Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 49.2022
2022.12.05 — 2022.12.11
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Saudi Arabia's overtures to China, BRICS not against a third country (Заигрывания Саудовской Аравии с Китаем, БРИКС не против третьей страны) / China, December, 2022
Keywords: political_issues

Editor's note: Abhishek G Bhaya is a senior journalist and international affairs commentator. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Saudi Arabia and the wider Arab world value their relationship with China as the region's biggest economic partner with Riyadh even contemplating joining the BRICS group of emerging economies as the Gulf Kingdom recalibrates its global vision amid shifting geopolitics and world order, according to Saudi political analyst and media commentator Salman Al-Ansari.

Al-Ansari, however, asserted that China's deepening ties with the Arab world, as amplified by President Xi Jinping's recent Saudi visit and high-powered summits with the Arab leaders, shouldn't be seen from the prism of a great power zero-sum game despite the United States' shrinking strategic presence in the region and the Saudi-U.S. relations facing certain tensions.

"It is indeed a fact that the Saudi-U.S. relationship is not at its best right now but the U.S. remains the kingdom's [and the region's] biggest security partner and China is the biggest economic partner," Al-Ansari pointed out in an interview via Zoom from Riyadh.

"The Kingdom is not interested in becoming a pawn on the chessboard [between world powers], but would remain a professional player," he said, adding that Saudi Arabia is committed to putting its own national interests above all. "The current world circumstances are different, and the Saudis are adjusting their global vision accordingly," noted Al-Ansari.

"Twenty years ago, China used to be the biggest trading partner of only 12 nations in the world. Today, it is the biggest trading partner of over 120 nations in the world, that is, 60 percent of all nations," he said explaining China's increasing global engagement. "So, it is indeed very important for Saudi Arabia and the Arab region to have strong relations with the Chinese nation," he reasoned.

Commitment for multilateralism

Chinese President Xi Jinping with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during their meeting at Al-Yamamah Palace, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Debember 8, 2022. /Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday concluded a four-day eventful visit to Saudi Arabia that culminated with two "epoch-making" summits with Arab and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders and a collective commitment to foster a closer China-Arab community with a shared future.

"The region is very optimistic about the prospect of the relationship between China and the Arab world. And it is indeed there are a lot of changes that are happening in the region and in the whole world when it comes to the world order," noted Al-Ansari.

Xi also held bilateral meetings with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Among many other issues, the two sides highlighted the importance of multilateralism and commitment towards a multi-polar world order.

In those meetings, the Chinese leader praised Riyadh's role as an important member of the Arab and Islamic world, while also lauding the Kingdom as a key and independent force in the multipolar world and China's important strategic partner in the Middle East.

"In recent years, China-Saudi Arabia relations have maintained high-level growth. The international and regional situation is undergoing profound and complex changes, making the strategic and overarching importance of China-Saudi Arabia relations more prominent," Xi remarked.

As both sides committed to stepping up communication and coordination at the UN and various other multilateral platforms, the Saudi Crown Prince extended his appreciation to China for supporting Saudi Arabia to become a dialogue partner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and pledged to increase consultations with China at the G20 and BRICS.

Riyadh inches closer to BRICS

South Africa will chair the BRICS Summit in 2023 where the issue of expansion of the multilateral group, including the inclusion of Saudi Arabia, is expected to be discussed. /CFP

Saudi Arabia has reportedly expressed an interest in joining BRICS. It was the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who first revealed the kingdom's intention to join the bloc following his return from an official visit to Riyadh in mid-October, where he held talks with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The BRICS, as the acronym suggests, currently comprises five major non-Western emerging economies comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa and accounts for nearly 42 percent of the world population, 27 percent of the land area, and 32 percent of global GDP (PPP).

South Africa will chair the BRICS Summit in 2023 where, according to reports, the issue of expansion of the multilateral group, including the inclusion of Saudi Arabia, is expected to be discussed. Other countries that have shown interest in joining the group include Turkey, Egypt, Argentina and Iran.

Al-Ansari said that it makes perfect sense for Saudi Arabia, as the largest economy in the Arab region, to explore the potential of becoming part of an expanded BRICS.

"BRICS nations are considered to be strong economic powers in the world. It represents nearly half of the world's population," he noted saying the group is "very important" for the Kingdom as it looks to diversify its economy and political relationships in line with its long-term vision.

Al-Ansari however cautioned that Riyadh's interest in a particular group should not be seen as an attempt to distance itself from other traditional allies, including the United States.

"We are not trying to join a specific group to be against another. Not at all," he asserted. "Saudi Arabia is committed to looking after its own national interests," Al-Ansari reiterated, stressing that Riyadh's outreach to BRICS is driven by its independent foreign policy and commitment to multilateralism.
Lukashenko suggests holding joint summit of EAEU, SCO, BRICS (Лукашенко предлагает провести совместный саммит ЕАЭС, ШОС, БРИКС) / Belarus, December, 2022
Keywords: quotation, cooperation

BISHKEK, 9 December (BelTA) – Time has come for a joint summit of the EAEU, SCO and BRICS, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said at a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Bishkek on 9 December, BelTA has learned.

"Recent events have shown that not everyone agrees with the further existence of the unipolar world. As a result, the role of such integration associations as the SCO and BRICS is growing. Our union must keep pace with them. Moreover, I believe that the time has come we hold a summit of the EAEU, SCO and BRICS member countries," the Belarusian head of state said.

"These countries share our position on the need to respect different cultures, views, political systems. Perhaps some ASEAN states will want to take part in such a meeting too," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

According to him, the core items on the summit agenda could be economic cooperation (for example, the formation of regional trading blocs, the use of national currencies), and also energy and security.

Zimbabwe Wants to Join BRICS (Зимбабве хочет присоединиться к БРИКС) / Zimbabwe, December, 2022
Keywords: brics+

ZIMBABWE has made overtures to join emerging economies that make up the BRICS bloc as part of its engagement and re-engagement thrust, which is particularly designed to increase the countries' clout globally, President Mnangagwa has said.

Originally comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the group has over the years expanded to be known as BRICS Plus by incorporating other nations outside the five members.

In the week's instalment, President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe stands to profit from belonging to many groupings in the world and "using such groupings all the time to increase her clout globally".

"It is this goal which is motivating us to make similar overtures to BRICS, with the ultimate objective of becoming a worthwhile member.

"Zimbabwe's vastly improved rating in global circles is evident in how our candidature to various international bodies continues to succeed on the back of multinational support spanning across the ideological spectrum."

The President said he was "very happy that 2022 is set to end on a high and, therefore, happy note insofar as our diplomacy is concerned".

The country recently hosted a Commonwealth assessment mission as part of Harare's bid to rejoin the bloc.

"Beyond the economic, trade and skills benefits we stand to derive from our rejoining the Commonwealth family of nations, there is much to be got when we push for and pursue our global interests as a broad bloc of like-minded nations with a shared past and convergent set of values."

In the country's mission to engage and re-engage, President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe has "foregrounded transactional diplomacy which puts economic interests at the top, and which requires that we make our country open for business."

"To that end, we have made several reforms, all of them aimed at attracting both domestic and foreign capital."

He said in a few weeks' time, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Frederick Shava will represent the country at the forthcoming United States-Africa Summit in Washington, US, which marks the first time Zimbabwe has been invited.

"It is my hope that the United States government will look ahead and to the future, rather than looking behind to our troubled and divided past, at this Summit," he said.

President Mnangagwa also said he was satisfied with the remarkable diplomatic warmth that now exists between the European Union (EU) and Zimbabwe, which has been achieved within a short period of time.

"Only last week, the EU bloc launched its 'Team Europe', a new rubric under which the 27 countries comprising the bloc will coordinate and consolidate relations with us, this time through Government, and in line with, and in support of our priorities under Government's National Development Strategy 1, NDS1. This is the first time that the EU has disbursed directly to Zimbabwe through structures of our Government.

"All along, relations were being conducted asymmetrically and unconventionally through non-governmental organisations."
BRICS may become union of 15-17 countries if all membership bids are met — Lavrov (БРИКС может стать союзом 15-17 стран, если все заявки на членство будут выполнены — Лавров) / Russia, December, 2022
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, quotation, brics+

"The RIC keeps thriving today and not many know that this 'trio' continues holding meetings at the level of foreign ministers," the top diplomat continued

MOSCOW, December 7. /TASS/. The quintet of BRICS economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) may turn into an organization of 15-17 countries if all the states wishing to join it are granted membership, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the Primakov Readings forum on Wednesday.

"We all know that this format [RIC - Russia, India, China] paved the way for the BRICS Five, which currently enjoys great publicity and many countries line up seeking a full-fledged membership," Lavrov said.

"If we meet all bids then the 'five' will turn into about 15-17 countries as the BRICS summit in June, which was organized in a video conference format by our Chinese colleagues, showed us," the foreign minister noted.

Lavrov stressed that the RIC remains an operational format and not only foreign ministers, but ministers of economy, energy and economic development as well, are meeting within the framework of this format.

"The RIC keeps thriving today and not many know that this 'trio' continues holding meetings at the level of foreign ministers," Lavrov continued. "Just a couple of months ago we held such a meeting in the on-line format and it was the 20th meeting of this kind since [ex-Foreign Minister] Yevgeny [Primakov] proposed to keep developing this format."

"Besides the meetings of foreign ministers, there are meetings of energy, trade and economic development ministers as well as of numerous industrial members of the corresponding governments," the Russian foreign minister added.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
NDB-financed road infrastructure project has played an important role in the economic advancement of Madhya Pradesh, India (Проект дорожной инфраструктуры, финансируемый НБР, сыграл важную роль в развитии экономики штата Мадхья-Прадеш, Индия.) / China, December, 2022
Keywords: ndb, economic_challenges

New Delhi, 9 December 2022 – A USD 500 million road infrastructure development project financed by the New Development Bank (NDB), has contributed to changes in people's lives across 434,000 rural communities by improving local livelihoods and access to clinics, hospitals, schools, colleges, markets, businesses, and job opportunities in the State of Madhya Pradesh, according to a new independent evaluation report presented today in New Delhi. Areas in need of improvement were also identified, including simplifying future project design and ensuring more technical assistance to project management units during implementation.

The transport sector in India has seen a surge in recent years, and roads have been recognized as a crucial component in socio-economic development. The evaluation of the Madhya Pradesh Major District Roads Project (MPMDR), the first NDB-financed project in India, found that it had achieved its goals overall. This includes over 1,500 km of improved road, providing better access and connectivity for villages along the route, and 130 road accident black spots eliminated. The upgraded roads are supported by an accident response center, which can alert ambulances and fire-fighters as it is made aware of accidents, 24 hours a day. One key innovation of this project is the partnership developed with private sector contractors, who are responsible for maintenance of the roads for the next five years.

In general, the project was found to be compatible with other road projects carried out in other states, however, it was noted that Madhya Pradesh lacks a multimodal plan for the transport sector. In this regard, Mr. Ashwani Muthoo, Director General of the NDB Independent Evaluation Office highlighted that "There may be opportunities to link roads development with rail and even water projects in the future". "There also needs to be a plan to ensure the road network is aligned with the National Logistics Policy," he added.

The report notes that the project met international, ethical and societal norms and standards, but recommended that NDB strengthen its operational activities. Several areas for improvement have been identified by the evaluation particularly with respect to project design and implementation support. Most importantly, such project designs need stronger analysis and discussion regarding the choice of materials and technical standards in laying of road surfaces.

Commenting on the evaluation findings, Dr. D. J. Pandian, Director General of the NDB Indian Regional Office, said: "Since the beginning of partnership between the NDB and India seven years ago, substantial achievements have been made; yet as the evaluation shows, there are still important challenges that require us to further strengthen our joint work to improve the Bank's operational and strategic performance in the country." He underlined the Bank's commitment to operationalise the evaluation's recommendations in a timely manner in future projects supported by the NDB in India.

One of the main evaluation recommendations is to develop a country strategy to guide the NDB-India partnership and programming moving forward. Another is to prepare a multimodal transport strategy/plan. Moreover, the evaluation highlighted the need to conduct more robust supervision and implementation support, and closely monitor follow-up to supervision recommendations to allow for mid-course adjustments for better outcomes at project completion.

The project evaluation, conducted by NDB Independent Evaluation Office, was presented at a learning event in New Delhi. Attendees included government representatives, project staff, development partners, delegates from research institutions and NDB staff. The evaluation will be discussed in the NDB Board of Directors on 13 December 2022.

Since 2016, NDB has approved around USD 7.2 billion for 21 projects in India, with millions of people expected to benefit.

Background information

New Development Bank was established with the purpose of mobilizing resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging market economies and developing countries, complementing the efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development. The admission of the first four new members into the NDB in 2021 – Bangladesh, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Uruguay – heralded the beginning of the Bank's expansion as a global multilateral institution.

In 2022, the NDB launched its Indian Regional Office (IRO) in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City). The IRO works closely with the Government of India, public and private sector agencies, and other relevant stakeholders to identify projects that have strong development impact, and which are aligned with the national development priorities.

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