Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 22.2022
2022.05.30 — 2022.06.05
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
How Western Sanctions, Economic Pressures Are Feeding BRICS Members' Ambition to Be an Alternative to Western Bloc (Как западные санкции и экономическое давление подпитывают стремление членов БРИКС стать альтернативой западному блоку) / China, June, 2022
Keywords: expert_opinion, economic_challenges, political_issues

By Akhil Ramesh

The foreign ministers of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa met virtually for the BRICS summit, the first since the start of the conflict in Ukraine.

This summit was unique for a number of reasons. First, there had been growing speculation that India would not attend because of its differences with China and warming ties with the United States.

Second, the summit brought together the five nations to discuss security and responses to global crises, among other issues, just as three of them – Russia, India and China – were facing crises at home. India is facing double-digit inflation growth, China has been forced into strict Covid-19 lockdowns and Russia's war on Ukraine has brought its own economy to its knees.

Third, China has proposed an expansion of the BRICS grouping to include other emerging economies. Interestingly, foreign ministers or their representatives from Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Thailand joined this year's summit.

Putting an end to the rumours, India did attend the summit and its policy of multi-alignment remains unshaken. However, the other two developments signal the group's rapidly growing significance and show an attempt to create an alternative bloc to the post-war Western system.

The actions of BRICS nations, individually more than collectively, such as helping countries in need and resisting Western criticism of their foreign policies, suggest a growing desire for a parallel mechanism.

The impact of rising commodity prices, including for wheat and crude oil, is being felt more sharply in the poorer economies of the Global South than in the West, and there has been growing sentiment that the rise was a product of the West's unilateral sanctions on Russia, leaving countries across the Global South to fend for themselves.

Most recently, India supplied petrol and diesel to Sri Lanka, which is battling unrest and bankruptcy. At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, when China, India and Russia rushed to supply vaccines to the Global South, the US held back and the Biden administration took time to find methods to circumvent the Trump administration's ban on vaccines exports.

Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar's riposte to media questions last month about his county's position on Ukraine was a clear sign that New Delhi was not going to jump on the Western bandwagon any time soon.

Similarly, decades ago, India agreed to supply Brazil with cheaper generic drugs for Aids treatment after price talks broke down with US drug maker Merck & Co. Brazil's HIV/Aids crisis could have been much worse if not for India's timely help.

Over the past two decades, while the West has courted India through trade, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and other multilateral groupings, its position as a former colony and a leader of the non-aligned movement make an allegiance with the West unlikely.

Similarly, Brazil's policy of having its feet in both worlds may not change any time soon. In the past, its socialist leadership has influenced its friendships and partners. While President Jair Bolsonaro's cozying up to former US president Donald Trump, and therefore towards America and the West, should not be discounted, Brazil did not cut ties with China or dance to the tunes of the West.

As its foreign minister made clear recently, it will not be joining the West in condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

China is the leader of this movement. Other than offering vaccine diplomacy, China's diplomats have hit out at what they see as the West's hypocrisy on human rights, including Australian military misconduct in Afghanistan, and the US "war on terror" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

China is often the first to establish diplomatic relations with countries shunned by the West, the latest being the Taliban's Afghanistan. China's trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative runs predominantly across the developing world, providing much-needed infrastructure and investment.

South Africa is no different from the other four in that it has not buckled under Western pressure to condemn Russia.

As for Russia, it continues to have the most to gain from strengthening groupings such as BRICS. Given its economic isolation and military losses, the ailing nation cannot afford to lose partners in the Global South that have either stood at its side or have abstained from voting against it in multilateral platforms.

While the cause of supporting postcolonial societies could be a galvanising force, the China-India border dispute could become a perennial threat to any coordinated BRICS effort. Nevertheless, the likes of the New Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank have so far been able to go about their work, shielded from bilateral disputes.

A day after the BRICS summit concluded, US President Joe Biden made his inaugural visit to Asia. He has a tough job trying to sell his Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) to a part of the world that already has two massive trade blocs – the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

The IPEF, which is merely a framework without provisions for access to the US market, may not be the most enticing offer for Asian nations after Biden's promise that "America is back".

In the next few months, as the global economy goes on a tumultuous ride, the appeal of Biden's economic framework and the role of BRICS in global affairs will become clearer.

Akhil Ramesh is a Fellow at the Pacific Forum. He has worked for premier risk-consulting firms, non-profit organisations, and think tanks in New York City and Washington, DC.

South China Morning Post

The views in the article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of InfoBRICS.
Talk of Expanding BRICS Ahead of the June Summit (Разговоры о расширении БРИКС в преддверии июньского саммита) / India, May, 2022
Keywords: bircs+, expert_opinion

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

Under the rotating chairmanship of China, BRICS—an informal intergovernmental union comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—has held a series of high-level virtual meetings on existing significant regional and international issues, one of which focuses on the organization's expansion proposed by China.

BRICS is an organic association of countries that have many things in common: they have several shared interests and common approaches to addressing challenges that are relevant to all of humanity, including Russia. This is one of its key advantages, and today, many countries are showing an interest in the underlying principles and values of BRICS.

While Beijing did not indicate the criteria who precisely should become new members and steps toward official membership in the group, IDN has made a quick follow up, questioning experts specifically about BRICS expansion ahead of its summit in June.

Nearly all the discussions with experts indicated that BRICS members have little desire to expand the group at this time. In practical terms, China has been promoting the shaping of a club of BRICS friends for a while. Experts suggested the issue of enlargement would definitely need additional thorough discussions and final consideration, and should be approached with caution. It is important for BRICS to promote specific solutions, attain specific results and this is more important than blindly expanding.

Leaders of BRICS have expressed full-fledged satisfaction with the group's performance. Its current format has proven effective and includes the Big Five, BRICS Plus and Outreach, and consequently have no plans to increase its numerical strength in the near future, experts emphasized in discussions.

Nandan Unnikrishnan, Research Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, India, says: There is nothing wrong in trying to expand the BRICS if the new member countries meet the criteria of what BRICS represents, and their entry adds to the cohesion of the grouping.

However, it appears that at this stage of the evolution of BRICS the need of the hour is not expansion, but consolidation, given developments in the world as well as in each of the BRICS countries.

Secondly, BRICS is quite clear about Africa's developmental needs. The question is how to mobilise the necessary resources to propel Africa's development over and above their bilateral commitments to African countries.

All the BRICS countries are facing economic challenges that they need to address urgently. But in the long run, BRICS is keenly aware of the importance of contributing to Africa's development agenda.

Charles Robertson, Chief Economist at Renaissance Capital, argues: The BRICS was just a concept from Goldman with little intellectual coherence beyond the fact that 1) all four of the original BRIC countries had a historically low GDP and were likely to rebound in size, 2) they were populous, 3) there were among them two commodity importers and two commodity exporters among them. South Africa was a late minor addition to the group, to add a "bridgehead to Africa".

"So, it could expand because the BRICS are under-represented in the global financial architecture. Europe and the US dominate institutions like the IMF and the World Bank, and to some extent many others," explained Robertson.

According to him, "Russia and others in the BRICS would like to see larger power centres emerge to offer an alternative to that Western dominated construct. That is reasonable enough—providing there are countries with the money to backstop the new institutions, such as China supporting the BRICS bank, and if the countries offer an alternative vision that provides benefits to new members."

Robertson, however, questioned whether "a broader BRICS + body would offer tariff-free access to their markets as the EU and the US can? I doubt that. Can they offer financing via a BRICS bank? Perhaps!"

"Now is a very good time to show that BRICS members and relations between them are an alternative to the format existing in the West," Executive Director at the Russian National Committee for BRICS Research, Professor Georgy Toloraya, told the Kommersant, a Russian daily business newspaper, adding that "BRICS favours order, compliance with agreements and development."

Plans are in store to expand the group to include Argentina, Turkey, Indonesia and some other African countries.

According to Toloraya, India is currently opposed to expanding BRICS fearing that new members will support China. On the other hand, Moscow argues that "the entrance ticket" to the group is independence and sovereignty, and under no circumstances, potential candidates be called China's satellites.

There are not so many countries like that—they would include Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey, Egypt and Iran. But then, there are certain political requirements for new members, including recognition of BRICS values and core foreign policy principles, he said.

Initially, the goals and tasks were very modest, primarily focusing on the economy and the coordination of efforts toward attaining more ambitious goals. As more members joined the group, it developed into a full-scale

"As a positive, inspiring and constructive force in the international community, the BRICS countries need to take real action to promote peace and development, uphold fairness and justice, and advocate democracy and freedom, so as to inject stability and positive energy into international relations in a period of turbulence and transformation," Xi Jinping was quoted as saying by China's Foreign Ministry.

Historically, the first meeting of the group began in St Petersburg in 2005. It was called RIC, which stood for Russia, India and China. Then, Brazil and subsequently South Africa joined later, which is why now it is referred to as BRICS.

The BRICS member countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) collectively represent about 26% of the world's geographic area and are home to 2.88 billion people, about 42% of the world's population.

Kester Kenn Klomegah is researcher specialising in Russia-Africa policy, which spans nearly two decades. Most of his well-resourced articles are reprinted in several reputable foreign media.

IDN / InDepthNews
Saudi Arabia mulling to join BRICS amid global oil crisis (Саудовская Аравия рассматривает возможность вступления в БРИКС на фоне мирового нефтяного кризиса) / Russia, June, 2022
Keywords: Sergey_Lavrov, brics+

Uriel Araujo, researcher with a focus on international and ethnic conflicts.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, during his visit to Saudi Arabia on May 31, said that the Gulf country has shown interest in the BRICS group, which has recently reached consensus on an expansion process. After US-Saudi tensions under Joe Biden's presidency, and with Saudi-Iranian talks aimed at rapprochement, the Saudi Kingdom seems to be repositioning itself in the global arena, which may have profound consequences.

The Russian minister visited the Kingdom for talks with Gulf authorities. The trip took place shortly after the European Union approved its plan to reduce Russian oil exports to the bloc, thus further increasing sanctions against Moscow - even though it is clear by now they do not really work against Russian economy as much as thought and in fact harm mostly the West itself as well as African and middle-eastern nations.

Since the latest stage in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which escalated in February with the Kremlin's military operation, Moscow has been facing increasing pressure and sanctions from the US-led West. So far, the oil-exporting Gulf states have chosen to maintain their ties with Russia and thus have not joined the sanctions.

During the current war, oil prices have skyrocketed and have remained above $100 a barrel during May. The global easing of the COVID-19 lockdowns added extra pressure on fuel supplies worldwide and this growing demand caused a rise in energy prices, amid a global supply chain crisis.

Both Lavrov and Prince Faisal bin Farhan, his counterpart, praised Russian-Saudi oil-market cooperation in OPEC+ alliance. This coordination in such a strategic area, they noted, has a stabilizing effect on the world's hydrocarbon market. The OPEC+ grouping comprises the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) 13 state members plus 10 non-OPEC oil producers led by Moscow.

OPEC+ was due to restore production by the end of September, as it halted during the pandemic crisis. However, the Saudis might bring barrels even earlier, according to RBC Capital Markets LLC. Earlier, the Walls Street Journal reported that OPEC was in fact contemplating suspending Russia from its quota system because the current sanctions prevent Moscow from increasing its output. Thus, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia could fill this supplying gap. However, the Organization stopped short of this move, and the Eurasian country was not excluded. On May 22, the Saudi Kingdom's energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, had already signaled his country's support for Russia.

On June 2, OPEC+ officials announced they will increase output by about 650,000 barrels a day in July and August. This is nearly two-thirds more than previously planned.

Saudi-US estrangement peaked after Biden's decision last year to review F-35 fighter and weapons sales to the Kingdom.

Recently, the Saudi authorities in Riyadh have been advancing their cooperation with Beijing. In March, they started discussing accepting yuan instead of dollars for their oil sales to China (the negotiation is still going on). This would certainly accelerate the much discussed ongoing global economy's de-dollarization. These are certainly initiatives pertaining to economic considerations but they obviously may also have profound geopolitical consequences, and the Gulf nation's interest in the BRICS group indicates an even more interesting turn than its ongoing dialogue with Iran, a traditional foe.

The May 20 BRICS virtual meeting reached a consensus at expanding the group and broadening BRICS+ cooperation. Besides the BRICS member states (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), the meeting included foreign ministers from Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Senegal, Argentina, and Thailand, as well as Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

The progressing Saudi nuclear program, developed in collaboration with China since at least 2018, is yet another sign of an emerging Sino-Saudi-Pakistan alliance. Becoming part of the BRICS group, Riyadh will have yet another forum to coordinate its perspectives together with Moscow and Beijing so as to maximize benefits for all - bilateral disputes apart. For example, even though there were rumors that India would not attend the latest BRICS summit due to its bilateral quarrels with China, the country did attend it.

The rise in commodity prices is increasingly being perceived as a product of the West's sanctions policy. This forces the global south to look for alternatives and parallel mechanisms. In this spirit we now see the rise of a new non-aligned tendency amongst African leaders, for example. Likewise, the BRICS group now has a window of opportunity to project itself as a kind of alternative to the western bloc. And the Gulf Kingdom seems to be onboard.

After trying to isolate the country (which had been a traditional US ally), Washington is now planning a high-profile meeting between President Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. From the White House's perspective, ties with Riyahd must be maintained as a counter to Russian and Chinese developments. Saudi Arabia's challenge will be to navigate the emerging polycentric world through multialignment as New Delhi and, to some degree, Brasilia have managed to do so far.
Putin getting ready for virtual BRICS summit (Путин готовится к виртуальному саммиту БРИКС) / Russia, June, 2022
Keywords: summit, vladimir_putin

MOSCOW, June 1. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin is getting ready for a virtual summit of the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

"We will make an announcement. Undoubtedly, it is a very important event. The president is getting ready for it. We will inform you in a timely manner about how it will take place," Peskov said, when asked if Putin planned to participate in the summit scheduled for June 24.

The acronym BRICS, derived from the initial letters of the names of the group's members, was created in December 2010, when South Africa joined the organization that had earlier been known as BRIC. The goal of the group, established at Russia's initiative in 2006, is to boost comprehensive cooperation between member states. China is holding the BRICS presidency in 2022.
Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
BRICS Will Welcome New Members, to Better Represent Voices of Emerging Market Economies: Experts (БРИКС будет приветствовать новых членов, чтобы лучше представлять голоса стран с формирующимся рынком: эксперты) / Cyprus, May, 2022
Keywords: expert_opinion, brics+

The BRICS should be open to influential countries that better represent the voices of the emerging market economies in the world, and it will allow the organization to become stronger and more united. A more robust BRICS will also serve the purpose of deflecting the efforts of some countries to intensify world turbulence, observers said after government ministers backed BRICS expansion.

Agreements on the countries that will be able to join the organization can only be made after thorough discussions and procedure among BRICS members, Chinese experts said, adding that current G20 members who are interested in joining the BRICS can be prioritized, and Indonesia and other emerging economies could be likely candidates.

"China proposes to study the standards and procedures for BRICS expansion, to gradually form a consensus," Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during an online meeting of the foreign ministers of the BRICS.

According to the joint statement released by the ministers, they supported promoting discussions among BRICS members on the expansion process, and they agreed to further clarify the guiding principles, the standards, criteria and procedures for this expansion process.

Including new members within the organization could better underpin the organization's positive role in addressing international affairs and offset negative impact of some countries' attempt to intensity geopolitical confrontation and reverse globalization through forming political blocs, Song Guoyou, deputy director of the Center for American Studies, Fudan University told the Global Times.

A BRICS expansion could also lay a foundation for the organization to stay strong among different international groups and in the face of a turbulent world order, a Beijing-based international affairs expert told the Global Times on condition of anonymity.

As for which countries can be considered to enter the organization, the expert said it will be decided after detailed procedures and discussion among the current BRICS member countries, the expert said, noting that "Each country may have its preference of supporting different new members, and eventually BRICS will reach a compromised agreement through coordination and dialogue."

The five-country BRICS initially formed in 2009 now includes China, Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa which joined in 2010.

Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China, suggested in an interview with the Global Times that countries that belong to G20 members and are also interested in joining the BRICS can be firstly considered.

Indonesia, for instance, as a strong representative of emerging market economies and the biggest Muslim country, is likely to be a potential candidate, Wang noted.

Moreover, Argentina, one of G20 nations, has already expressed its willingness of moving toward ever closer coordination with the BRICS countries, media reports said.

As the purpose of including new members is to strengthen the organization, candidates that may potentially weaken or split the organization will definitely be ruled out, according to the experts.

Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson from the Chinese foreign ministry said that the strength of BRICS lies in its diversity and representation. BRICS members hope to deepen cooperation with other emerging markets and developing countries, and they also expect the appeal of the BRICS to increase.

A "BRICS Plus" consultation was held as part of the virtual BRICS Foreign Ministers' meeting. Foreign ministers or their representatives from Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Thailand participated.

Global Times
World of Work
2 Indian Satellites to Be Part of Brics «Virtual Constellation» (Два индийских спутника войдут в состав «Виртуального созвездия» БРИКС) / India, May, 2022
Keywords: space, cooperation

India and China are a step closer to working together in space after a joint commission on space cooperation for the Brics bloc was established at a meeting of the top space agencies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, according to a report by official Chinese media.

Two orbiting Indian satellites Resourcesat-2 and 2A will be part of the "virtual constellation of remote sensing satellites", a data sharing mechanism among the BRICS countries.

The BRICS remote sensing constellation will be made up of six existing satellites contributed by the space agencies of Brics countries including the CBERS-4, jointly developed by Brazil and China, Russia's Kanopus-V-type and China's Gaofen-6 and Ziyuan III 02, official Chinese media reported.

The meeting, held by a video link among the heads of the four space agencies, takes forward the agreement for cooperation in remote sensing satellite data sharing signed on August 18, 2021 under India's chairship of Brics.

The August 2021 agreement enabled the building of the virtual constellation of specified remote sensing satellites of Brics space agencies.

"This will contribute to strengthening multilateral cooperation among Brics space agencies in meeting the challenges faced by mankind, such as global climate change, major disasters and environmental protection," a statement by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) said in August last year.

Speaking at the joint commission's first meeting via video, Zhang Kejian, head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), said on Wednesday that it will guide the remote sensing sharing mechanism to better help the socioeconomic development of the Brics countries and meet common challenges, such as climate change, disaster relief and environmental protection.

The official Chinese report on the meeting did not give a timeline when the virtual satellite constellation will become operational.

A forward movement on the mechanism can be expected at the upcoming Brics leaders' summit to be held in late June.

According to Isro, the Resourcesat-2A satellite, launched in 2016 and one of India's two satellites among the six in the constellation, provides cloud-free data for various operational applications, such as crop production estimation, forest cover mapping, mapping and monitoring land and water resources, rural and urban development plans and disaster management support.

Both Indian satellites are "extremely useful for monitoring vegetation and water resources," according to Isro.

India and China bilateral cooperation in space has never really taken off despite the Sino-Indian Joint Committee on Space Cooperation set up in 2015. The agreement – the 2015-2020 Space Cooperation Outline – was signed between Isro and CNSA during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to China in 2015.

"The two sides agreed to reinforce the cooperation in the field of Satellite Remote Sensing, Space-Based meteorology, Space Science, Lunar and Deep Space Exploration, Satellite Navigation, Space Components, Piggy-back Launching Services, and Education and Training," the agreement said.

Hindustan Times
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