Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 34.2018
2018.08.20 — 2018.08.26
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
The West‚ not China‚ exploiting Africa‚ says Chinese ambassador to SA (Запад, а не Китай, эксплуатирует Африку, говорит посол Китая в ЮАР) / South Africa, August, 2018
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues
South Africa

The West‚ not China‚ is exploiting the African continent and China is all over Africa as a "newcomer" to break that monopoly.

That is according to Chinese ambassador to South Africa‚ Lin Songtian‚ who was speaking at a media briefing in Richmond‚ Johannesburg‚ on Wednesday. Lin said the West had for years exploited natural resources of the continent while leaving under development and poverty behind. China's dominance in Africa was an attempt to change this‚ he said‚ for the Chinese were about "win-win" cooperation.

China‚ he said‚ had no ambitions to follow in the footsteps of the West which drew raw resources from Africa to refine them in their countries and then sell back to Africa at a "high price".

Said Lin: "The mineral resources in this continent have been controlled and monopolised by the West since the colonialist times up to today.

"China is a newcomer because in the year 2000 our investment to Africa was less than $1-billion. China will never repeat or follow the old past of the colonialist ways. We are here to work together for a win-win cooperation and we will never come here just to exploit and run away."

Lin said the West controlled all the old and other mineral resources from Cape to Cairo. "That is the meaning of exploitation."

Trade Wars

The ambassador also blasted the US and its president‚ Donald Trump‚ for being bullies and sabotaging the global economy with the trade wars between China and the US.

"President Trump likes making America great but he cannot‚ at the sacrifice of all the world‚ because not only China will suffer for this but no one will survive‚" said Lin.

He accused Trump of changing the rules of global economic trade in a selfish manner that will eventually hurt America as well.

"What the US is trying to achieve is an America-only model which will not benefit anyone. To achieve that‚ the US is willing to sacrifice the free multilateral trading system and sacrifice the collective shared interest of the international community. This is complete unilateralism‚ protectionism and extreme individualism. They believe in the long old law of the jungle of the strong bullying the weak. There will be no winner in a trade war."

"China has developed African infrastructure"

According to Lin‚ so involved is China in Africa that almost every road and airport in the continent was built by the Chinese.

And to perpetuate this further China had pledged $60-billion for infrastructure development in Africa‚ either by grant or on a loan basis‚ which in the past two years had led to the completion of various major projects‚ mostly in East Africa.

"I'm happy to say wherever you go in the continent the road you travel by is built and financed by China‚ the airport you land in is built and financed by China‚ the AU [African Union] building for the AU is granted and built by China‚" said Lin.

South Africa is the biggest beneficiary in Brics bloc

Lin said the argument that South Africa was not benefiting from Brics because of major players such as China and Russia was not true.

"South Africa has already hosted two Brics summits and when you host Brics you become the focus of the international community. The decision to join Brics serves the interest of the South African people. South African trade with Brics countries from 2011 to 2016 has increased by 54.7%. The Brics development bank had its regional centre located in Joburg."

African countries not implementing agreements with China have themselves to blame

According to Lin‚ China makes agreements and financial commitments with many countries‚ but those who do not implement them cannot blame the Chinese.

He said: "God helps only those who help themselves. China comes to Africa to create partnerships not ownerships. If you are not ready we cannot help you. We are not God but China has never made an empty promise."

Visa relaxation key to boosting SA tourism economy

Lin announced that his office and the South African departments of international relations and of home affairs were finalising the easing of visa requirements as agreed by heads of states from both to allow smooth movement of the people of China and SA between the two countries.

This‚ he added‚ would bolster the South African economy.

"The visa agreement is very important. The South African people travelling to China and Chinese to South Africa will get one visa valid for five years with multiple entries allowed each time for 90 days. This will encourage people to travel between the two countries and learn from each other‚ and South Africa is the best tourism destination in the world."

Lin also praised President Cyril Ramaphosa for the planned Investment Summit in the country saying Chinese businesspeople would attend to their numbers to help end poverty in SA.

"Poverty is the common enemy"

He said South Africa was on the right path with Ramaphosa's investment drive if poverty was to be defeated.

Lin cited China and how it has reduced people living in poverty from more than 700-million people in 1978 to 30-million as things stand.

To this end China had committed to wiping out poverty by 2021 and South Africa had lessons to learn from Chinese strategy.

China direct investment to SA growing

"In the year 2000 because we were poor‚ China investment was just $1-billion but now I am proud to tell you that our foreign direct investment to the continent is more than $100-billion and South Africa is one of the most important countries. All investment to this country is more than $25-billion and we have created more than 400‚000 local jobs‚" said Lin.

Museveni is smart

In the wide-ranging‚ two-hour long media briefing‚ Lin also did not shy away from controversy. He sang the praises of Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni for his economic brains.

"His excellency president of Uganda is so smart he said some countries do not understand the continent and what it needs‚ which is industry development with three driving forces‚ including investment‚ open trade and tourism and industrialisation‚" said Lin.
Brics wants a bigger voice in the global system (БРИКС хотят более громкий голос в глобальной системе) / South Africa, August, 2018
Keywords: global_governance, expert_opinion
South Africa

A unified front will ensure that institutions such as the UN and IMF can be reformed to ensure a stable global order, writes Cyril Prinsloo and Luanda Mpungose.

The 10th Brics Summit in Johannesburg, which was held last month, is now behind us.

It occurred on the back of a few years of significant domestic economic and political changes among some of the Brics countries and diverging national interests.

Critics of the bloc will rightly point out these challenges and divergences, but often neglect to mention that in some areas the Brics collective has converging interests which have cemented their cooperation.

Next year Brazil will host Brics, but it will have a new president and new government who will assume office at the same time as South Africa hands over the Brics presidency.

As Brazil's political class has become embroiled in the Lava Jato (car wash) investigation, which began in 2014, and Lula da Silva, who dominated the political scene for much of the first decade of the 21st century is behind bars but may still try to run for president, Brasilia's sentiment and interest in the Brics collective over the past five years appear to have gradually waned.

Depending on the outcome of the elections, Brazil may use the Brics as an opportunity for the new president to establish his credentials as leader of an important southern power.

There is an opportunity to raise the Brics profile too, as the country prepares to host the second regional centre of the New Development Bank (NDB) in São Paulo.

Russia's interest in Brics from the outset has concentrated on the collective as a counter-balance to Western global economic and political hegemony.

Its interest in Brics as alternative economic partners intensified after its annexation of Crimea and the West's imposition of sanctions.

Compared with the discord among the Group of Seven and also in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, sown by the behaviour of US President Donald Trump, Brics not only stands for reform of a Western system that is fraying, but also seems to be more predictable and responsible than the global hegemon.

For India, with land border disputes with both Pakistan and China – as well as terrorism – external security threats have dominated New Delhi's engagements.

The economic-security dimension of China's belt and road initiative (BRI) has latterly been a key concern for India in the Brics.

India perceives the BRI as encroaching on its sphere of influence and actively opposes this grand strategy of Beijing.

It has used a two-pronged approach to contain China's growing influence: counter China's concerted efforts to expand its influence in areas where it holds sway eg Brics membership expansion – both the grouping itself and expanding membership of the NDB; as well as creating alliances with other countries, including the US, France and Japan.

Beijing certainly signalled its intention to expand its sphere of influence when it initiated the Brics Plus initiative last year at the Xiamen Summit.

The Brics Plus initiative brought together other globally significant countries to participate in the Brics dialogues.

Numerous scholars agree that some Brics members were initially sceptical of this initiative.

However, certainly South Africa and Russia have since warmed to the idea.

For Pretoria, the notion of broader consultation and participation of countries in the global south is appealing as it aligns with its own foreign policy objectives to create a more inclusive dialogue on global issues.

As such, South Africa hosted 27 heads of state at the Johannesburg summit, including eight African leaders.

Broader dialogue also suits Russia in its quest to expand and diversify its external partnerships.

However, Brics so far has been able to focus largely on its converging interests.

Three areas stand out in this regard: intra-Brics economic cooperation; harnessing the dividends of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR); and maintaining a peaceful and prosperous global order.

Over the past decade intra-Brics investments have remained low.

In South Africa, for example, total direct investment from China and India account for less than 4.5% of SA's total direct foreign investment in 2016. Russia and Brazil have negligible investments.

Increasing investment is an important step in strengthening and deepening the bloc's economic ties. On the eve of the Johannesburg summit, South Africa signed several investment agreements with China, amounting to a total of $14.7 billion (R209 billion).

China is keen to deepen its investments in SA across various sectors such as infrastructure development, ocean economy, green economy, science and technology, agriculture, environment and finance.

Discussions on issues related to the 4IR –
e-commerce; security and defence; intellectual property rights among others – have long dominated the Brics Agenda.

At the Johannesburg summit the social, economic and political impacts of the 4IR were a key theme. Brics are increasingly at the forefront of technological advances and will be significantly affected by these changes.

The Johannesburg Declaration called for the establishment of a Brics partnership on the new industrial revolution (PartNIR). The PartNIR aims at deepening cooperation in digitalisation, industrialisation, innovation, inclusiveness and investment among the member states.

Shaping a more just, equitable and stable global order will continue to bind the Brics countries.

As growing nationalism and protectionism in developed countries threaten to derail the post-World War 2 order, ensuring that global governance institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the UN and the World Trade Organisation reform to ensure their longer-term efficacy remains an important objective for Brics.

As their share of global economic and political power has increased, so too has their interest in how the global system shapes up.

Coordinated Brics positions within these institutions will be essential if there is to be meaningful reform.

For all their challenges, Brics members have collective strengths that allow them to build on the solid foundation they have established in the first 10 years.

BRICS countries show the US the benefits of globalization (Страны БРИКС показывают США преимущества глобализации) / China, August, 2018
Keywords: global_governance, expert_opinion

Amid anti-globalization legislation, surging populism and xenophobia, and rising unilateralism and protectionism, the world seems at a loss as to where it should be going. But, the recent BRICS summit in Johannesburg gave an answer. Leaders of the BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — had their eyes on the fourth industrial revolution and set their minds on development through co-operation. These are the areas that will lead the way forward.

Economic globalization is irreversible because mankind belongs to one community with a shared future. In the new age of technological revolution and industrial transformation, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and biotechnology will ensure every country has equal and fair development opportunities. International trade and competition are no longer a "zero-sum game" where one's gain is another's loss.

Those — such as the US — who "put themselves before everyone else" will not only undermine their trading partners but also damage the multilateral trading system itself. This insular approach will most certainly backfire.

In contrast, the BRICS have been advancing economic globalization in the past decade in the spirit of openness, cooperation, mutual benefit and win-win results. In doing so, they contributed more than 50 percent of the world's economic growth in 2017.

The combined outbound investment, trade, and GDP of the five countries have had respective rises from seven percent, 11 percent and 12 percent of the world's total in 2007 to 12 percent, 16 percent and 23 percent in 2017.

These facts demonstrate the efficacy of an open, inclusive and mutually beneficial form of globalization.

Inclusive globalization delivers common developments, while unbalanced developments are a breeding ground for populism, extremism, and xenophobia. One cannot make these problems disappear by blaming other countries and diverting public attention. Forcing others to take medicine in order to cure one's own illness will end hurt everyone involved.

The right approach for the US is to face up to its own problems, try to find a solution through dialogue and consultation and work for the shared interests of all.

The BRICS have set an example in this respect by voicing their strong commitment to major international efforts, such as tackling climate change and addressing the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. At the Johannesburg Summit, the BRICS countries made a solemn promise to implement the Paris Agreement on combating climate change.

They also jointly called for the full implementation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA), under which Iran agreed to constrain its nuclear development. The US pulled out of the deal in May this year.

The BRICS countries have endorsed multilateralism and worked to advance reform in the global governance system.

Despite the evolution in world power that is bringing unprecedented changes to the global governance system, a rules-based multilateral trade regime and an international economic order remain as preconditions and guaranteed methods for all countries to achieve development.

As representatives of developing countries, the BRICS sent a clear message that they would uphold multilateralism and oppose unilateralism. They call on all World Trade Organization (WTO) members to abide by WTO rules and stay committed to multilateral trade.

The current international order is not perfect. But as long as it is rules-based and aims to be equitable, it should not be dismantled and rebuilt from scratch. This statement by Chinese President Xi Jinping rings true. The world must say "no" in the face of arm-twisting hegemony, power politics, and self-centered unilateralism.

To solve the problems of today's world, countries should follow the overarching trend of multilateralism, deliver equity and justice according to popular sentiment and find their ultimate solutions through win-win co-operation.

To borrow the words of Charles Dickens, today's fourth industrial revolution could be described as the "best of times and the worst of times". Standing at the crossroads between opening up and isolation, free trade and protectionism, multilateralism and unilateralism, it is important that the international community makes the right choice and joins hands to bring about "the best of times".
Paris Climate Express Hits the BRIC Wall (Парижский "Климат-Экспресс" врезается в стену из кирпичиков БРИКС) / India, August, 2018
Keywords: ecology, concluded_agreements, expert_opinion

The Paris climate agreement's momentum has taken another big hit with a new challenge. Brazil's presidential forerunner has indicated that the country will quit the Paris agreement if he gets elected.

Will the outdated climate agreement survive the departure of developing countries?

BRIC is an acronym that refers to the countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China—countries that are at a similar stage of economic development and considered to be the big developing countries.

All these four countries signed the Paris climate agreement (2015), which required the 195 Signatory countries to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions to limit the increase of global average temperature to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

The signatory countries were expected to pursue their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), which lay out their respective plans to curb carbon dioxide emissions. But there are no legally bounding conditions to make these countries not leave the agreement.

The Philippines was the first country to refuse ratification of the agreement. In 2017, the newly elected government in the U.S. announced that it would pull out of the Paris agreement.

But even before these events transpired, it was believed that the agreement's primary hurdle would be convincing the big developing countries to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, since coal accounts for the majority of their energy production.

And expectedly, BRIC countries like China and India were the first to resist the proposed policies, and India proposed the concept of "climate justice."

That was the idea that developed countries should pay developing countries compensation for the slowing down of their economic growth that would result from the mandatory transition from coal to more expensive renewable energy sources, as proposed in the agreement.

Despite the approval of such funding, both India and China continued to expand their coal consumption. They continue to import, export, and use coal extensively. At their current pace, neither country will ever achieve their emission targets as mentioned in their respective INDCs.

Russia, meanwhile, is quietly developing its coal infrastructure despite its claims of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. In 2015, Russia's coal production stood at 186.37 million TOE (Tons of Oil Equivalent). It jumped to 206.33 million in 2017.

The country is expanding its coal infrastructure to enable more streamlined transport of coal across the country and to meet the increase in exports due to demand from its Asian neighbor China.

And the Paris climate express has now hit the last of the BRIC wall–Brazil.

Brazil's presidential forerunner Jair Bolsonaro has promised to pull Brazil out of the Paris agreement if he is elected. This comes as no surprise. Brazil has been lagging behind its BRIC counterparts in the energy sector.

This is partly due to the unavailability of massive domestic coal reserves like those in India and China. Between 2010 and 2015, coal consumption in the country rose by 22 percent. To meet the growing demand, the country has increased its imports. More recently, China has aided its development of coal plants.

At this critical juncture of its energy development, Brazil cannot afford to abandon coal. And Bolsonaro's victory could prove to be the ultimate boost for the development of energy infrastructure in the country.

The BRIC countries were about the only developing countries whose INDCs involved any reductions in future carbon dioxide emissions that might remotely be called serious. With a combined 41 percent of the world's population, and 50 percent of the developing world's population, their de facto failure to keep their INDCs—whether they formally pull out of the treaty or not—makes fulfilment of the treaty's goal essentially out of reach, especially because most other developing countries' INDCs didn't come near serious reductions in projected emissions. (Not to mention that no country's INDC is legally enforceable.)

That treaty's emission goal, because it was based on computer models that exaggerate carbon dioxide's warming effect by at least twice and probably more than three times, made no sense anyway, so the de facto failure is something to celebrate, not mourn. It should lead eventually to the complete collapse of the Paris agreement, which we should also celebrate because it will set developing nations free to overcome poverty, a far greater risk than climate change.

Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in Chennai, India.
Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
Can China free Africa from dependency on the mighty dollar? (Может ли Китай освободить Африку от зависимости от могучего доллара?) / South Africa, August, 2018
Keywords: expert_opinion, economic_challenges
South Africa

Is China, aided and abetted by the other BRICS member countries – Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa – making a bid to dislodge the dollar from its global pedestal and replace it with the yuan? And if so, will it help African countries, in particular, to escape from the iron and often onerous grip of the greenback?

One way China is expanding the reach and influence of the yuan is through currency swaps – many with African countries. The latest was with Nigeria, for the equivalent of US$2.4 billion. For Nigeria, the currency swap was a lifeline as its dollar reserves had largely drained away and the naira had plummeted against the dollar after the 2015 drop in oil price.

The currency swap is only a temporary reprieve for Nigeria. A loan is still a loan, in any currency, and must be repaid. The growing tide of Chinese loans into Africa is raising concerns of another debt crisis, like that in the first years of the century.

For China the benefits of this and other currency swaps it has done are less clear. Of course it does mean that Nigeria will be buying US$2.4 billion in goods from China. It is not obvious though what China might want to buy from Nigeria, except perhaps oil. And China faces the risk of getting back less than it put in, because of the likely depreciation of the currencies of its swap partners.

Beijing's main goal seems more strategic than commercial – to boost its ambition to establish the yuan as an international reserve currency. And it is making progress. In 2016 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) added the yuan to the basket of currencies in its own supplementary reserve asset unit – special drawing rights.

China is also boosting the yuan by putting pressure on the many countries along its modern Silk Road, the huge Belt and Road Initiative connecting China to the Middle East, Europe and Africa, to fund their development projects in yuan. China's Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which 86 countries have joined, also boosts yuan usage.

And another, indirect, Chinese vehicle for the ambitious yuan is the BRICS forum of major emerging economies. BRICS's New Development Bank (NDB) will soon issue its second bond in renminbi (or RMB, the official name for the Chinese yuan), as well as bonds in the other BRICS members' local currencies. These bond issues will enable the bank to lend money to the five BRICS members for development projects in their own currencies, bypassing the dollar.

BRICS bank vice president Leslie Maasdorp tells ISS Today that by issuing loans in local currencies – unlike other international development banks – the bank eliminates the foreign exchange risks borrowing countries face by having to repay in dollars, possibly at lower exchange rates. The BRICS bank is widely seen as a developing world alternative to the World Bank.

BRICS has also established its own version of the IMF – the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA). As the IMF does for its members, the CRA provides a financial safety net for BRICS members that might run out of foreign reserves to pay for its imports.

SA Reserve Bank deputy governor Daniel Mminele tells ISS Today that the CRA is ready to be accessed by member countries. He says Beijing makes no secret of its ambition to internationalise the yuan – that's why it made such an effort to get it into the IMF's basket of currencies and why it is increasing investment, trade and bond issues in yuan.

The company Swift, which does international interbank transactions, says China is also trying to increase global oil deals done in yuan. Russia is already doing that and Saudi Arabia could follow, which would be a huge boost to the yuan. For Russia, especially, circumventing the dollar also helps circumvent US financial sanctions.

President Donald Trump's recent re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, which will prevent any company doing business with Tehran from also doing business through the dollar, underscores the importance of the Chinese strategy.

Nevertheless, it would be 'stretching it to think that at this time the RMB could replace the dollar as the global reserve currency', Mminele says. Mminele and Maasdorp also both dismiss any suggestion that BRICS wants to replace the World Bank with the BRICS bank, the IMF with the CRA or the dollar with the yuan.

Maasdorp says the BRICS bank will continue issuing many loans in dollars. Mminele says the aim of both the BRICS bank and CRA is simply to diversify funding options for BRICS members and thereby complement the World Bank and IMF. He says the CRA alone could never fix a major financial crisis but would have to work with the IMF.

The CRA is contributing to the larger global financial safety net because by standing ready to help BRICS members, it potentially frees up IMF funds to be used for non-BRICS countries in crisis. The BRICS bank likewise frees up World Bank development funds for non-BRICS countries.

Nor does China itself seem to be competing with the World Bank or IMF, but is rather increasing cooperation with them and trying to increase its influence in them. This is in line with President Xi Jinping's goal of displacing the currently isolationist and unilateralist United States with China as the new champion of multilateralism and globalisation.

Chinese currency swaps will help African and other countries, especially those with highly volatile currencies, reduce their dependencies on the dollar – but will not end them. Currencies will still largely be indexed against the dollar, bonds will largely be issued in it and so will most loans.

Maasdorp estimates that only 3% to 5% of all foreign exchange transactions in the world are now in RMB and about 75% are still in dollars. "The dollar will remain the anchor currency for a long time. But given that China is destined to become the biggest economy, the RMB will become a much more important currency in trade and foreign reserves," he says. So no African finance minister or central bank governor should be planning for a dollar-free world just yet. – ISS Africa
Minister Lindiwe Zulu addresses BRICS Conference on Development Finance, 23 Aug (Министр Линдиве Зулу выступил на конференции BRICS по вопросам развития финансов, 23 августа) / South Africa, August, 2018
Keywords: top_level_meeting
South Africa

Minister Lindiwe Zulu to deliver a keynote address at a conference on "BRICS and African Development: Development Finance a Catalyst for the BRICS Economic Partnerships in Africa

The Minister of Small Business Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, will tomorrow, 23 August 2018, deliver a keynote address at the opening of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Conference on Development Finance, which will be hosted by the BRICS Research Centre of the Human Sciences Research Council and the Nelson Mandela University.

The conference is held in partnership with the Department of International Relations and Corporations and will take place from 23 to 24 August 2018 at the Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth. The event forms part of the calendar of events for South Africa's Chairship of BRICS in 2018.

The theme of the conference is: "BRICS and African Development: Development Finance a Catalyst for the BRICS Economic Partnership in Africa".

The conference will focus specifically on the importance of development finance institutions such as the Africa Regional Centre of the New Development Bank for BRICS economic partnerships in Africa.

Mr Cornelius Monama
Cell: 060 960 3158

BRICS bank opens up financing to non-member countries (Банк БРИКС открывает финансирование странам, не являющимся членами группы) / China, August, 2018
Keywords: ndb, investments

The New Development Bank (NDB), a financial institution created by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is now available to finance non-member countries, becoming a source of funding for public-private projects.

The issue was addressed at the latest BRIC summit in Johannesburg at the end of July, which was attended by the presidents of Angola, João Lourenço and Mozambique, Filipe Nyusi, two countries seeking to diversify their access to sources of financing , for investment projects.

Luwellyn Landers, the South African Deputy Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, said during the Summit that the NDB is available to finance all countries, including non-BRIC countries, and that it can support public-private partnerships through loans, guarantees, shareholdings and other financial instruments.

According to Landers, the African department of the NDB will assess the projects for Africa.
South Africa holds the BRICs presidency in 2018, giving way to Brazil next year.

The Johannesburg summit was attended by Brazilian presidents Michel Temer and Chinese President Xi Jinping who paid a prior state visit to South Africa, the continent's largest economy.
During the Summit, the NDB approved two projects, one for South Africa and one for China, both with loans totalling US$600 million, in addition to meeting with the BRICS Business Council.

The NDB will provide a US$300 million, non-sovereign-guaranteed loan to the Development bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) for a project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop the energy sector, and another loan of the same amount for a project in China, for construction of the Luoyang Metro.

With the approval of the two new projects, the bank's loan portfolio has increased to 23 projects with an aggregate value of US$5.7 billion, much of which is to finance energy and infrastructure.

According to NDB President K.V. Kamath, by the end of this year, total approvals will reach about US$7.5 billion.

"Our focus is to finance conventional infrastructure, as well as to use transforming technologies for development. In addition to the traditional set of loan products, we will begin to offer financial products not related to financing, such as guarantees and credit enhancements. We will work with speed, scale and have a positive impact, quickly and effectively," said the NDB chairman.

The NDB chairman, the Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes Ferreira and Brazilian Finance Minister Eduardo Refinetti Guardia, The Deputy Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Bank, also signed an agreement to host the Americas Regional Office (ARO) of NBD in Brazil. (macauhub)
The Race Is On: RCEP Could Emerge as the First Megabloc (Гонка продолжается: RCEP может стать первым Мегаблоком) / Russia, August, 2018
Keywords: trade_relations, political_issues, expert_opinion
Author: Yaroslav Lissovolik

The theme of trade wars appears to have firmly taken center-stage across the globe – from impacting international trade flows to sending shivers across international financial markets. Emerging market currencies as well as developed markets are starting to closely follow the vagaries of protectionism. And the mega-projects that were to be centered on the US – namely the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) as well as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) - have experienced reversals or were put on hold. But amid the gloom surrounding the globe with respect to protectionism there is a force in the works that could deliver a strong impetus to trade liberalization in the very region that currently is the main motor of economic growth in the global economy – the Pacific basin.

This potential force is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) comprising China, ASEAN countries, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand as well as Korea. At the end of August trade ministers representing the 16 potential members of the block are set to meet to discuss further steps towards solidifying the trade union in an effort to reach strike a deal by the end of this year after nearly six years of negotiations. The new mega-block is set to aggregate several large-scale FTAs, including the free trade agreements between ASEAN countries and China as well as India. If concluded the agreement would give rise to the largest mega-block and the first veritable mega-regional integration arrangement, which accounts for nearly 3,4 bn people and close to 40% of world's GDP on a PPP basis.

The clinching of the RCEP deal would represent not only an important contribution to trade openness in the region, but would also further underscore China's leading role in the global economy in advancing liberalization and economic openness. It would likely also take some of the luster from TPP, with China significantly shifting the initiative in its own favour in the Pacific region at the expense of the US. The race in the global economy directed at building the largest mega-blocks is on and it seems like China is getting ahead.

Against the backdrop of the advancement of the RCEP project, the BRICS-plus paradigm predicated on the aggregation of the largest integration arrangements where BRICS countries play a key role (the acronym for this group of integration arrangements being BEAMS) – see BEAMS of the sunrise: a look at BRICS 5-year cycles, Valdai discussion club, June 2018 – may be seen as a further potential contribution to opening global markets, though more focused on the South-South dimension. In a way the BEAMS/BRICS-plus grouping may be also viewed as a reserve option for China and India to pursuing a more diversified global approach to building mega-blocks compared to a more regional focus of RCEP.

Indeed, the RCEP project may result in a further shift of economic activity and trade into the Pacific, which would further raise the concentration of global growth and the dependency of the global economy on the performance of the Pacific basin. In this respect by virtue of its wide geographical coverage the BEAMS/BRICS-plus network is more diverse and is more conducive to rendering economic integration more balanced and spread across the main regions of the developing world. Being more inclusive and open-ended compared to regionals/mega-regionals it is a project that less likely to result in trade diversion and spillover effects for third parties.

Importantly, however, there may be significant positive spillovers from the RCEP project to the formation of a wider BRICS-plus/BEAMS framework – first and foremost this is about bringing ASEAN countries into closer partnership with the largest economies of BRICS, namely China and India. It is also about forming a firmer China-India-ASEAN FTA triangle within the BEAMS framework, in which other such triangles could include South Africa-Brazil-India (IBSA, with Mercosur already clinching a preferential deal with SACU) as well as the "Eurasian Economic Union-SACU-Mercosur" triangle, in which trade policy of the respective BRICS countries is largely delegated to the regional RTA level.

A combination of BRICS-plus and RCEP provides China, India and ASEAN countries with the optionality to building South-South cooperation platforms, while at the same time introducing mega-blocs that include dynamic representatives of the developed world. BRICS-plus may also serve to limit any trade diversion effects from the formation of regional mega-blocs for the BRICS economies and their regional partners that have not participated in the formation of RCEP. In building ever larger mega-blocks it will be increasingly important to envisage and plan ahead mechanisms of cooperation with other regional and mega-regional blocks. After all, with the coming of the era of mega-blocks spillover effects from large-scale economic integration are likely to become increasingly significant.
Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Why has government not created jobs - and can Ramaphosa cut food prices? (Почему правительство не создало рабочие места - и может ли Рамафоса сократить цены на продукты питания?) / South Africa, August, 2018
Keywords: cyril_ramaphosa, social_issues
South Africa

President Cyril Ramaphosa will appear before the National Assembly for about three hours on Wednesday afternoon to answers questions about his government's performance on key issues.

The session starts at 3pm.

Six questions are scheduled for reply.

Julius Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters is scheduled to ask Ramaphosa: "Why did the Government rush to sign the Independent Power Producers (IPP) agreements when Eskom has the electricity capacity available at a cheaper price?"

Mmusi Maimane‚ the leader of the Democratic Alliance‚ will ask the president: "Considering that Statistics South Africa's most recent Quarterly Labour Force Survey revealed the highest unemployment figures in the country's history with a staggering 9‚634 million people now being without work and a broad unemployment rate of over 37%‚ what has he found to be the reasons for the failure of the Government's plans to reduce unemployment and create jobs?"

Maimane also wants to know: "Whether the Government supports the commitment of the governing African National Congress to (a) amend section 25 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa‚ 1996‚ and (b) delineate proposed conditions under which expropriation without compensation can be affected without allowing the Joint Constitutional Review Committee's public participation process to be concluded; if not‚ what is the Government's position in this regard; if so‚ what are the relevant details?"

From the ANC ranks‚ Ms N.N. Mafu will ask: "In view of the need that the Government transforms the urban space economy through the development of land and property and that the expropriation of urban land and property is therefore an imperative to achieve this objective‚ what is the Government's position on achieving radical socio-economic spatial transformation in towns and cities through expropriation of urban land and property."

Furthermore‚ she wants to know‚ "Will the social compact that he had outlined in his state of the nation address on 16 February 2018‚ include ensuring that private partners fund and finance the development of housing and human settlements with the objective of achieving radical spatial transformation‚ that includes the integration of race‚ income and class?"

Mr A.F. Mahlalela (ANC) plans to ask: "(1) In view of the 10th BRICS Summit that was hosted by the Republic under the theme BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution and the looming threats‚ epitomised by the raising of tariffs on some exports to the United States of America‚ to the multilateral‚ rules-based trading system which the BRICS partners have affirmed‚ how will South Africa's membership of BRICS help to shield the local economy from the impact of the tariffs imposed by the United States of America on our steel and aluminium exports; (2) what are the full details of how the BRICS bloc intends to build a fairer global trade regime to forge strong‚ sustainable‚ balanced and inclusive growth?"

And Mr D.H. Khosa (ANC) will ask: "(a) In view of the review of the list of zero-rated value-added tax (VAT) items to mitigate the impact of the VAT increase‚ what is the outcome of the Independent Panel of Experts that was appointed by the Minister of Finance to review the current list of zero-rated VAT items and (b) has he found that it will be able to address the concerns to mitigate costs of food and other essential items on the poor?"

Loans from China are no Faustian bargain, says President Cyril Ramaphosa (Кредиты из Китая не являются Фаустовской сделкой, сказал президент Кирилл Рамафоса) / South Africa, August, 2018
Keywords: cyril_ramaphosa, political_issues
South Africa

President Cyril Ramaphosa insisted that South Africa did not make a Faustian bargain with China when it secured loans from the fellow-BRICS nation for state owned companies Eskom and Transnet.

Ramaphosa said this following supplementary questions in the National Assembly on Wednesday afternoon. The also come in the context of growing ties between South Africa and the other countries in BRICS; namely Brazil, Russia, India and China.

The parliamentary question that got the conversation going came from African National Congress MP Amos Mahlalela, who asked how BRICS could protect SA's interests in the midst of what is threatening to become a fully-fledged trade war between China and the United States of America.

Government announced that Eskom secured a $2.5bn (over R33bn) loan during the recent BRICS summit in Johannesburg from the China Development Bank. Transnet also got R4bn from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

Critics have urged government to be transparent about the terms of the loans, as many are wary of China's track record of supporting smaller and less wealthy nations, often at a steep price. Ikatha Freedom Party MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said these loans were not a simple case of goodwill.

"He who pays the piper calls the tune. Chine will invest R14bn, given Eskom money. These are not blank cheques. What are we doing to insulate and protect South Africa from the expanding influence of China?" Hlengwa asked in a supplementary question.

Ramaphosa responded by saying in its dealings with SA, China had not displayed any "imperialist tendencies". He said South Africa was are wide awake could see an imperialist coming from far away.

"I am not as cynical or as skeptical as you. But we always act to promote South Africa's interest first and foremost. When we meet and negotiate, it is for nothing else, but protecting our own interests. We speak to China we cross the t's and dot the i's," said Ramapohosa.

Congress of the People MP Diedre Carter insisted that if South Africa was not careful about its ties with China, it could suffer consequences such as local industries being destroyed by an influx of cheap imports.

"We have a trade surplus with the US, but where it comes to China our trade deficit has become progressively worse. We warned that our cotton industry would be destroyed by cheap imports. What will government do to protect local industry from cheap imports?" asked Carter.

Ramaphosa said China was just as concerned about the trade deficit South Africa had with China and that Chinese President Xi Jinping was willing to look into products that China could buy from South Africa.

"China has asked what it is they can buy from us to ease the deficit. This will also be discussed when we go to China in a few days' time. We want a regime with balance and where it gets out of balance we seek a win-win situation," Ramaphosa said.

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said the fact that Eskom and Transnet have secured loans from China meant South Africa could ill-afford not to be vigilant. He likens China to loan sharks and asked Ramaphosa what the terms and conditions of the loans were.

Ramaphosa pushed back against the pressure to reveal the terms and conditions. However he maintained that the loans were negotiated and secured in South Africa's best interest.

"If I gave you the conditions of every loan the entities get from the World Bank or DBSA (Development Bank of SA), we would never stop interrogating every little loan. Nothing is being done under a veil of secrecy. The fact that we announce the loans shows that we are as transparent as you can get," he said.

In his response to Mahlalela's initial question, Ramaphosa said BRICS countries were global voice on rules-based trade environment and countries and that development must be integral to ensuring that developing countries be allowed to continue benefiting from global trade.
World of work
Social policy, trade unions, actions
BRICS 2020: The Gateway to Siberia (БРИКС-2020: Окно в Сибирь) / Greece, August, 2018
Keywords: summit

By the decree of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chelyabinsk municipal administration will host the 12th edition of summit of BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in 2020, according to official Kremlin reports.

Chelyabinsk chosen as the venue for the 12th summit of BRICS leaders in 2020 in accordance with the signed decree of the President of the Russian Federation No. 110 "On the Organisational Committee for the Preparation and Provision of the Russian Federation's chairmanship in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in 2019-2020."

Chelyabinsk is one of the major industrial provincial cities in Russia. It is located east of the Ural Mountains, about 200 km south of Yekaterinburg. Chelyabinsk is known as "The Gateway to Siberia" because the city is bisected by the river Miasis which is the border between the Urals and Siberia.
Chelyabinsk Governor Boris Dubrovsky visited Johannesburg (South Africa) on July 25-27, as part of the official delegation of the Russian Federation headed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, to attend the 10th BRICS summit.

"The presidential decree on holding SCO and BRICS summits in Chelyabinsk in 2020 provides a tremendous opportunity for the development of the city. Currently, work is being actively carried out at key facilities related to the summit, projects are being implemented to develop engineering infrastructure and improve public spaces," Dubrovsky told the local Russian media.

"The total amount of work is really impressive. The preparations for the summit require the utmost efforts of governments and businesses, especially construction project organisations, construction companies. For all of us — it is a test of professional competence. That is why the study of the experience of other cities is of particular importance," he noted.

According to Kremlin report, the total amount of investments in preparation for the SCO and BRICS summits in Chelyabinsk will cost approximately 50 billion rubles, about half of these funds are private investments.

The 7th BRICS summit was successfully held on July 8-9 in Ufa, Bashkortostan, so it is expected that at the forthcoming SCO and BRICS summits in Chelyabinsk, the level of hospitality that Russia demonstrated by hosting events in Ufa in 2015 should be preserved.

"I am sure that the upcoming events will contribute to strengthening international cooperation, stabilising the international situation and developing economic ties between the member countries of the two authoritative organisations," said Anton Kobyakov, Advisor to the President of the Russian Federation.

Kobyakov is also the Deputy Chairman and Executive Secretary of the Organising Committee for the preparation and provision of the Russian presidency of the SCO in 2019-2020 and the BRICs Association in 2020.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a permanent regional international association that consists of eight (8) member states. It was established on 26 April 1996 as Shanghai Five in China.
During the SCO summit in Ufa on July 9-10, the beginning of the admission procedure for India and Pakistan was announced. The leaders of the SCO also decided to grant Belarus observer status, while Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia and Nepal became dialogue partners.

BRICS, an informal association of five fast-developing countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – was founded in June 2006. Its first official summit was held in June 2009 in Yekaterinburg. Since then, BRICS summit is held every year on rotational basis.

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