Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 13.2023
2023.03.27 — 2023.04.02
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
We cannot be forced to dump Russia, says Naledi Pandor (Нас нельзя заставить бросить Россию, говорит Наледи Пандор) / South Africa, March, 2023
Keywords: quotation, political_issues
South Africa

International Relations and Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor has insisted that South Africa will not dump Russia because other countries want it to do so.

Pandor said South Africa has historical ties with Russia dating back to Struggle days and in the post-Cold War era the two countries have economic, trade and diplomatic relations.

She said their wish was for a peaceful end to the conflict in Ukraine.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant of arrest against Russian President Vladimir Putin and urged 123 countries who are signatories to the Rome Statute to arrest him.

After arrest warrant for Putin, Russia opens case against ICC 1 week ago
South Africa will host the BRICS summit in Durban in August where leaders from Brazil, Russia, India and China are expected to attend.

South Africa has said it was waiting for a legal opinion on the ICC arrest warrant.

But Pandor, speaking at a joint economic co-operation meeting with Russia this week, said no one can tell South Africa to dump Russia. The meeting was attended by senior Russian officials.

"You see, there is a great deal of media interest in our meeting because there are some who don't wish us to have relations with an old historical friend. We have made it clear that Russia is a friend and we have had co-operative partnerships for many years including partnerships as we combated the apartheid regime, which decimated our people and our country. While we are friends with many in the world, we cannot become sudden enemies at the demand of others," said Pandor.

South Africa has been put under pressure to act on the arrest warrant issued by the ICC against Putin.

The ANC has said it was talking to its ministers on how this matter should be handled.

The government said it was seeking a legal opinion on it and would advise as soon as it received it.

South Africa was slammed by the opposition and civil society in 2015 when it refused to carry out the arrest warrant against former president of Sudan Omar al-Bashir.

Bashir had been charged by the ICC for crimes against humanity and genocide over the conflict in the Darfur region.
                SA: To arrest or not arrest Putin? (СА: Арестовывать или не арестовывать Путина?) / South Africa, March, 2023
                Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues
                South Africa

                By Dr Noluthando Phungula

                The International Criminal Court, of which South Africa is a full member, has issued warrants of arrest for Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children's Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation. An arrest warrant was issued by the tribunal for Putin and his co-accused on charges of allegedly committing war crimes in Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

                In laying these charges, the court "has focused its claims on the unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia." It has determined that it has reasonable grounds to believe Putin committed the criminal acts directly, as well as working with others. As expected, Russia has rejected the ICC's move as "null and void". The Kremlin has reiterated it does not recognise the court's jurisdiction.

                While the ICC has issued a warrant for Putin to be arrested, whether he will actually stand trial is highly unlikely. Among the weaknesses of the ICC is its inability to arrest suspects. Instead, the court may only exercise jurisdiction within its member countries and Russia is not a signatory. Based on this, the issuing of this warrant may well be construed as mere political gymnastics.

                The case of double standards
                The decision to issue an arrest warrant for Putin has cast a spotlight on the legitimacy of the ICC itself. This is not the first time the court has brought charges against a sitting head of state; in 2009, the court went after Omar Al-Bashir, the now former president of Sudan. As at 2018, 48% of the ICC's investigations have been alleged serious crimes by Africans. The numbers suggest that the courts focus is rather disproportional, with a focus on the African continent. The prosecution of international crimes has obviously been directed at easy targets in non-western regions, while the atrocities committed by the main imperialist powers remain unattended.

                It may well be that the ICC has a solid case, but the bigger question is why the Russian leader faces charges when so many war criminals among Western political leaders remain at large. A pertinent question must be asked: What differentiates the crimes committed by Putin in Ukraine to the crimes committed by George W Bush and Tony Blair in Iraq? Putin is accused of unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children to Russia.

                In 1996, in an interview with former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, evidence was presented that suggested US sanctions had led to the deaths of half a million Iraqi children. The pretence and hypocrisy could not be more blatant as the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Putin on the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the United States' imperialist invasion of Iraq. Moreover, the US has been continually complicit in Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity against Palestinians for decades.

                The United States itself has adamantly refused to accept that its own misgivings should be accountable to any international standards and, as such, it has not recognised the jurisdictional authority of the ICC. Regardless of this, Joe Biden has still expressed his jubilance with the ICC's decision to pursue Putin. Biden has supported the decision and stressed that the prosecution was justified, and reiterated that the ICC was relaying a strong point across the world.

                The timing of the warrant

                The timing of the warrant coincided with the final preparations of the International Parliamentary Conference under the theme, "Russia–Africa in a Multipolar World", held on March 19 to 20 in Moscow.

                The conference is the second of its kind devoted to strengthening cooperation between African and Russian parliamentarians. This meeting saw the presence of representatives from African countries, including heads of state. Putin reiterated Russia's commitment to prioritise and cooperate with African countries. He further emphasised that Russia and African states stood against neo-colonial ideology imposed by foreign states. Interestingly, following the conference that reiterated Africa-Russia relations, Putin faces arrest if he sets foot in any of the 33 African states and any of the other 90 signatory states to the statute.

                South Africa must be decisive

                South Africa is hosting this year's BRICS summit in August 2023, which is expected to be attended by all heads of state within the grouping, including Russia. This suggests that South Africa would be obliged to arrest Putin and hand him over if he sets foot on its soil. International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor has confirmed that South Africa has invited Putin to participate in the 15th BRICS summit that will take place in Durban in August. South Africa is obliged under Article 86 of the ICC statute and domestic law to cooperate fully by arresting Putin.

                The country has been faced with a similar dilemma before. In June 2015, South Africa found itself in a similar situation when the African Union summit awaited the presence of the Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, who was facing an arrest warrant for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. In terms of South Africa's ICC obligations, the government was obliged to arrest and extradite him. However, then president Jacob Zuma did not order the arrest, citing immunity from prosecution for sitting heads of state under international law.

                The country faced much criticism from the international community for its failure to make the arrest. The country attempted to withdraw from the Rome Statute soon after the controversy, but would later withdraw from the withdrawal. South Africa remains a member of the ICC.

                Which way?

                The question is: What decision will Ramaphosa's government make? A key point to consider is the courts legitimacy. The country must be able to determine whether it is being used to further the West's agenda. In this regard, should Putin arrive and not be arrested, the country will lose international credibility and would have to face the music with many of its international trade partners through preferential trade terms. A practical example is the impact SA's decision regarding Putin would have on its exports to the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa). You will remember how the US has recently used Agoa as a sanction against Ethiopia, The Gambia and Mali.

                The Covid-19 pandemic brought with it many opportunities, including flawless virtual attendance, and this could be an option for Putin. Alternatively, there is the option to send a delegation to the summit. On the other hand, throughout the years, South Africa has positioned itself as a serious player in global politics through its foreign policy, BRICS activism and memberships. Its BRICS membership has not been viewed in a good light by the former colonial masters. Therefore, the current saga will prove to be a big character test for the SADC regional power.

                South Africa would need to consider its geopolitical standing within BRICS against its key trade partners, which are largely Western. Having maintained cordial relations with Russia for a long time, particularly because of the support given by Russia to liberation movements during apartheid, South Africa can be expected to approach this matter with caution. Moreover, the BRICS formation has further cemented relations among the various states in SADC and in Africa, thus cultivating fertile ground for an Africa that is pro-East.

                * Dr Noluthando Phungula is from the Institute for Pan African Thought and Conversation at the University of Johannesburg.

                ** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL.
                              BRICS Nations Offer a New World Order as Alternative to the West (Страны БРИКС предлагают новый мировой порядок как альтернативу Западу) / India, March, 2023
                              Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues

                              The acronym began as a somewhat optimistic term to describe what were the world's fastest-growing economies at the time. But now the BRICS nations—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—are setting themselves up as an alternative to existing international financial and political forums.

                              "The founding myth of the emerging economies has faded," Günther Maihold, deputy director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, or SWP, confirmed. "The BRICS countries are experiencing their geopolitical moment."

                              Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are trying to position themselves as representatives of the Global South, providing "an alternative model to the G7". The G7 is an "informal forum" of heads of state of the world's most advanced economies, founded in 1975. Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Canada, and the US are members, as is the EU.

                              The acronym BRIC, which initially stood for Brazil, Russia, India and China, was coined by Jim O'Neill in 2001, when he was chief economist of the multinational investment bank, Goldman Sachs. At the time, the four countries had sustained rates of high economic growth and the BRICS label stood for economic optimism about the future of those nations. Opponents of the label said the countries were too diverse to be grouped together like this and that it was really just a Goldman Sachs marketing ploy.

                              But what may have started as a marketing ploy to encourage investors, has grown into a platform for intergovernmental cooperation similar to the G7. In 2009, the four nations met for their first summit in Russia's Yekaterinburg. In 2010, South Africa was invited to join the group, adding the "S" to BRICS.

                              Challenging the World Bank model

                              In 2014, with $50 billion (around €46 billion) in seed money, the BRICS nations launched the New Development Bank as an alternative to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In addition, they created a liquidity mechanism called the Contingent Reserve Arrangement to support members struggling with payments.

                              These offers were not only attractive to the BRICS nations themselves, but also to many other developing and emerging economies that had had painful experiences with the IMF's structural adjustment programs and austerity measures. This is why many countries said they might be interested in joining the BRICS group.

                              The BRICS bank is open to new members. In 2021, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay and Bangladesh took up shares. However, these were much lower than the respective $10 billion investments made by the bank's founding members.

                              Set to expand

                              South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said worldwide interest in the BRICS group was "huge." In early March, she told television interviewers that she had 12 letters from interested countries on her desk.

                              "Saudi Arabia is one," she said. "United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Algeria, and Argentina," as well as Mexico and Nigeria. "Once we've shaped the criteria [for lending], we will then make the decision," she said, noting that the topic would be placed on the agenda for the upcoming August summit in South Africa.

                              The most recent economic developments in BRICS member states have little to do with the initial myths upon which the group was founded. Of the five members, only China has achieved sustained and extensive growth since then.

                              As China's gross domestic product grew from $6 trillion in 2010 to nearly $18 trillion in 2021, the economies in Brazil, South Africa, and Russia have stagnated. India's GDP grew from $1.7 trillion to $3.1 trillion but was outpaced by China's growth.

                              No sanctions against Russia

                              Since the start of the Russian war in Ukraine, the BRICS countries have only distanced themselves further from the so-called West. Neither India, Brazil, South Africa nor China is taking part in sanctions against Russia. This is increasingly clear with near-historic levels of trade between India and Russia, or in Brazil's dependence on Russian fertilizer.

                              "Diplomatically, the war in Ukraine appears to have drawn a stark dividing line between an eastern-backed Russia and the West," political scientist Matthew Bishop from the University of Sheffield wrote for the Economics Observatory late last year. "Consequently, some European and US policymakers worry that the BRICS may become less an economic club of rising powers seeking to influence global growth and development, and more a political one defined by their authoritarian nationalism."

                              The SWP's Maihold agrees. He says the BRICS alliance is not so much a counter to the West but more a forum for increased sovereign and autonomous thought. In a bipolar world, he believes South Africa, India and Brazil were simply "vying for better terms."

                              China, on the other hand, was using the platform for its global political ambitions, Maihold added, pointing to its offers to mediate the war in Ukraine and the joint military exercises it held with Russia in South Africa.

                              Maihold believes that the West has noticed this change in tack and is trying to counteract it. "They are looking very closely," he said. "At the G7 summit in Germany in 2022, they made a point of inviting South Africa and India, in order to prevent the optics that the G7 was standing against BRICS."

                              The Hindu

                                            Investment and Finance
                                            Investment and finance in BRICS
                                            BRICS nations working on 'fundamentally new currency': Russian official (Страны БРИКС работают над «принципиально новой валютой» — российский чиновник) / South Africa, March, 2023
                                            Keywords: economic_challenges, quotation
                                            South Africa

                                            The Deputy Chairman of Russia's State Duma, Alexander Babakov, said on 30 March that the BRICS bloc of emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – is working on developing a "new currency" that will be presented at the organization's upcoming summit in Durban.

                                            "The transition to settlements in national currencies is the first step. The next one is to provide the circulation of digital or any other form of a fundamentally new currency in the nearest future. I think that at the BRICS [leaders' summit], the readiness to realize this project will be announced, such works are underway," Babakov said on the sidelines of the Russian-Indian Strategic Partnership for Development and Growth Business Forum.

                                            Babakov also stated that a single currency could likely emerge within BRICS, and this would be pegged not just to the value of gold but also to "other groups of products, rare-earth elements, or soil."

                                            BRICS member states account for more than 40 percent of the global population and around a quarter of the global GDP. In recent months, the group has been positioning itself as the Global South's alternative to the G7 group of nations.

                                            Several nations in West Asia and North Africa have expressed interest in joining the bloc, including Saudi Arabia and Algeria. Last year, Iran officially applied to join BRICS.

                                            Earlier this month, South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor revealed that global interest in BRICS is "huge," adding that she had 12 letters from interested countries on her desk, including the UAE, Egypt, Argentina, Mexico, and Nigeria.

                                            The news of a possible BRICS currency comes as a growing number of nations across the world are moving away from conducting trade in US dollars as a result of Washington's policy of economic coercion.

                                            This week alone, the ASEAN group of nations discussed dropping the US Dollar, Euro, Yen, and British Pound from financial transactions and instead moving to settlements in local currencies. Similarly, Brazil – the largest economy in Latin America – reached an agreement with China to enable import and export transactions between both nations to take place without using the US dollar.

                                            Former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O'Neill this month called on BRICS to expand and challenge the greenback's dominance, highlighting that Washington's economic hegemony destabilizes other nations' monetary policies.

                                            "The US dollar plays a far too dominant role in global finance," he wrote in a paper published in the Global Policy journal. "Whenever the Federal Reserve Board has embarked on periods of monetary tightening, or the opposite, loosening, the consequences on the value of the dollar and the knock-on effects have been dramatic."

                                                          South Africa's overall trade with its BRICS partners has increased since 2017 (Общий объем торговли Южной Африки со своими партнерами по БРИКС увеличился с 2017 года.) / South Africa, March, 2023
                                                          Keywords: trade_relations
                                                          South Africa

                                                          Durban – Professor Anil Sooklal, Ambassador-at-Large for Asia and BRICS during an online engagement with business during the BRICS economic indaba on Thursday, said the purpose of the gathering was to solicit the support of, and galvanise, South African business behind the BRICS Programme of Work.

                                                          South Africa took over as chair of BRICS on January 1 under the theme "BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism", in what was described as a difficult national and global economic environment.

                                                          Durban is set to host the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China at the 15th BRICS Summit from August 22 to 24.

                                                          South Africa's overall trade with its BRICS partners has increased by an average growth of 10% between 2017 and 2021. BRICS now accounts for 21% of South Africa's global trade in 2022, with trade with China accounting for about 15% of South Africa's global trade with a total trade of R556 billion.

                                                          India now accounts for 6% of the total trade, increasing from R140bn in 2021 to R225bn in 2022.
                                                          "It is crucial to inspire and cement the participation of all sectors of business behind our 2023 Agenda. SA BRICS chairship provides business with the unique and valuable opportunity to sustainably advance the economic and developmental needs of both our economy and that of the rest of the African continent," Sooklal said.

                                                          He said the council and working group chairs would be joined by key stakeholders such as the apex business associations, government and civil society to bolster the call to action.

                                                          "The platform will also serve as an opportunity for partners such as the NDB (New Development Bank) and other BRICS structures, including the Women's Business Alliance and BRICS Think Tank, to provide a short overview of their respective programmes for the year.

                                                          "In this way, we aim to provide business with a broad understanding of the multitude of platforms and projects that they may be able to participate in during this chairship."

                                                          Sooklal said the BRICS Business Council was crucial to identify problems and bottlenecks and recommend practical solutions to BRICS leaders.

                                                          "This 10-year anniversary is a good moment for reflection on how this feedback mechanism works and how we can increase synergies between government and business in BRICS co-operation so that we deliver tangible benefits to South Africa and South Africans.

                                                          "There is no question: BRICS also has the political will to engage constructively with the global community, but with South Africa and Africa in particular, to achieve economic stability and sustainable growth that will also deliver benefits to the global South," he told business leaders.

                                                          Sooklal said the conflict in Ukraine and the West's unilateral sanctions had battered economies that were struggling to recover from the Covid pandemic.

                                                          "With Russia being the world's third-largest oil producer, second-largest natural gas producer and a top producer of steel and wheat, the conflict has led to substantial increases in food and energy prices that have disproportionately impacted us in the global South.

                                                          "Nationally, load shedding is worsening the situation with devastating impact on the economy, closing many businesses and worsening disruptions to our rail and logistics networks."

                                                          He said BRICS partners had responded with enthusiasm to the country's theme and priorities and had expressed their commitment to support South Africa during 2023.
                                                                        World of Work
                                                                        SOCIAL POLICY, TRADE UNIONS, ACTIONS
                                                                        Russia proposes to create geological platform of BRICS countries — ministry (Россия предлагает создать геологическую платформу стран БРИКС — МИД) / Russia, March, 2023
                                                                        Keywords: cooperation, quotation

                                                                        It is noted that Russia and South Africa will discuss steps to create a geological platform at a meeting of the intergovernmental commission on March 30 in Pretoria

                                                                        MOSCOW, March 27. /TASS/. Russia proposed to create a geological platform of the BRICS countries, which will strengthen geological cooperation of the bloc member states. This is according to a statement by the Russian Natural Resources Ministry released after a meeting of Natural Resources Minister Alexander Kozlov and head of Council for Geoscience of South Africa Mosa Mabuza.

                                                                        BRICS countries are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

                                                                        "Mr. Mosa Mabuza supported our proposal to create the BRICS geological platform," Kozlov wrote on his Telegram channel following negotiations with the representative of South Africa.

                                                                        The minister explained that the platform will strengthen the cooperation of the geological services of the BRICS countries: Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa. "We will all receive data on each other's mineral reserves and mining technologies. This is important because the demand for the mineral resources of the new economy is growing by leaps and bounds: platinum, copper, aluminum, nickel, lithium, cobalt, rare earth metals. We all need exploration of new territories, taking into account the experience, technology and knowledge of each other," the minister said as quoted in the statement.

                                                                        The minister added that Russia and South Africa will discuss steps to create a geological platform at a meeting of the intergovernmental commission on March 30 in Pretoria.

                                                                        The Natural Resources Ministry clarified that the first steps in creating the platform should include an expert meeting and a meeting of the heads of geological services of the BRICS countries. After that, a memorandum is to be prepared and a cooperation program approved. "It should include specific areas, forms and types of both bilateral and multilateral cooperation, depending on the goals of each BRICS country," the ministry said in a statement.

                                                                        According to the head of Federal Agency on Subsoil Usage Evgeny Petrov, whose words are also quoted in the ministry's statement, the promising areas for joint geological exploration will be regional geological research, new technologies in geology, including remote sensing, digital control, resource classification.

                                                                                      Made on