Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 20.2023
2023.05.15 — 2023.05.21
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Argentina seeks BRICS entry with China and Brazil meetings (Аргентина добивается вступления в БРИКС, проводя встречи с Китаем и Бразилией) / Argentina, May, 2023
Keywords: brics+

In a bid to accelerate Argentina's entry into the New BRICS Bank (NBD), Argentine Ambassador to China Sabino Vaca Narvaja met on Friday with its current director, former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, as well as the new Chinese Foreign Minister, Qin Gang.

The acronym BRICS refers to the economic alliance between five countries considered to be rising powers: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

At the "Chinese Modernization and the World" forum in Shanghai, attended by international businessmen and professors, Vaca Narvaja stressed the importance of the NBD.

"As [Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva] said during his recent visit to China, why can't we trade backed by our currency? I think institutions like the NDB help us to think differently and meeting with Dilma was a great help in that sense."

Brazil and China have strengthened their ties following Lula's visit to President Xi Jinping's office with the aim of boosting bilateral trade between their countries.

As leader of the NDB, Rousseff has outlined her hopes for the Brazil-China alliance, focusing on environmental protection, development and economic inclusion.

During Vaca Narvaja and Rousseff's encounter, the Argentine ambassador gave the former Brazilian president a Chinese-language edition of El Eternauta, the classic Argentine comic book created by scriptwriter Héctor Oesterheld and cartoonist Francisco Solano López.

The book will soon be presented at the Beijing Book Fair, one of the most important and massively attended events in the world for the publishing market.

During his stay in Shanghai, Vaca Narvaja also met with the president of Tibet Summit, Jian Rong Huang, owner of a company that invested U$S 2,200 million in two lithium projects in the province of Salta.

Over the past few years, BRICS members have supported Argentina's entry to the alliance, including explicit backing from the Chinese government.

                G-7 Versus China and Russia in the Struggle for Global Influence («Большая семерка» против Китая и России в борьбе за глобальное влияние) / Russia, May, 2023
                Keywords: global_governance

                The tussle for global influence is about to intensify, as China, Russia, the US and its allies step up efforts to win over governments in a deepening competition for hearts and minds in strategic third countries, notes Bloomberg.

                The advent of a multipolar world comprising rival factions, most clearly seen in attitudes to Russia's war on Ukraine, will be on show in a series of high-profile summits in the coming months, starting with the annual Group of Seven meeting on May 19 in Japan. There, G-7 and European Union leaders are preparing to roll out plans to court a select group of nations in what they're calling a global "battle of offers" with Beijing and Moscow, according to people familiar with the discussions and documents seen by Bloomberg News.

                The strategy involves enhanced work with so-called middle ground countries, such as Brazil, Vietnam, South Africa and Kazakhstan. High-level engagements, better coordination between existing infrastructure projects, and bespoke action plans for each nation identified as a key partner are among the program's objectives.

                At the core of the reinvigorated G-7 effort is somewhat of a tilt away from a primarily values-driven approach to one based on more tangible offerings in areas such as trade and security, the people said.

                But G-7 allies, all of whom have sanctioned Russia and broadly share their US colleague's national security concerns over China, are far from the only offer in town. Even as President Joe Biden sits down with his fellow G-7 leaders in Hiroshima, President Xi Jinping will hold a China-Central Asia Summit over two days in the Chinese city of Xi'an.

                In July, President Vladimir Putin hosts African leaders in his hometown of St. Petersburg, building on Moscow's efforts to blame Western sanctions for energy-price inflation and grain shortages that have hit poorer African nations hard.

                Then in August, leaders of the BRICS group comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will meet in Johannesburg, with expansion to include a potential 19 hopeful entrants and the feasibility of introducing a common currency on the agenda. Both topics are a boon to China, which first proposed adding to the club and favors an alternative to the US dollar in trade among BRICS nations.

                Two government officials from separate middle-ground countries said that the world has dramatically changed in recent years and Western powers have lost the leverage they once had to pressure developing countries politically and economically. One official put it simply: Western powers need us more than the other way round.

                "When President Biden at the beginning of his term spoke about his values approach, I think he had a lot of currency and was attracting a great deal of interest," South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor said in an interview last week before the US spat. "But I think the current situation in which they find themselves as a leading part of this conflict makes it more difficult to be convincing."

                "The international community is at a historic crossroads," entering "an era in which cooperation and division are intricately intertwined," said Noriyuki Shikata, Japan's Cabinet secretary for public affairs. That makes the G7's strategic cooperation on global issues with emerging countries and developing countries all the more important, he said.

                "I think we spent about two-thirds of our time on issues of concern to the Global South," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said April 18 at a joint press conference with Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the G-7 host, who himself undertook a trip to Africa this month.

                The scale of the challenge still appears daunting given a prevailing sentiment that is mistrustful, even resentful, and at odds with G-7 thinking, concludes Bloomberg.

                'Sankei Shimbun' from Japan stresses: "The G7 summit on May 19-21 is likely to discuss the growing influence of the BRICS as a counterweight to the West. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which are members of the bloc, are considering the possibility of creating their own common currency, and a number of states wishing to distance themselves from the US and Europe are applying to join the expanded BRICS.

                The main purpose of the BRICS currency is to reduce dependence on the dollar in international trade.

                In the past, this issue was discussed in the member countries of the organization. Brazilian President Lula da Silva voiced his support during his visit to China in April, asking "Why should we use the US dollar?"

                Behind this problem is dissatisfaction with the fact that the increase in US interest rates and the geopolitical conflicts associated with the Russian military operation in Ukraine have led to a strengthening dollar and a depreciation of emerging market currencies. There is also considerable concern about the possible exclusion of such economies from the dollar settlement network as a result of US sanctions.

                In addition, the issue of expanding the bloc is also being discussed. According to the Ambassador of South Africa to the BRICS, at the end of April, 19 countries made formal and informal requests to join the expanded BRICS format.

                Saudi Arabia and Iran lead among candidate countries for membership, both of which have a negative view of Western values such as democracy. Argentina, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Algeria, Egypt, Bahrain and Indonesia are also reportedly positive towards the BRICS.

                While Russia's special operation in Ukraine and the conflict between the US and China have deepened the rift in the international community, many emerging market and developing economies have refrained from being critical of Beijing and Moscow, with whom they have close ties in terms of resources and food supplies."

                              SA gears up for BRICS Summit in August (ЮАР готовится к саммиту БРИКС в августе) / South Africa, May, 2023
                              Keywords: summit
                              South Africa

                              Parliament's Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation was briefed by the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) on preparations for the 15th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit, to be held in Johannesburg from 22 to 24 August.

                              Ben Joubert from Dirco said the theme of the summit was "BRICS and Africa: Partnership for mutually accelerated growth, sustainable development and inclusive multilateralism".

                              To address this theme, five key priorities were selected:

                              – Developing a partnership towards an equitable Just Transition. This aim is to alleviate the effects of climate by moving towards a net zero carbon dioxide emissions target by 2050, while at the same time ensuring that no one gets left behind.

                              – Transforming education and skills development for the future. This is especially pressing as the latest test results show that a massive 81% of South Africa's Grade 4 learners cannot read with meaning. It is also a priority for the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution to equip the youth with the skills needed to benefit from this megatrend.
                              – Unlocking opportunities through the African Continental Free Trade Area. To help with achieving this priority, the Gauteng provincial government hosted a briefing on the Inter Africa Trade Fair that will be held in Cairo, Egypt in November 2023.

                              – Strengthening post-pandemic socio-economic recovery and the attainment of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. In that respect, the BRICS Co-operation in Customs Matters Agreement (CCMA) has been finalised, but not yet signed.

                              – Strengthening multilateralism, including working toward real reform of global governance institutions and strengthening the meaningful participation of women in peace processes. BRICS has been promoting this measure for several years, but as of now there has been no structural reform of the UN Security Council for several decades.

                              To promote the above priorities, South Africa would host some 200 events this year that would address these issues. In particular, cabinet approved five deliverables.

                              These were the first BRICS workshop on incident management that would address the issue of cybersecurity. Establish a BRICS Centre for Industrial Competencies. Establish the BRICS African JET Centre of Excellence. Launch an Energy Skills Roadmap. Establish a BRICS-Africa WBA Platform.

                              The first day of the BRICS Summit will be devoted to financial matters with briefings by the BRICS Business Council, the BRICS New Development Bank and the BRICS Women's Business Alliance.

                              The portfolio committee members wanted to know how Dirco was addressing the issues of the potential expansion of BRICS, as well as the issue of whether South Africa would arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin in accordance with the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

                              Dirco said that as South Africa had been the first recipient of the expansion of BRIC to BRICS in 2010, it favoured a further expansion, but as BRICS was a consensus seeking body, any expansion had to be a unanimous decision by all members.

                              With respect to the issue of Putin, Dirco said they were looking at Section 98 of the Rome Statute and would report back to the committee once there was legal clarity as to the way forward.
                                            Chinese consul-general in Joburg marks 25 years of SA-China relations (Генеральный консул Китая в Йоханнесбурге отмечает 25-летие отношений между ЮАР и Китаем) / South Africa, May, 2023
                                            Keywords: cooperation
                                            South Africa

                                            Pretoria – Chinese consul-general in Joburg, Tang Zhongdong has led celebrations marking 25 years of bilateral diplomatic relations between South Africa and China.

                                            He reviewed the journey travelled since 1998 to the current day where the ties have reached unprecedented levels.

                                            At a prestigious event attended by several South African government officials, fellow diplomats and local and international media, Tang said the trade volume is at $56 billion (more than R1-trillion), a considerable rise from the US$1 billion in 1998.

                                            "In 2022, China-South Africa trade volume grew up to 56.7 billion, 40 times more than that $1.56 billion in 1998. China has been South Africa's largest trading partner since 2009, and South Africa has been China's largest trading partner in Africa since 2010 with massive surplus," Tang told his guests.

                                            "As announced previously, over the next three years China will import $100 billion of goods from South Africa which is also one of largest investment destinations for Chinese enterprises in Africa. Total Chinese investment on South Africa exceeded $25 billion by the end of 2021.

                                            "There are more than 200 Chinese companies operating here. Last year, the Job Fair in Johannesburg organised by Chinese Embassy attracted thousands of South African graduates, and hundreds of Chinese companies promised to employ 20 000 local people in three years," he said.

                                            Looking back, Tang said over the past 25 years, China-South Africa relations have made a significant leap from an ordinary partnership to a strategic partnership, then to comprehensive strategic partnership.

                                            He highlighted that Chinese presidents have paid five State visits to South Africa, while South African presidents have paid six state visits to China.

                                            "In recent years, under the joint guidance of President Xi Jinping and President Cyril Ramaphosa, political mutual trust between the two countries has continued to deepen, and cooperation in various fields has become increasingly close, bringing tangible benefits to the peoples of both countries," said the Chinese diplomat.

                                            The President of China Xi Jinping with President Cyril Ramaphosa viewing an exhibition at CSIR in Pretoria during the Chinese leader's state visit. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA) This year, Tang said the bilateral relationship between South Africa and China has scaled new heights.

                                            "As part of the 25th anniversary of bilateral relations, the two foreign ministers of both countries exchanged letters of congratulations in the beginning of the year to reaffirm the well-established relations. The two governments have planned several activities that will take place throughout the year in both countries to celebrate this milestone," said Tang.

                                            "China is willing to strengthen dialogue and co-operation with South Africa, join hands in exploring modernisation paths that suit respective national conditions, and stride forward on the path of building a high-level China-South Africa community with a shared future in the new era."

                                            Later this year, South Africa will host the 15th BRICS Summit, with senior government leaders from Brazil, Russia, India and China expected in South Africa.

                                            "The world will once again listen to the BRICS proposal. In the face of the complex international situation and global challenges, South Africa has adopted 'BRICS and Africa: A Partnership for Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism' as the theme of this BRICS Summit, reflecting the common desire of BRICS and African countries to promote peaceful development in the world," said Tang.

                                            He said more and more countries, such as Iran, Indonesia and Argentina, want to join the BRICS mechanism because they believe "BRICS is a positive choice when facing tough challenges".

                                            Tang said the BRICS summit will definitely write a new chapter for BRICS co-operation.

                                            "China fully supports the work of the South African chairmanship, jointly promote the BRICS mechanism with more tangible achievements, and consistently inject strong momentum for solidarity and cooperation among developing countries," he said.

                                            As part of the festivities, the Chinese consulate general in Joburg held an exhibition with more than 30 pictures to showcase "the great feats achieved in the past decade in China".

                                            "The purpose of holding such an exhibition in my office is to help South African friends to have a more direct and comprehensive understanding in the great achievements of the last decade in China," said Tang.
                                                          Investment and Finance
                                                          Investment and finance in BRICS
                                                          Bank of Russia developing bill enabling foreign banks to open offices in country (Банк России разрабатывает законопроект, разрешающий иностранным банкам открывать офисы в стране) / Russia, May, 2023
                                                          Keywords: economic_challenges

                                                          "Many countries show interest, first of all our traditional partners both within the BRICS framework and within the EAEU framework," Alexey Guznov said, adding that Russia's task "is to create the best legal basis"

                                                          ST. PETERSBURG, May 11. /TASS/. The bill enabling foreign lenders to open offices in Russia is under development now, State Secretary - Deputy Governor of the Bank of Russia Alexey Guznov told reporters at the St. Petersburg International Legal Forum.

                                                          "[It is] under development, the discussion is underway," he said. "Considering the fact that there is a pattern that enables insurance companies to do it, this being one approach, there are also other proposals. So I expect public discussion already in near future," the official added.

                                                          There is an interest in opening offices in Russia, according to Guznov. "Many countries show interest, first of all our traditional partners both within the BRICS framework and within the EAEU framework," he said, adding that Russia's task "is to create the best legal basis."

                                                          St. Petersburg International Legal Forum is a major platform for dialogue among members of the legal, business, political and law-enforcement communities on a wide range of issues focusing on how law can better serve the interests of people and businesses, as well as improvements to law-enforcement practices, the promotion of legislative initiatives to strengthen the legal culture, and socioeconomic-related regulation in today's world. The forum is held by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation and the Roscongress Foundation, in accordance with Russian Presidential Decree, until May 13.

                                                          TASS is the forum's general information partner.

                                                                        BRICS Membership: A Game-Changer for Saudi Arabia's Economy? (Членство в БРИКС: изменение правил игры для экономики Саудовской Аравии?) / Greece, May, 2023
                                                                        Keywords: economic_challenges, expert_opinion

                                                                        As Saudi Arabia prepares to potentially join the BRICS, there is much to consider in terms of the impact on the country's economy. While some may view this as a simple geopolitical move, it could have significant economic implications for the region and the world as a whole.

                                                                        First and foremost, it is important to understand the economic power of the BRICS nations. Together, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa represent 40% of the world population and 25% of global GDP. If Saudi Arabia were to join this group, it would not only significantly increase the size and influence of the bloc, but also provide the country with access to a powerful network of economic partners.

                                                                        One potential benefit of Saudi Arabia joining BRICS is increased trade opportunities. With its strong oil and natural gas resources, Saudi Arabia could become a key player in the energy trade within the bloc, which already dominates global oil and gas consumption with a 30% and 22% of the world share respectively. Additionally, as a member of BRICS, Saudi Arabia would have the opportunity to diversify its trade relationships beyond its traditional partners in the West, potentially leading to new markets and increased economic stability.

                                                                        As the world's largest exporter of oil, Saudi Arabia's alignment with the BRICS nations would reshape the geopolitics of energy and potentially challenge the dominance of Western oil markets. With the BRICS countries collectively representing a substantial share of global oil consumption, the addition of Saudi Arabia would consolidate the bloc's position as a major player in the energy market. This strategic partnership could lead to enhanced energy cooperation, joint ventures in oil exploration and production, and the establishment of alternative energy trading mechanisms, ultimately fostering greater energy security and resilience for all member states.

                                                                        Another economic benefit of joining BRICS is increased investment opportunities. The bloc has already established the "New Development Bank" with a capital of $100 billion to rival the International Monetary Fund, and Saudi Arabia's inclusion would add significant resources to this effort. The recent Bond yield by NDB was 5.1% which is astonishing 100 basis points higher than the likes of the World Bank. Additionally, the country's strategic location and industrial growth could make it an attractive destination for foreign investment within the bloc.

                                                                        Saudi Arabia's access to China and India, two of the world's largest markets, would facilitate increased exports and economic partnerships. Leveraging the technological innovation and manufacturing capabilities of BRICS members, particularly China, would accelerate Saudi Arabia's growth in these sectors. The tourism industry, fueled by Saudi Arabia's rich cultural heritage and natural resources, would also benefit from BRICS membership, attracting more visitors and generating employment opportunities.

                                                                        In terms of cultural compatibility, Saudi Arabia aligns well with the BRICS nations, sharing conservative social, cultural, and religious values. This provides a foundation for stronger relationships and cooperation within the bloc. Additionally, the country's historical trade connections with China and India further strengthen its ties to BRICS, fostering people-to-people interactions and cultural exchanges.

                                                                        However, joining BRICS also presents potential risks and challenges. One such challenge is the potential for increased geopolitical competition between the West and the Eastern power bloc led by BRICS. As the global economy becomes increasingly divided, Saudi Arabia could play pivotal role to decrease the rifts between the blocs as a common friend.

                                                                        Overall, Saudi Arabia's potential inclusion in BRICS presents a win-win opportunity for Saudi Arabia as it will accelerate the economic diversification and development of the nation and reduce its dependence on Western blocs. Saudi Arabia's recent decision to strengthen the relationship with Iran, brokered by China is the sign of tectonic shifts in the middle east which hopefully followed by joining the BRICS which will bring peace and prosperity in the region and beyond.

                                                                                      Putin orders government to draft proposals on organization of 2024 BRICS Games in Russia (Путин поручил правительству подготовить предложения по проведению Игр БРИКС в России в 2024 году) / Russia, May, 2023
                                                                                      Keywords: cooperation

                                                                                      The proposals should be drafted and presented before July 1

                                                                                      MOSCOW, May 17. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin tasked the government on Wednesday to draft proposals to hold the 2024 BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Games in Russia.

                                                                                      The proposals should be drafted and presented before July 1, according to the presidential decree posted on the Kremlin's website earlier in the day. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin was appointed to oversee the implementation of the presidential order.

                                                                                      On May 2, Russia's Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin suggested at a government meeting with President Putin that the 2024 BRICS Games should be held on Russian soil. "In 2024, when Russia chairs BRICS, we suggest organizing the BRICS Games in our country. We view this event as very relevant, given the prospect of the BRICS platform's expansion in terms of new member states," Matytsin said at that time.

                                                                                      On February 28, 2022, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued recommendations to international sports federations to bar athletes from Russia and Belarus from taking part in international tournaments, citing Moscow's special military operation in Ukraine as the reason.

                                                                                      Following the IOC's recommendations in late February 2022, the majority of global sports federations decided to bar athletes from Russia and Belarus from all international sports tournaments.

                                                                                      At its session on January 25, 2023, the IOC Executive Board put forward a proposal to permit individual athletes from Russia and Belarus to take part in international sports tournaments, but only under certain conditions. Athletes from the countries in question should not be "actively supporting" Russia's special military operation in Ukraine and must compete under a neutral status.

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