilateral ties that we already have, we are ready to expand this legacy further, explore new ways and areas of cooperation for the benefit of our nations. Let the 30th anniversary become a new impulse for our relations that will bring us to new achievements that will benefit the peoples of our two countries.

BRICS — has South Africa caught a monster by the tail and should it let it go? (БРИКС — ЮАР поймала монстра за хвост и стоит ли отпускать?) / South Africa, March, 2022
Keywords: political_issues, expert_opinion
South Africa

It didn't take a Nostrodamus to predict that South Africa might be biting off a bit more than it could chew when in 2011 it joined the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) to create the BRICS (in effect replacing the lower case 's' with an upper case 'S').

© Copyright (c) Daily Maverick , All Rights Reserved South Africa was from the start clearly a tiny Gulliver venturing into the land of the Brobdingnags. At the time, most commentators focused on the huge disparity in the size of South Africa's economy — about $387-billion in 2019, versus those of China — $15.5 trillion; India — $3.26-trillion; Brazil — $2.1-trillion; and Russia — $1.68-trillion.

But the more problematic disparity was really political rather than economic. It was the possibility that little South Africa and its democratic values could get stomped on by the geopolitical machinations of its much larger and undemocratic BRICS partners, China and Russia.

In a column for The Star in January 2011 entitled "Let's face it: We are the dwarf among the BRICS" I asked, "Will membership of BRICS gravitate South Africa away from its democratic values, both at home and abroad?"

Others asked the same. Now that concern seems to be materialising as the South African government struggles to reconcile its higher principles with its BRICS solidarity while the Russian military juggernaut rolls across Ukraine. This dilemma should be prompting the government to at least examine whether its BRICS membership is really worth the price.

BRICs was originally just an investment concept invented by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neil who suggested to his clients in 2001 that there was rich picking to be had in these four rapidly emerging markets which he predicted would dominate the world economy by 2050.

Perhaps inspired by O'Neill, the BRICs began to evolve into a club of like-minded nations, first meeting informally on the margins of the G8 and the UN. South Africa's interest was piqued when the four BRICs leaders — Russia's Dmitry Medvedev, China's Hu Jintao, India's Manmohan Singh and Brazil's Lula da Silva — met formally for their first summit in June 2009 in Yekaterinburg, Russia (was it a mere coincidence that this was the city where the Bolsheviks murdered Russia's last Tsar, Nicholas II and his family, in 1918?).

Though largely still devoted to economic issues, especially in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, at Yekaterinburg the BRICs began to assume a political identity too. In their summit declaration, the leaders called for a "more democratic and just multipolar world order based on the rule of international law, equality, mutual respect, cooperation, coordinated action and collective decision-making of all states".

They also called for a "comprehensive reform of the UN" to make it more democratic and efficient and they supported the aspirations of India and Brazil "to play a greater role in the United Nations".

Neither then nor later did Russia and China, the two permanent members of the UN Security Council, ever translate this vague support into explicit backing for the ambitions of India and Brazil, and later South Africa, to become permanent members in an expanded UN Security Council.

But South Africa liked the idea of a club of emerging and developing nations to counter what it lamented as the uncontested dominance of the United States and the West.

And so it campaigned vigorously to join and was finally admitted in late 2010, taking its seat at the next summit in Sanya, China, in 2011.

China and Russia's refusal to support the bid of the others to UN Security Council permanent membership remains an important indicator of the hierarchy of power in BRICS and should be kept in mind as one observes the three democracies in BRICS — South Africa, India and Brazil — manoeuvring around the machinations of Russia and China.

Already in 2014, soon after it joined BRICS, when Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, South Africa was put on the spot, caught between its BRICS solidarity and the ANC's struggle-era friendship with Russia on the one hand and its principled opposition to blatant aggression on the other.

And so in the UN General Assembly vote rejecting Russia's seizure of Crimea and upholding the territorial integrity of Ukraine, South Africa abstained. The resolution was overwhelmingly carried by 100 nations voting for, with 11 against and 58 abstentions.

This week, nearly eight years later, when the General Assembly again debated another, even larger, Russian incursion into Ukrainian territory, Pretoria once again abstained.

This time the resolution, condemning Russia's aggression against Ukraine and demanding its withdrawal, was carried by an even larger margin of 141 votes for, only five in favour and 35 abstentions. The voting this time was clearly driven by global outrage at the sight of Russian tanks, missiles and aircraft killing hundreds of civilians and destroying apartments, houses, schools and hospitals.

As so often in the past at the UN, the explanation of the vote, offered by SA's ambassador to the UN Mathu Joyini, made a certain amount of sense at a certain level of abstraction and read out of context. She said the resolution was not helpful to the peaceful resolution of the conflict, mainly because it did not address the root causes of the conflict which were related to the security concerns of the two parties.

This was a reference to Moscow's professed concern that if Ukraine were allowed to join Nato, it would jeopardise Russia's security.

Yet Joyini nowhere criticised Russia's invasion or called for Russia to pull out of Ukraine.

South African officials explained that the General Assembly was "completely one-sided" so SA could not have voted for it.

They recalled, however, that SA had already demanded that Russia withdraw from Ukraine, in a statement issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) on 24 February — the day the Russian tanks crossed the border and missiles rained down.

These officials denied media reports that President Cyril Ramaphosa was unhappy with the Dirco statement, insisting that he and Dirco Minister Naledi Pandor were in complete agreement on it.

They noted that the statement demanding Russia's withdrawal was still on Dirco's website and so remained valid.

"We could hardly do otherwise," one official said about that statement. "Whatever Russia may think, what else could we call this but war?"

All of these ambiguities and ambivalences suggest that Ramaphosa and his government are trying to have their cake and eat it; to stick to their basic principles while at the same time expressing solidarity with their BRICS partner Russia.

But it is certain that very few of the uninitiated understood the nuances. They demanded an unequivocal condemnation of Russia for the atrocities it was committing in the eyes of the world. Instead, they got pedantic nit-picking.

Abstinence in the face of important decisions has always been South Africa's problem at the UN. When it took up its non-permanent seat on the Security Council for the first time in 2007, it outraged many of South Africa's friends by abstaining from a vote condemning the Myanmar junta for human rights atrocities.

South Africa's ambassador Dumisani Kumalo offered an arcane, nit-picking procedural explanation about how human rights issues were supposed to be dealt with by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, not the Security Council in New York.

South Africa also followed a policy of automatically abstaining by default on any issue which entailed criticism of a particular country (with one or two notable exceptions such as Israel).

Then, on Lindiwe Sisulu's watch as international relations minister, SA provoked an outcry when it abstained from a resolution condemning the Myanmar junta for atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim minority. Sisulu ordered SA's UN ambassador to reverse his decision and condemn Myanmar. She also rescinded the automatic abstention policy, insisting that each decision on such sensitive decisions should be cleared by Pretoria.

Abstentions have continued, though not quite on the same scale. Western countries have been pleased to see South Africa occasionally voting against China and Russia, for example when Pretoria insisted that the Sudanese military should cede power after the ouster of Omar al-Bashir in 2019 and Russia and China refused to "interfere".

That, though, was a far less sensitive issue than voting for this week's resolution condemning Russia's aggression against Ukraine would have been.

That would have taken courage and independence South Africa evidently could not muster. It would not have been alone if it had. Though China and India also abstained, Brazil — despite President Jair Bolsonaro's Trump-like bromance with Putin, surprisingly joined the vast majority in voting to condemn Russia's aggression.

On Thursday, journalists asked US assistant secretary of state for Africa Molly Phee whether South Africa would suffer consequences for abstaining. She said the US had no intention of parsing the vote and singling out individual countries.

Nonetheless, just a moment later in her virtual briefing with African journalists, she said Washington would look for ways to reward African countries that had supported the General Assembly resolution.

Ultimately, though, the vote was not about pleasing the US or any other country, but about South Africa's reputation in the eyes of the world. When everyone was watching, it showed itself to be standing on the wrong side of history. The nation of Mandela lost a little more of its already tarnished magic.

And is BRICS worth this loss of reputation anyway? The bloc is not what it used to be. India is now led by a Hindu nationalist, Brazil by a populist right-winger. China's Ji Xinping has assumed imperial ambitions. And Putin this week already manifested such ambitions. These are not obvious champions of the values BRICS was created to espouse.

Internal tensions are growing. Despite their BRICS solidarity, Indian and Chinese troops clashed fatally along their disputed border in Kashmir two years ago. South African officials reveal that they often have to mediate between the two countries inside BRICS. And they add that Russia often plays a double game in this standoff, sometimes backing its old ally India and sometimes its new ally China.

Economically, there is still the New Development Bank that has loaned South Africa billions of dollars for infrastructure and Covid recovery. But South Africa had to put billions in to join the bank to qualify for these loans.

Globally, BRICS seems to have lost its lustre. In 2015 Goldman Sachs, which invented the concept, closed its dedicated BRICS investment fund. That may have been a symbolic turning point. DM

Russia and China cast darker shadows now for Irish investors than during days of Brics buzz (Россия и Китай теперь отбрасывают более мрачные тени для ирландских инвесторов, чем в дни шумихи вокруг БРИКС) / Ireland, March, 2022
Keywords: expert_opinion, investments, political_issues

In hindsight, 2004 was a good year for this nation, despite the bootcut jeans and the salmon shirts. Rugby fans were elated after Ireland won the Triple Crown for the first time in almost 20 years. Irish golfers starred as Europe obliterated the US in the Ryder Cup.

The State basked in 2004 in the warm political glow of a high-profile European Union presidency, during which 10 mostly eastern nations gained accession to the bloc. The economy purred along with 5.5 per cent growth. It wasn't quite the high watermark of the Celtic Tiger boom. But it was probably the final year of good growth before the property bubble began to dominate everything, eventually spinning out of control four years later in what was easily the low watermark for Irish economic stupidity.

It was also the year that I first strayed into business journalism. Everywhere I went in those first few months, I kept hearing chatter of "bricks" where Irish investors apparently were guaranteed to make a lot of money over the following decade. For a short period I genuinely did not understand what it meant. It sounded like it must have to do with the property boom, but back then it felt too stupid to ask.

Soon I came to realise that people were talking about the Brics of Brazil, Russia, India and China – the biggest developing economies, the financial Klondike. The buzzy Bric acronym had been coined the previous year by Jim O'Neill, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Goldman had predicted that the Bric economies would outstrip the biggest western powers in about 30 years.

Russian boom By 2004, discussion of the Brics had morphed into a subculture all of its own in business media. It was impossible to escape the hype. People understood the Brics were supposed to be high-risk and high-reward. But this being 2004, much of the media only paid attention to the potential for the high reward part. Western capital, including a bounty of booty from the Irish property boom, flooded in to the Brics.

China was posting incredible economic growth under president Hu Jintao. India, under prime minister Manmohan Singh, was a less obvious destination for Irish capital but, with growth of 7.5 per cent, it earned its part of the acronym. Brazil, growing at 6 per cent under reforming president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, seemed a sure bet for Ireland's cash-rich agrifood giants.

Meanwhile, Russia was in the grip of an unprecedented economic boom under the cold, watchful eye of its president, Vladimir Putin. Then he was still considered a reformer, a potential partner of the West. Irish investors took notice. Sean Quinn, then Ireland's richest man rather than one of its bitterest, was already sizing up Russia's property market and would go on to make a series of huge investments there.

For a long time, the gilded Brics narrative seemed to have no downside, even when our own economy started heading south. Between 2001 and 2011, the MSCI Bric index, which tracked the performance of the four nations' stock markets, returned 379 per cent, compared to the 7.5 per cent of the MSCI world index.

But look at the Brics now and it is clear that the risk calculus has changed. The acronym has lost some its appeal and Putin's bloody onslaught in Ukraine is just the latest proof that all has fundamentally shifted. The people of Ukraine will pay by far the highest price – the ultimate one for far too many. But some of the stream of investors from western nations such as our own also will pay a financial price, although it seems tawdry to even consider it given the human hell being unleashed on Kyiv and Kharkiv.

Kingspan in St Petersburg Irish corporate giants such as CRH are making for the exit in Russia. A few years ago, Kingspan executives probably watched with pride as its building panels went up on the new football stadium in St Petersburg. Now, that stadium has been stripped of this year's Champions League final because of the war, and Kingspan's recent heavy investment in the country will produce a much different kind of return as the rouble crashes and Russia turns in on itself.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke this week of a new struggle between democracy and autocracy that will have consequences for economies as well as people. Putin is an extreme but his fellow Bric leaders, each of them pure-bred autocrats, now also radiate a different hue to the warm glow in which their predecessors basked, at least when the Brics seemed to be all in western investors' eyes. Investing in a blatantly autocratic state now seems a different proposition compared to 2004. Now the risk really must be considered along with the reward.

Lula da Silva has been replaced by Jair Bolsonaro, a supposed strongman who is so economically and morally inept that he has allowed at least 650,000 of his compatriots to die in the pandemic, while Brazil's economy slid into recession in the last quarter despite massive transfusions of public cash. India has turned into an ethno-nationalist autocracy under Narendra Modi, while its economy stutters.

Then there is China, under the blatantly authoritarian leadership of Xi Jinping, now a key friend for Putin in this world. Many western and Irish investors have done well in China over the years, such as PCH International's Liam Casey, or the property developer Richard Barrett. But perhaps the next generation of western investors will not find as much potential to make a fortune in Xi's darker, more assertive state.

China's economy has fundamentally shifted in recent years, away from trying to attract foreign investment and towards domestic consumption, while its borders have been effectively sealed to foreigners because of its baffling zero Covid policy. Its growth is slowing and who knows what its future holds in coming years as Xi and Putin seek to establish their new world order. Suddenly China seems a colder house for western business people – just ask Dublin aircraft leasing executive Richard O'Halloran, who was recently released from three years enforced detention there over a deal that went awry.

Even the former Goldman executive O'Neill, the man who first coined the Bric term, is worried about what the future holds, according to a pessimistic piece on China he wrote last month for Project Syndicate.

FM Wang Yi: BRICS to form high-quality partnership to drive global development (Ван И: БРИКС сформирует высококачественное партнерство для стимулирования глобального развития) / China, March, 2022
Keywords: wang_yi, global_governance

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Monday that China will deepen cooperation with other BRICS countries, and the bloc will form a high-quality partnership to drive global development.

Wang made the remarks in response to a question from CGTN's Tian Wei at a press conference on the sidelines of the fifth session of the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing.

BRICS is an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – five major emerging economies in the world.

China will host the BRICS summit this year, and the country will organize more than 160 activities, Wang said.

"We will deepen BRICS cooperation across the board, make BRICS shine brighter, burnish BRICS' credentials for South-South cooperation, and inspire hope and confidence for a joint effort by all countries to beat the pandemic and promote global recovery," he said.

"We will put forth BRICS proposals for improving global governance in the post-COVID era, cement BRICS defenses against the COVID-19 pandemic, create a BRICS fast track for global development and make BRICS contributions to building a global development partnership," he added.

'Asia's time has come in global governance'

This year, China will host the BRICS summit, Thailand will host the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit, and Indonesia will host the G20 Heads of State and Government Summit.

Wang said that Asia's time has come in global governance.

"In the race of global governance, China looks forward to seeing emerging markets and developing countries turning from 'followers' to 'forerunners' and even 'pacesetters,'" he said.

"Together, we can play a more active role and speak with a bigger voice," he added.

Another set of futile Western sanctions (Очередной набор бесполезных западных санкций) / China, March, 2022
Keywords: economic_challenges, political_issues

History shows that sanctions rarely achieve the kind of political objectives they are designed for, although they can cause fairly sizable economic damage to the sanctioned country.

Former US president John F. Kennedy sent his press secretary Pierre Salinger to buy 1,200 H. Upmann Cuban cigars before signing a sanction bill against Cuba in February 1962. Sixty years later little has changed in Cuba according to the United States' wishes. Nor have the on-and-off sanctions imposed on Iran since 1987 changed much of Teheran's behavior. Instead, the US is back to the negotiation table with Iran.

The sanctions announced by the US and its allies against Russia for triggering a conflict with Ukraine appear "tsunamic" in terms of scope and scale now. But their long-term impact is not likely to change Russia's trajectory of foreign policy in the region.

And although the sanctions will hurt Russia's economy as much as it has hurt Iran's, they will add yet another chapter to the history of the futility of sanctions. In fact, I doubt whether the sanctions will cause as much damage to the Russian economy as they did to Iran's.

Among the sanctions announced by the US and its allies, two are very significant-blocking Russia's central bank from using the country's nearly $630 billion foreign exchange reserves, which could reduce its ability to stabilize the Russian currency of ruble; and ejecting some Russian banks out of the Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication system, which provides highly secure communication for and dovetails with the many and varied operations of commercial banks in international transactions.

Russia has already withstood a round of severe sanctions, which the West imposed on it in 2014 following the Crimean incident, and has since developed into what is called a "fortress economy". That means it has been curtailing imports and trying to develop indigenous production capabilities that are relatively insulated from the global economy. And it has built large foreign exchange reserves of about $630 billion from the revenues from export of oil and gas.

True, the ban on Russia's central bank limits its ability to use some of its foreign exchange stockpile. But it cannot stop it from using all of it, because a large part of the reserves are in gold, which is not likely to be affected by the sanctions.

Indeed, the psychological shock the conflict and the sanctions have caused can spread panic across markets-already evident in people rushing to banks to withdraw money. But such shocks can be treated by using other regulatory means. In the short term, yes, the ruble is going to tumble, but after a while the Russian currency and economy are likely to stabilize.

Besides, the West's move to punish Russia through sanctions appear somewhat half-hearted when it comes to SWIFT, because transactions related to oil and gas trade are supposedly exempted. Is it because Europe gets about 40 percent of its natural gas and more than 25 percent of its oil from Russia?

By the way, in the global market, Russia accounts for about 13 percent of the oil and gas supply.

Overall, Russia still has a sizable set of trading partners that can help it solve some of its foreign currency problems. None of BRICS countries believe the sanctions will work. Even in the Arab world, the United Arab Emirates abstained from voting on a United Nations draft resolution co-authored by the United States condemning Russia for its "aggression" in Ukraine. And Argentina, a significant economy in the Americas, didn't jump onto the sanctions bandwagon.

The effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict will be felt for a long time so will the wrangling in conflicted areas. But even after many years, the sanctions may not be able to drastically change the strategic situation in the region.

The author is a professor of economics and a research fellow at the Academy of China Open Economy Studies at the University of International Business and Economics.

Wang Yi: Global governance has entered its Asia period (Ван И: глобальное управление вступило в азиатский период) / China, March, 2022
Keywords: wang_yi, global_governance

China looks forward to seeing emerging markets and developing countries playing a bigger and more active role in global governance in the future, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a news conference on Monday.

China, which is the rotating chair of the BRICS (an acronym denoting the national economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), will host the 14th summit of the bloc this year.

Wang said China will deepen BRICS' cooperation around the board, and inspire hope and confidence for a joint effort by all countries to beat the pandemic and promote global recovery.

The fields of collaboration will include vaccines against COVID-19, public health, economy and commerce, green development, poverty alleviation and other fields, he said.

China will also enhance strategic collaboration with emerging markets and developing countries, Wang said, adding numerous summits and high-level meetings are set to take place in Asia this year. "Global governance has entered its Asia period," Wang said. China hopes emerging economies and developing countries turn from being "followers" to "forerunners" and even "pacesetters" in global governance.

"Together, we can play a more active role and speak with a bigger voice," he said.

To "B" or not to "B": The BRICS, Brazil and Bolsonaro (На «Б» или не на «Б»: БРИКС, Бразилия и Болсонару) / Greece, March, 2022
Keywords: expert_opinion, economic_challenges

By Mateus Bilhar, Richard J. Cook, Han Zhaoying

Two decades on from O'Neill's BRICS acronym, the bloc's ability to influence global economic governance is now embattled with a range of challenges. Divergent intra-bloc perceptions, attenuated denominators, and individualized initiatives have potentially disrupted cohesion, arguably diluting its strategic importance as a greater focus now rests upon the disparity among BRICS constituents, dashing meaningful prospects of the bloc's capacity to reform global economic governance, as it originally intended. While scholarly attention is equally disproportionate when evaluating the BRICS, it seems almost passé to contemplate the "B" in the acronym, Brazil. Considering status discrepancies, Brazil has also recently appeared dismissive when engaging with the bloc or with the individual members due to a U-turn on Brasilia's foreign policy. So how should we gauge the "B" in the BRICS?

To "B" or not to BRICS

Formed around economic 'potential' per se, the BRICS constituents' experiences and developmental modus operandi intended to represent rising economies' interests in a world dominated by developed Western states and their economic regime(s), if not to offer alternative institutional arrangements. Crucially, the formation of the BRICS's New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingency Reserve Arrangement (CRA) in 2014, enabled optimistic scholarly overtones, posing whether the BRICS could evolve into a new model of global economic governance without the exclusive Western-centric political criteria. Despite such early appraisals, twelve years since its formation have now passed. The debate about the BRICS is now beset with issues of a fragmentated common purpose and an inability to marshal a collective order. Expressively, its constituents' diverse political and economic systems fatigue the bloc more than strengthen its capability to promote coherent strategies and to make a global impact. Likewise, dissimilar levels of industrialization and economic output indicate significant disparities, not to mention unequal international status, such as Russia and China's permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which have led to mixed intra-bloc interests and demands.

The bloc's economic weight strongly, if not solely, relies on China. Here, Russia, India, South Africa, and Brazil have demonstrated wariness over Beijing's economic predominance while their respective industries appear threatened by China's affordable commodities. Similarly, the bloc members have not been well receptive of China's advantageous position in influencing and gaining centrality within the bloc, as illustrated by India's apprehensiveness over Beijing's proposal for a BRICS Plus arrangement in 2017. Yet, such critiques of Chinese politico-economic asymmetry must be weighed against a hard truth, that Beijing is the de facto driver of the bloc.

More importantly, efforts to achieve regional, or better still, great power status, and to influence global governance regimes as a 'collective action bloc' have shifted to the individual states' agenda for respective regional primacy. Prima facie, great power aspirations and influencing contests have been identified and prioritized by some powers, specifically China, Russia, and India promoting competitive institutional projects (such as the BRI, EEU, and Act East Policy respectively), overshadowing the bloc's achievements. Such developments cast a wider apprehension concerning the corroding factors of the BRICS's cohesion and its ability to manage its members' expectations for changes as a unified bloc. This has arguably shuffled the bloc's strategic importance down the pecking order and replaced it with the individual states' designs to orchestrate their own Grande institutional endeavors. Despite the challenges, it appears that the prospects for greater global influence and financial (sometimes political) reforms hold the bloc together, since the BRICS still embodies one of the leading non-Western frameworks to represent its constituents' demands, those being to advance their representativity and interests to reform international financial institutions. Additionally, for the newly developing economies such as Brazil, the BRICS, as a loose institutional arrangement, convened an opportune avenue to expand its global footprint and regional status.

To "B" or not to Brazil

During the Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva administration (2003-2010) and its successor, Dilma Rousseff's (2011-2016), Brasilia's foreign policy aimed to promote its regional leadership candidature (acknowledging contenders such as Mexico and Argentina) through expansion of diplomatic partnerships (South-South cooperation) and non-Western alternatives for regional and global governance initiatives, such as the BRICS, Mercosur, and the Union of South American Nations. Here, Brazil's status seeking endeavors were made possible and paired to a rapid economic development associated with industrialization efforts during earlier presidential administrations. According to the World Bank, Brasilia elevated its GDP from nearly USD 500 billion in 2003 to USD 2.6 trillion at its peak in 2011, laying the foundation for its efforts. Such a trend prompted economists to consider Brazil's long-term economic potential, for instance, referring to the PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PwC) "The World in 2050" key projections, Brazil is expected to become the world's fifth largest economy by 2050 in terms of GDP with the potential to surpass all developed European economies.

This period of relative economic development coincided with the economic momentum of the other BRICS members. Already on the path to solidify regional influence via politico-economic indices in South America, Brazil was quick to embrace the bloc as an opportunity to gain greater international status and thereby reaffirm its emerging potential in the form of regional leadership. Noteworthy, were the efforts to gain a permanent seat at the UNSC by seeking support of BRICS constituents, Russia and China. Brasilia's role in early conceptions of the BRICS initiated through the Brazil-India-South Africa (ISBA) Forum in 2003, already stressed the need for coordination on global issues, such as collective action against protectionism measurements concerning the Doha Round at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Equally noticeable, Brasilia's achievements at international financial regimes continued via the BRICS, as quota reforms in the IMF (1.72% to 2.32%) stands as a remarkable example.

To "B" or not to Bolsonaro

Aware of the systemic pressures caused by the Sino-US peer competition, although more pronounced in the Asia-Pacific region, yet evidently proliferating across the globe, Brazil has felt the tremors and is struggling to cope with the security-economic playoff between these two . Here, Brazil's recent political readjustments, namely a strategic realignment with the United States and antagonistic rhetoric targeting China, aggravates the already questionable cohesion of the bloc by adding mixed preferences and demands, further undermining its coordination efforts and limiting its global impact.

Since 2019, President Jair Bolsonaro, following a right-wing conservative political agenda, sought to re-emphasize traditional partnerships with the West, centered on the US, diverging from his predecessors. Specifically, the Bolsonaro administration's strikingly similar erratic rhetoric on international affairs with former US President Donald Trump, is certainly discernable, highlighting an anti-leftist and anti-globalist campaign, if not a popularist front. The Trump administration found a reliable partner in Brazil with Bolsonaro in its quest to counter growing Chinese influence in Washington's 'Latin American backyard' and the wider Western hemisphere. As suggested during Bolsonaro's official visit to Washington in 2019, commitments to the US-Brazil Security Forum to strengthen border security and information sharing, emphasized Brazil's (a major non-NATO ally) desire for immediate realignment. As such, their relationship represented a central element of Bolsonaro's personalistic presidency, being recognized as pro-Trump more than pro-US, as they displayed mutual skepticism over the role of international organizations, prioritizing instead bilateral relationships. Hence, earlier scholarly prognoses on whether a "Braxit" from the bloc could take place during the early days of his government were deemed plausible, yet not officially considered.

Once instrumental in criticizing the structure of the liberal international order, Sino-Brazilian relations have grown volatile due to Brasilia's antagonistic rhetoric. Bolsonaro has periodically verbalized dissatisfactions over Chinese economic influence in Brazil, specifically due to market dependency on Chinese imports and investments tapping into its energy potential, minerals, and agricultural resources. Notwithstanding this, Brasilia cannot afford to ignore economic opportunities with China. Specifically, following the 'Phase One' trade deal of the Sino-US Trade War, Brazil's soybean (as well as derivatives) exports to China made gains, raising from 53.8 million tons in 2017 to 68.8 million tons in 2018, acquiring over 80% of Brazil's total soybean exports. Equally, other agricultural subsectors benefited, such as the export of beef and cellulose. As such, Brasilia could be considered a potential winner of the Sino-US Trade War, seeing a upturn in exports to both China and the US since 2018.

Brasilia has found it challenging to follow Bolsonaro's rhetoric while attempting to avoid upsetting an increasingly sensitive Beijing, its primary commercial partner. Here, some sort of decoupling appears unlikely given that Brazil still suffers from the aftermath of the 2015 Brazilian economic crisis. Recognizing the lack of alternative trade partners able to compensate the loss of the Chinese market, a more amenable tone with Beijing from Brasilia's political elite was required. This was particularly noted in the 11th BRICS meeting in 2019 chaired by Brazil, whereupon Bolsonaro's demeanor towards Beijing and the BRICS was modest compared to his early days of government. However, these pragmatic shifts for Bolsonaro were limited by restricting his BRICS' presidency priorities into perhaps vague, if not, superficial issues of facile compromise, in areas such as digital economy, technology innovation, and combating transnational crime, while avoiding more substantial dialogues, for example, cancelling the BRICS outreach meeting with regional leaders.

To "B" or not to Bloc

Growing systemic pressures fueled by the Sino-US peer competition denote a new era of acrimonies and a new status quo of instability, calling into question states, institutions and blocs' ability, if not their culpability to cope with emerging stresses. Despite Brazil's political elite having already embarked on a strategic shift towards Washington, Beijing still represents significant potential for economic investments and benefits for the developing Brazilian economy. Furthermore, acknowledging the reduced commonality within the BRICS bloc, Brasilia has similarly deemphasized the grouping's centrality to its revised foreign policy agenda, therefore adding divergent preferences into the bloc's already fragmented cohesion. Here, the onset of these concerns elucidates difficult challenges, perhaps with lasting doubts about the robustness of the bloc, leaving a deeper question on whether the BRICS can meaningfully save itself from itself.

Despite some level of commonality still being noted, it seems unlikely to evolve into the once idealized functional bloc capable of impacting global economic governance. However, as perceived during the 13th BRICS Summit in 2021, shared issues still bind and motivate the BRICS's constituents into dialogue. Issues such as terrorism and narcotrafficking, and the desire to act on priority financial interests, trade, and sustainable development, attest that the bloc is not completely irrelevant or facing immediate demise. However, Brazil's posture towards the BRICS may see a reverse when Brazilians go to the ballot box in October, with former President Lula currently leading polls. Despite no clear foreign policy signal, Lula's more amenable relation with the bloc would likely be repeated, as he is likely to roll back Bolsonaro's legacy. So, in 2022 a lack of fanfare for the BRICS in Brasilia is noticeable, but let's not write off the "B"RICS just yet.

*Mateus Bilhar is a Ph.D. student of International Relations in the Zhou Enlai School of Government, Nankai University, China. His research interests include International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, Sino-Latin America relations and Hierarchy in International Relations.

*Richard J. Cook Ph.D. is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow of International Relations in the Zhou Enlai School of Government, Nankai University, China. His research interests include China-U.S. Relations, Hierarchy in International Relations and International Security.

*Zhaoying Han is a Professor of International Relations in the Zhou Enlai School of Government, Nankai University, China. His primary research interests are China-US Relations, American Politics and Foreign Policy, Chinese Foreign Policy and International Relations Theory.

Modern Diplomacy

The views in the article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of InfoBRICS.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
BRICS Chamber of Commerce & Industry Organised a Webinar on Investment Opportunities (Торгово-промышленная палата БРИКС организовала вебинар по инвестиционным возможностям) / Russia, March, 2022
Keywords: investments

The BRICS Chamber of Commerce & Industry organised a webinar on Decoding Investment Opportunities in a Budding Startup Economy under the newly created Investment Vertical.

The session was inaugurated with a welcome address by Ms. Shabana Nasim (Director, NF Infratech and Member, Governing Body, BRICS CCI) who stated, "The twenty-first century is an era of unprecedented innovation and disruption — benefitting from the surge of start-ups, armed with transformative products, business models, and capital to take on the world."

The session included the following speakers:

• Mr. Dhianu Das (Co-Founder, Agility Ventures) who stated, "Financial peace isn't the acquisition of stuff. It's learning to live on less than you make, so you can give money back and have money to invest. You can't win until you do this."

• Mr. Amit Singal (Founding Partner, Fluid Ventures) who stated, "From the funding side every investor is looking for a new asset class they keep checking whether gold could be a good opportunity or crypto could be a good opportunity similarly they have started understanding startup investment system as well as the exit system because entering is easy but there is no right time to exit."

• Mr. Avi Mittal (MD and Partner, Goldenace Ventures) stated, "Age brackets have changed for entrepreneurs. Good partnerships are coming in place in the startup ecosystem, the partnerships where young entrepreneur goes to experienced professional with an idea and they collaborate, this makes the idea and product more hackable and bankable."

• Mr. Sushil Sharma (CEO & Founder, Marwari Catalysts) stated, "When it comes to investing, we want our money to grow with the highest rates of return, and the lowest risk possible. While there are no shortcuts to getting rich, there are smart ways to go about it."

• Mr. Serge Eric Meyne (CEO, Founder, Grassfield Ventures) stated, "It should be understood that intelligent investing is value investing. Acquiring more that you are paying for. You must value the business in order to value the stock."

• Mr. Aditya Arora (CEO, Faad Network Pvt.) stated, "Most people dismiss many of the best and most profitable investment ideas simply because they probably won't work. These investors never stop to consider how much they could make if unlikely outcomes actually occur."

The session was moderated by Mr. Bibin Babu (Co-Founder, Payiza, Colexion and Innowork).

The highly significant panel discussion was attended by an audience comprising globally recognized investors, startup companies and entrepreneurs.

NDB First Multilateral Agency to Open Office in Gift City (NDB — первое многостороннее агентство, открывшее офис в городе Гифт) / India, February, 2022
Keywords: ndb

New Development Bank (NDB) will become the first multilateral agency to open an office in the Gujarat International Finance Tech City (Gift) after an approval for the same this week.

NDB vice president representating India Anil Kishora said the multilateral agency will take all requisite steps to make the Indian office operational by the middle of May.

"An office within India will help enhance the bank's engagement with Indian stakeholders and borrowers, whether existing or potential. They will have easy access to our staff right here, with hardly any need to reach out to the Shanghai headquarters. We chose not to be in Delhi because it will help us to connect with states better and besides all other multilateral agencies are based in the capital which makes it quite crowded," he said.

The Indian office will help identify suitable projects and try to create a pipeline of potential financing for the bank. Kishora said NDB also expects to partner with the newly launched National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NBFID) to support crucial infrastrcuture projects in India.

"The regional office will provide support in preparation of projects, track project implementation and carry out monitoring. These tasks are currently handled from the bank's headquarters in Shanghai," he said.

NDB was set up by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) with the objective of mobilizing resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in the BRICS as well as other emerging markets in 2014. It became operational in 2015 and is headquartered in Shanghai, China. All the founding members equally own the bank.

NDB has advertised for a position of director general (DG) for the Indian Regional Office reporting to Kishora. The DG will be responsible for the origination and implementation of operations of in India and neighbouring countries and provide primary strategic and operational interface between the NDB headquarters and its clients in India, according to the job description seen by ET.

The new DG will also be responsible for project identification, preparation, implementation, monitoring and pipeline development will work in close coordination with the NDB headquarters' team responsible for the operations in the region and will support the NDB headquarters in other functions including external relations and stakeholder management.

India is one of the largest loan portfolio of the bank with 19 approved projects worth of close to $7 billion which is roughly a quarter of the bank's total loan portfolio.

The projects include Delhi-Meerut Rapid Regional Transit System, Rajasthan Water sector, Madhya Pradesh Roads and Bridges projects, Manipur Water Supply, Assam Bridge Project, Mumbai Metro, Bihar Rural Road and REC renewable energy.

Kishora said having a regional office will help in expanding the loan portfolio and also monitor ongoing projects more closely. Also, building a new office in the upcoming Gift city is a long term one keeping in mind the infratructure needs for NDB employees and their families in India.

Economic Times

A statement by the New Development Bank (Заявление Нового Банка Развития) / China, March, 2022
Keywords: ndb

The New Development Bank (NDB) applies sound banking principles in all its operations, as stated in its Articles of Agreement.

In light of unfolding uncertainties and restrictions, NDB has put new transactions in Russia on hold.

NDB will continue to conduct business in full conformity with the highest compliance standards as an international institution.

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