Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 36.2022
2022.09.05 — 2022.09.11
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
BRICS Agricultural Cooperation (Сельскохозяйственное сотрудничество БРИКС) / Russia, September, 2022
Keywords: cooperation, economic_challenges

Tatiana Bokova, Intern of the Russian National Committee on BRICS Research – special for InfoBRICS

In recent years, the BRICS countries have been exploring long-term and sustainable mechanisms for cooperation in the agricultural sector. The issues of food security, poverty reduction and agricultural production, and technological innovation are on the agenda of the BRICS leaders. BRICS agricultural cooperation has contributed particularly to global food security and provided an impetus for economic recovery in the post-pandemic era. According to statistics, in 2021, total agricultural trade between the BRICS countries and other countries reached $588.3 billion. It is worth noting that compared to 2010, the volume of trade in agricultural products has increased by 128%.

Currently, member countries are deepening food and trade cooperation with emerging and developed nations, striving to remove trade barriers, and creating new and innovative mechanisms and tools for cooperation in agriculture. Moreover, the BRICS continues to strengthen environmental and ecological protection, monitor food quality and safety, and conduct joint training programs to modernize agriculture and rural areas in China, Brazil, Russia, South Africa and India.

The association are deepening cooperation in the agricultural sector through various mechanisms and instruments within the organization. For example, countries have announced the creation of a BRICS forum on agricultural and rural development.

Delving a little deeper into history, in September 2017, the Xiamen International Conference Center hosted the ninth meeting of BRICS leaders, where the "Xiamen BRICS Leaders Declaration" was adopted. Among them was the final document "BRICS Action Plan on Agricultural Cooperation (2017-2020)," which pushed the participating countries to unite in this area.

Already in 2021, the ministerial meeting adopted the next BRICS Agricultural Cooperation Action Plan 2021-2024, which intends to speed up agricultural development to improve food security and nutrition, strengthen BRICS food supply capacity, and share information and best practices in agriculture through the BRICS Agricultural Research Platform. Moreover, the document focuses on improving farmers' welfare, preserving agro-biodiversity, and promoting digital agricultural solutions among the population of the organization's members.

Another mechanism for cooperation is the BRICS Agricultural Research Platform, which was introduced at the ministerial meeting also in 2021. This platform is designed to develop agriculture and solve the problems of famine, poverty and inequality through agricultural cooperation among the BRICS nations. In addition, the five states have strengthened joint training programs for the modernization of agriculture and rural areas in different countries. For example, China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2021 trained 295 agricultural technicians and managers for South Africa in areas such as rice planting, production and application of agricultural machinery, plant protection, use of renewable energy and others.

We can see that the strength of the BRICS countries also lives in agricultural research. Russia, Brazil, China, India and South Africa have strong research systems focused on many of the problems facing developing countries, such as sustainable nutrition for a growing population. In this scenario, advanced research, biotechnology, agroecology, and climate-optimized agriculture that adapt to the uncertain changes faced by farmers become prioritized.

The BRICS members are rich in natural resources such as climate, environment, soil, and occupy half of the world's cultivated area and about 40% of the world's cereal production area. Consequently, the participating countries have a wide space for cooperation in agricultural trade.

Individual states such as the People's Republic of China have made significant efforts to promote agriculture and rural development and undoubtedly play an important role in the promotion of this area within the BRICS. The Chinese government is concentrating on rural works, accelerating agricultural modernization, and proposing to focus on food security and poverty reduction.

China continues to deepen agricultural cooperation with member states. For example, since 2019, the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso has been planting corn varieties provided by Longping High-Tech Brazil, a company with Chinese investment owned by Longping Agriculture Science Co., Ltd. During this time, the planted area has increased significantly and now amounts to about 3,330 hectares. This company has built an industrial park where seeds are stored for global integration of emerging markets with a focus on the BRICS countries. To date, China has managed to provide food to more than 1.4 billion people through its own efforts, contributing to global food security.

It is worth noting that agricultural trade between Brazil and China is highly important. Brazil's exports include soybeans, beef and chicken. At the end of 2021, Brazilian exports to China exceeded $45 billion, which has benefited Brazil's food and agriculture industry.

The People's Republic of China is a major producer and importer of soybeans, which contributes to the development of Russia's soybean industry. In 2019, China and Russia signed a plan to develop cooperation on soybeans and as a result achieved deepening cooperation in the whole production chain of planting, processing, logistics, sales and research, and the first batch of Russian soybeans arrived in China with over 4,400 tons. In addition, the total agricultural trade between China and Russia reached $5.556 billion in 2021. The two sides are also making efforts to train agricultural enterprises in China and Russia, by inviting experts to hold online and offline lectures to teach, for example, effective soybean sowing methods.

"In recent years, agriculture has become a new area of growth in Russian-Chinese cooperation, and our collaboration with China is mutually beneficial," the Russian side declared.

As for India-China cooperation in agriculture, the Freshwater Fisheries Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Fisheries Sciences has trained over 40 fisheries experts for India in various technical assistance training courses in the past few years. This campaign has effectively promoted the cooperation and development of fisheries production between China and India.

An important element in the development of agricultural production cooperation among the BRICS countries became e-commerce as part of the digital economy. Through various e-commerce platforms, people receive agricultural products from Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa. For example, China officially launched the "Buy in BRICS" campaign in 2021 and live streaming of represented BRICS products (wines from South Africa, coffee beans from Brazil, powdered condiments from India, and chocolate from Russia). Consequently, the combined sales of China's main e-commerce platforms exceeded 270 million of yuan last summer, contributing to the development of the agricultural industry within the organization's members.

Thus, the BRICS countries are important producers and consumers of agricultural products and play a significant role in the global food system. Representatives of the association highlight agricultural cooperation as one of the main areas of interaction between China, Russia, Brazil, India and South Africa.

As economic and trade exchanges between BRICS countries and other multilateral mechanisms expand, member countries may establish their own food trade mechanism. Total agricultural trade between the BRICS countries and other countries reached $588.3 billion. It means that the actions promoted by the BRICS members not only contribute to the prosperity and development of their agriculture but also provide the population with a wide range of high-quality goods.

In order to promote the rapid development of agriculture, the member countries intend to strengthen the construction of agricultural infrastructure, accelerate the process of agricultural scale management, expand agricultural cooperation with other BRICS nations through introducing various mechanisms within the association, innovative technologies and digital economy. It will certainly affect the global economy; help eliminate poverty and reduce social inequality. BRICS agricultural cooperation will continue to make an important contribution to overcoming the global food crisis in the post-pandemic era.

Vostok 2022: India's Participation in Military Exercises (Восток-2022: участие Индии в военных учениях) / Russia, September, 2022
Keywords: cooperation, political_issues

India's participation in the recently-concluded Vostok 2022 exercises has set in motion a wave of reactions, both in the academic and in the scholarly circles. The country was represented by a contingent of troops from 7/8 Gorkha Rifles, who participated in these exercises between September 1 and 7, held at the training grounds of the Eastern Military District of Russia. This, however, comes at a time when New Delhi is growing ever closer to countries like the United States. Besides, India is party to the Quad, along with Japan, Australia and the U.S. It also conducts the Malabar naval exercises, joining Australia, the Unites States and Japan.

There is a host of issues that need to be considered here.

First, India's age-old ties with Russia, especially in the military sphere. These began right from the time of India's independence and have continued ever since. India signed a deal for the S-400 missile systems with Russia. In addition, it is important for India to get spares for the Russian weaponry, which it is already using: its frontline SU-30 fighters, the BM-30 "Smerch" heavy multiple rocket launcher, the BM-21 "Grad" truck-mounted multiple rocket launcher, T-90 tanks and many more. Besides, unlike many other defense partners, Russia has allowed technology transfer to India, licensing and localizing production. India and Russia have come together to produce the BrahMos missile (named after the rivers Brahmaputra and the Moskva). The missile is also likely to be exported to third countries, which makes it a game-changer for both Russia and India. This is also important for India's Make-in-India initiative, as India is pursuing the goal to produce many items for its defense needs domestically.

Second, though India has been historically close to the former Soviet Union and Russia as its successor state, Russia's "no-limits" partnership with China has of late been somewhat disconcerting among some sections in India. New Delhi needs Moscow's critical support in the UN Security Council. New Delhi has received Russian help on a host of issues in the past, and this is important for India—especially since such countries as China and Pakistan have been trying to pin India down on some issues in international forums. The growing ties between China and Russia is a big worry for India, and there are also fears that India may have to fight a two-pronged war someday in the future, where Russia's help will be crucial for India.

Third, participation in the Vostok 2022 military exercises also gives New Delhi an opportunity for interoperability with the armed forces of other countries and not only Russia. Vostok 2022 had contingents and observers from Algeria, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Syria and the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. India has suffered from Islamist terrorism in the past—therefore, it is important for India to engage with these nations for its national security interests.

Fourth, Russia is critically important for India's energy security. New Delhi has been buying cheap Russian oil even after the Western sanctions on Russian oil entities were introduced. This is important: Much as most countries in the world, New Delhi has been facing inflationary pressure. In addition, the Central Asian countries are also important for India and Russia has a big influence in this part of the world. India holds membership of BRICS and the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), where Russia is a key and influential member. Besides, the foreign ministers of India, Russia and China meet every year to discuss issues of mutual concern and cooperation. The U.S. has also been putting pressure on India not to buy Iranian oil, whereas New Delhi is a net energy importer. For Russia too, India is an important customer for its oil as many other markets have reduced imports of Russian oil.

Fifth, while India is going for a massive defense indigenization drive, it will be some time before the results are seen. New Delhi recently commissioned its first indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant. However, a lot of India's earlier weaponry is of Russian origin and these have served the country well. While military and military-technical cooperation has traditionally been the main pillar of the Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership between India and Russia, it is now moving towards "joint research and development, co-development and joint production of advanced defence technology and systems."

Last but not least, Russia and India had coordinated in Afghanistan in the fight against the Taliban, together with the Northern Alliance. They have also been cooperating in the International North-South Transport Corridor project, which is important given that India has not taken part in the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In the case of the 1971 India-Pakistan war, which led to Bangladesh gaining independence, India and the former Soviet Union signed a Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation between the Government of India and the Government of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in August 1971. This allowed India to go on the offensive without fear of drawing in China or the United States. India had supported Russia (or its predecessor) the Soviet Union in Afghanistan as well. The two countries have a shared interest in the maintenance of peace and stability in Afghanistan as well. Earlier, India had supplied Afghanistan with Russian-made weaponry.

The Road Ahead

Hence, although the U.S. and other countries will be trying to wean away India from its erstwhile close ties with Russia, New Delhi seems determined that it will abandon its close ties with Moscow. When asked about India's participation in the Vostok 2022 exercises, the White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted that "the United States has concerns about any country exercising with Russia."

What is worth noting here is that Russia–India relations have strong relations in the field of defense, in the field of trade, the ties are still languishing. As per official figures, India-Russia bilateral trade during FY 2020 stood at a mere US$ 8.1 billion. As compared to this, India's trade with countries like the United States and China is much higher. This is a big worry for policy-makers on both sides. The Joint Statement issued during the visit of President Putin to India in December last year notes that "the leaders stressed on the need for greater efforts to achieve the trade target of USD 30 billion by 2025. In this regard, they placed strong emphasis on new drivers of growth for long-term cooperation."

For Russia, the Vostok 2022 exercises are a chance to show that it can pull off massive military drills even as its troops are engaged in the military action in Ukraine. It has also been reported that Russia and China may carry out a second joint naval patrol after the ongoing Vostok-2022 exercises. This is also significant since it could signal an even closer bond between Russia and China in the maritime realm. However, New Delhi stayed away from the maritime component of the exercises, keeping in mind Japan's sensitivities, especially in the light of the 2+2 talks between the Foreign and the Defense Ministers of the two sides.

Recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a new humanitarian foreign policy doctrine based around the concept of a "Russian World". This policy says Russia should "protect, safeguard and advance the ideals of the Russian World". It also says "Russia should increase cooperation with Slavic nations, China, and India, and further strengthen its ties to the West Asia, Latin America and Africa."

Meanwhile, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while recently speaking virtually at the Eastern Economic Forum, noted that "India is keen to strengthen its partnership with Russia on Arctic subjects and there is immense scope for cooperation in the field of energy as well. This kind of cooperation will work well since India has an Act-East Policy. Already, Indian Oil Company ONGV Videsh has been working in this area. PM Modi went on to add that "India has been emphasising the need to adopt the path of diplomacy and dialogue since the beginning of the Ukraine conflict and it supports all peaceful efforts to end the conflict."

Vostok 2022 also showed the importance of India-Russia cooperation and connectivity. As PM Modi noted during his address to the Eastern Economic Forum, "whether we talk about the International North-South Corridor, the Chennai-Vladivostok Maritime Corridor or the Northern Sea Route, connectivity will play an important role in the development of our relations in the future."

Russia is one of the two countries, with which India has annual summits. In addition, Russia has invited India to invest in its Far East, which is rich in resources but has a very meager population. Russia and India are countries that do not have any strategic dissonances—it is thus important for India and Russia to come closer together. India's participation in the Vostok 2022 exercises has injected fresh momentum into the relationship, and this is something that both countries need to build on.
Nicaragua recognizes BRICS initiative opens up new prospects — minister (Никарагуа признает, что инициатива БРИКС открывает новые перспективы — министр) / Russia, September, 2022
Keywords: quotation, brics+

"Nicaragua will continue to try to strengthen ties with the BRICS nations," Ivan Acosta emphasized

Nicaragua is aware of the opportunities for development that the BRICS association (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) provides, and will deepen relations with its member states, Nicaraguan Minister of Finance and Public Credit Ivan Acosta told TASS on Monday on the sidelines of the 7th Eastern Economic Forum.

"We believe that BRICS is a viable choice for a global alliance that provides numerous opportunities for growth in developing countries, particularly those with a different perspective on the global situation. We will continue to try to strengthen ties with the BRICS nations," he said.

The 7th Eastern Economic Forum is taking place on September 5-8, 2022 in Vladivostok on the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) campus. The Forum was established by decree of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin in 2015 to support the economic development of Russia's Far East and to expand international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. This year the Forum's tagline is "the Path to a Multipolar World". The EEF is organized by the Roscongress Foundation. TASS is the general information partner and the official photo-host agency of the event.
Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
China's Investment Cooperation with the BRICS Countries (Инвестиционное сотрудничество Китая со странами БРИКС) / Russia, September, 2022
Keywords: investments, expert_opinion

Tatiana Bokova, Intern of the Russian National Committee on BRICS Research – special for InfoBRICS

The BRICS countries have the potential to become a driving force of the global economy in the next decade, as they have enormous joint potential and great opportunities within the organization. Trade, economic and investment cooperation is a key area of the institution, which can enhance the further growth of the BRICS economies. China takes the leading role in this process through active investment in other member countries, trade and humanitarian policies, and infrastructure projects within the territory of its partners.

According to the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2025, trade and investment are priority areas for cooperation between the five countries, and in the context of current events on the global stage, the development of these spheres within the organization is highly relevant. China, as one of the most influential states on the world stage and the second largest economy in the world, has the opportunity to invest the amount of resources in the development of BRICS through the expansion of trade, economic and investment partnerships between Russia, Brazil, India and South Africa.

Based on statistics, in recent years, the five countries have invested just over $250 billion, and the total volume of trade in goods between the BRICS countries in 2021 reached nearly $8.55 trillion. Notably, China's bilateral trade with other BRICS countries was $490.42 billion, up 39.2% compared to the previous period.

China is a significant investment partner for Russia. Statistics demonstrate that total investment from China to Russia exceeded $200 million in 2021. In 2020, the outflow of foreign direct investments from China to Russia amounted to around 570 million U.S. dollars. Investments are a boosting area of cooperation between Moscow and Beijing and reveal a growing trend according to data. Thus, Chinese investments in Russia are mainly concentrated in the mining sector, trade, particularly in the energy sector, as well as in agriculture, construction, light industry and large-scale infrastructure projects. Energy sector development will remain one of the priority areas in Sino-Russian trade, economic and investment cooperation, since China will import Russian natural gas. Some of the main oil and gas projects are the "Sila Sibiri" gas project and the "Yamal LNG" energy project.

Besides cooperation in the oil and gas sector, China is interested in infrastructure projects. For example, the construction of a railway bridge between Russia and China over the Amur River, the creation of the Free Port in Vladivostok, the construction of a floating nuclear power plant and the construction of new car assembly plants. Of the latest projects, both sides intend to build a new high-speed railway line 7,000 km long, which will pass through China, Kazakhstan and Russia, so that the route from China to Russia will take just 30 hours. Since this kind of transnational high-speed railroad requires large investments, the total investment has already reached 1.5 trillion yuan.

At present, Chinese entrepreneurs and experts in trade and economics intend to find new models of Sino-Russian cooperation in the context of the current situation, and to urge the Russian side at the governmental level to improve the relevant policies to protect investment rights and interests. Moreover, the Chinese party intends to hold regular events to cultivate investment platforms in Russia and attract capital from developed provinces to do investment business in Russia.

India is an important economic and trade partner for China. China and India are striving to increase bilateral trade and attach greater importance to building mutual relations with each other. In terms of investment, China's investment fund in India exceeds $300 million, reflecting the two countries' mutual economic and trade dependence, and showing the huge potential of the two nations' economic and trade cooperation. Moreover, India's actual investment in China was $6.32 million in 2021.

Chinese investments in India are mainly focused on the automobile industry, metallurgy, energy, and electrical equipment manufacturing. For example, the value of recently signed engineering contracts by Chinese companies in India was $1.67 billion, a decrease of 26.9% compared to the previous period. Currently, the countries cooperate in the One Belt, One Road project, electronics (e.g.: Oppo, Vivo, Xiaomi), pharmaceuticals (Fosun), automotive (Saic). As for Xiaomi, as of 2017, the company has already invested $225 million in setting up a factory in India to produce cell phones. Xiaomi's rapid growth in the Indian market is an example of China's interest in Indian investment, which has led China's emerging industries to expand actively in India.

China has been South Africa's largest trading partner for nine years. Over time, the relationship between the two countries has become stronger and more prosperous, and the investment of enterprises in South Africa financed by China is one of the major areas of cooperation. Today, there are over 200 Chinese-funded companies and institutions in South Africa, with a total investment and financing of more than $25 billion, creating 400,000 direct or indirect jobs for local people in various sectors.

South Africa has always been an interesting target for Chinese companies looking to expand their businesses. Statistics show that in 2021, total trade between South Africa and China reached $54.35 billion, and investments totaled more than $25 billion. Today, Chinese companies are investing in South African industries such as energy, finance, mining, renewable energy, home appliances, automotive, textiles, real estate, logistics and others.

Among the many Chinese investment projects in South Africa, the Dea Wind Power Project, which has successfully provided the electricity needs of 85,000 residents, and also introduced advanced renewable energy technologies, has been operating successfully. Banks such as China Development Bank, Bank of China, China Construction Bank are of great importance in the financial sector as they have actively raised funds to support various investment projects and promote the economic development of South Africa.

Currently, China and Brazil are engaged in the adoption of a new strategic plan and the development of bilateral relations, including the investment sphere. Between 2003 and 2016, Chinese companies invested $61 billion in 180 Brazilian projects. In 2021, trade turnover between China and Brazil increased 37% over the previous period to $164.1 billion; and China's total investment in Brazil exceeded $66 billion in 2020, making the People' s Republic of China its largest investor.

Chinese investments primarily focus on industry, logistics, energy, communications and finance. For example, Huawei, in cooperation with Brazilian operators, built the first high-speed fiber-optic network in the Amazon region. In finance, investment cooperation takes place directly through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the New Development Bank (NDB). Recently, priority was given to investments by private firms rather than state-owned projects (for example, Chinese machine-building companies such as Xugong, Zoomlion, Sany). Since 2021, Chinese investments in the energy and information technology sectors have resumed. The two states agreed on two documents of intergovernmental cooperation, the China-Brazil strategic plan 2022-2031 and the China-Brazil implementation plan 2022-2026.

The BRICS members establish trade, economic and investment partnership as one of the predominant trends within the organization. The People's Republic of China, as a BRICS participant, has undoubtedly raised the reputation of the organization in the world, as well as become the basis for its overall economic potential. Because of China's investment in the five states, the economic growth is increasing and therefore the influence of the BRICS members is expanding. Although the amount of investment between the organization is still relatively small, firstly, it may increase in the future, and secondly, the nations have great potential for deepening economic cooperation, especially in the investment sphere through projects in energy, agriculture, infrastructure, mining, education, automobile manufacturing and others.

Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Duma Speaker says world grows tired of US and EU double standards (Спикер Госдумы заявил, что мир устал от двойных стандартов США и ЕС) / Russia, September, 2022
Keywords: quotation

According to Vyacheslav Volodin, Washington tends to "decide on its own what to do and to whom, without taking into account the interests of other countries"

MOSCOW, September 6. /TASS/. The world is tired of Washington and Brussels' double standards and their unequal terms of cooperation, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said at the BRICS parliamentary forum on Tuesday

"The world grew tired of the double standards of Washington and Brussels, of their unequal, unfavorable conditions of cooperation in all spheres: economy, advanced technologies, security," he said.

The Duma speaker stressed that "by imposing illegal sanctions, Washington and its satellites themselves discredited the economic model that they imposed on other states and the whole world." "The restrictions against Russia not only boomeranged on the US and the EU, but also created threats of a food and energy crisis," he said.

According to Volodin, Washington tends to "decide on its own what to do and to whom, without taking into account the interests of other countries." "Let's recall the recent provocative visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan or attempts to exclude Russia from international organizations. We condemn such approaches and believe that they only destroy peace and stability that has been achieved over decades," the politician stressed.

The eighth BRICS parliamentary forum is being held on Tuesday in a video-conference format. The first BRICS parliamentary forum was held in Moscow on June 8, 2015. It was the year of Russia's presidency in the organization. In 2022, the BRICS is chaired by China. The organization includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

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