Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 21.2023
2023.05.22 — 2023.05.28
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Top Indian diplomat to meet colleagues from Russia, China at BRICS meeting on June 1 (Высокопоставленный индийский дипломат встретится с коллегами из России и Китая на встрече БРИКС 1 июня) / Russia, May, 2023
Keywords: top_level_meeting, summit

The possible meeting between Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Sergey Lavrov will be the third this year, according to The Economic Times

NEW DELHI, May 28. /TASS/. India's Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar may have bilateral meetings with his Russian and Chinese colleagues, Sergey Lavrov and Qin Gang, on the sidelines of the BRICS ministerial meeting on June 1, the Economic Times newspaper reported on Saturday.

Heads of BRICS member states' foreign ministries will meet in Capetown, South Africa on June 1-2.

The possible meeting between Lavrov and Jaishankar will become the third one this year, the paper noted.

Jaishankar's meeting with Qin Gang will also be the third so far in 2023. The sides will focus on President Xi Jinping's visit to the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) summit. The Indian side may dwell on the issue of normalization of relations and the situation on the contact line between India and China in the Himalayas, the publication added.

                Putin, Brazilian president discuss joint work within BRICS — Kremlin (Путин и президент Бразилии обсудили совместную работу в рамках БРИКС — Кремль) / Russia, May, 2023
                Keywords: vladimir_putin, lula_da_silva, top_level_meeting

                The two presidents also discussed "current issues of Russian-Brazilian strategic partnership and expressed mutual interest in its further development and the expansion of practical cooperation in various fields"

                MOSCOW, May 26. /TASS/. Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil discussed issues of the two countries' joint work within BRICS and other international platforms, the Kremlin press service said on Friday after their phone call.

                The presidents "discussed issues of joint work within BRICS and other multilateral formats," it said, adding that the Brazilian leader shared his impressions from his participation in the recent Group of Seven summit.

                The two presidents also discussed "current issues of Russian-Brazilian strategic partnership and expressed mutual interest in its further development and the expansion of practical cooperation in various fields," the Kremlin said.

                "The conversation had a constructive and substantive character," it added.

                              BRICS considering expansion as emerging economies rally to join group (БРИКС рассматривает возможность расширения по мере того, как страны с развивающейся экономикой сплачиваются, чтобы присоединиться к группе) / Japan, May, 2023
                              Keywords: brics+, economic_challenges, expert_opinion

                              The foreign ministers of the BRICS group of major emerging economies will meet in South Africa on June 1-2 to discuss pressing geopolitical issues, including the bloc's first enlargement in over a decade as it seeks to position itself as a representative of the "Global South" and provide an alternative model to the Group of Seven.

                              At their summit in Cape Town, the top diplomats of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will discuss both the formal and informal membership applications of at least 20 countries and the modalities for future enlargement, Anil Sooklal, South Africa's ambassador to BRICS, said in an exclusive interview.

                              First proposed by China when it chaired the group last year, the planned expansion would increase representation from countries in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, with the list of interested nations including Egypt, Nigeria, Mexico, Iran, Indonesia, Turkey and others.

                              "This is positive news for the bloc, as it demonstrates the confidence of the Global South in the leadership of our group," Sooklal said, adding that efforts to boost trade in local currencies will also be part of the talks.

                              The term Global South refers to a loose grouping of roughly 100 nations, many of which are developing and not aligned with any major power.

                              Most of them, however, are still largely marginalized in terms of global decision-making, Sooklal said, which is why the BRICS is trying to create a "more inclusive" international order that "addresses the existing fault lines on the global, geopolitical, geoeconomic and financial architecture."

                              "What you're seeing here is that these countries want to have a greater say in the evolving global architecture," the ambassador said. "They would like to see a multipolar, multicultural and multicivilizational world that is not dominated by one or two hegemons, and where they have more independence and choices to determine what's in their best interest."

                              Indeed, Russia's invasion of Ukraine has made the BRICS more relevant, especially for countries in the Global South that want to resist the West's "autocracy-vs-democracy" narrative, said Ryan Berg, director of the Americas Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

                              For many of them, multilateral organizations that bring together countries of the Global South can offset the pressure to align with the United States or China on specific issues and preserve a small sphere of policy autonomy, he added.

                              It's important to note that most countries seeking to join the transregional BRICS are not G7 rivals and do not necessarily oppose the liberal international order but rather want to hedge their risks in an increasingly unpredictable geopolitical and geoeconomic landscape.

                              Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the BRICS summit in Brasilia in 2019. | REUTERS The growing engagement with various multilateral frameworks illustrates that power and national interest are rapidly diversifying in today's world, said Sebastian Maslow, a lecturer at Sendai Shirayuri Women's College.

                              If expanded, the BRICS grouping is expected to provide other emerging economies with a platform to advocate their interests and coordinate action, he said, noting that G7 members have recognized this competition over the Global South as shown in the participation of countries like India and Brazil at summits last year and recently in Hiroshima.

                              That said, it is unlikely that the addition of new members alone will enable BRICS to effectively counterbalance the U.S.-led international order or even challenge established international norms and principles, Maslow said. For this to happen, the grouping must first offer an alternative that would credibly undermine the benefits of the current order, he added.

                              But that is precisely what the group wants to achieve, particularly in terms of economic development, which is often the top priority among Global South countries.

                              BRICS countries have traditionally focused more on development issues than the G7. Experts say they also tend to be more flexible on governance mechanisms, which could spell different norms, rules, and practices when it comes to economics and finance.

                              Joe Sullivan, a former White House official now at The Lindsey Group, an economic advisory firm, said the main reason behind this focus is that Global South countries perceive the International Monetary Fund and World Bank as failing to give them a voice.

                              "For decades, these countries lacked a credible alternative to these Western economic institutions, but this has changed with the BRICS initiative," Sullivan said, pointing out that the planned expansion would give BRICS more leverage and credibility as an alternative to Western-led institutions.

                              "And with that credibility comes bargaining power," he added.

                              Some experts say these countries may be able to access financing with fewer restrictions through BRICS mechanisms, including the New Development Bank (NDB), than through the IMF or World Bank.

                              The BRICS group aims to provide these nations with a way to work more closely together on common economic and development issues, and less on political and security issues, said Stefanie Kam, a research fellow at the Singapore-based S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

                              This comes as Chinese capital, in particular, has emerged as a rising force shaping development in many of these countries, including in the extractive, infrastructure and trade sectors, Kam added.

                              Emerging economies are looking for alternative sources of capital amid concerns about the sustainability and reliability of the West's pivot to Asia, which some view as largely motivated by concerns over Beijing's growing international influence.

                              The BRICS members now make up the world's largest economic bloc by purchasing power parity (PPP), with the group recently overtaking the G7 with a 31.5% share of world GDP (PPP) compared to 30.7% for the latter, according to data published earlier this year by the U.K.-based economic research firm Acorn Macro Consulting.

                              And that gap, along with the economic influence of the BRICS, is expected to grow this year, especially if more countries join the latter. But to truly present themselves as an alternative economic development model, the group understands it must also reduce dependence on the world's top reserve currency: the U.S$..

                              As Berg explains, BRICS members are pushing for a non-dollar-denominated world because they believe that a world with multiple reserve currencies would give them more policy autonomy. New Delhi, for instance, already has agreements with at least 18 countries, including Russia, for settling payments in Indian rupees.

                              Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend a meeting during the BRICS summit in Brasilia in November 2019. | POOL / VIA REUTERS Countries such as Brazil and Argentina have signed currency swap deals with Beijing to allow them to conduct trade in Chinese yuan to reduce the cost of bilateral trade and limit their exposure to fluctuations in the value of the U.S. dollar.

                              Moreover, the NDB's chief, ex-Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, revealed in April that the bank is gradually moving away from the dollar, promising at least 30% of loans in the local currencies of member states.

                              "It's about financial independence and sovereignty," Sooklal said. "These countries want greater determination in terms of investments, trade and financing sources. They don't have to be straitjacketed into a certain currency or financial institution," he added.

                              But perhaps more importantly, BRICS members understand that the current dollar-based payment system leaves them vulnerable to U.S. sanctions. A good example of this is how Moscow and Beijing dramatically increased trading in local currencies not long after Russia was slapped with Western sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine.

                              Reducing dependence is also crucial for China, which finds itself in an intensifying geopolitical competition with Washington, as it would not only help internationalize the yuan but also limit the impact of U.S. sanctions on the world's second largest economy.

                              "Using another currency for transactions could work, and having more countries use that currency can help with its acceptance," said Ian Chong, a professor of political science at the National University of Singapore. That said, the stability of the currency over time is important in enabling it to work, he added.

                              Since its formation in 2006, the BRICS grouping has expanded only once, with the inclusion of South Africa in 2011.

                              The current members themselves seem to have different reasons for wanting to bring in new members. For instance, besides promoting the yuan, China could use an expanded BRICS forum to promote new global norms that underpin its own vision for a global order, including its Belt and Road initiative, Maslow said.

                              Russia could promote the group as a platform to show its own citizens and the world that Moscow is not isolated, despite Western sanctions, while India could use it to enhance its role as leader of the Global South and keep China in check through multilateral engagement, the expert added.

                              However, there are also big challenges ahead. While the planned enlargement would demonstrate BRICS' appeal, the move also risks diluting the benefits of membership.

                              The bloc's growing diversity in political and economic systems could also mean that consensus on key issues may be much more difficult to reach than in the exclusively democratic G7.

                              Both of these issues are likely to be discussed when the group's leaders meet in August for their annual summit.

                                            Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, May 24, 2023 (Брифинг официального представителя МИД России М.В.Захаровой, Москва, 24 мая 2023 года) / Russia, May, 2023
                                            Keywords: mofa, quotation

                                            Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's participation in the BRICS Foreign Ministers Meeting

                                            On June 1-2, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the BRICS Foreign Ministers Meeting in Cape Town, the Republic of South Africa.

                                            The event participants will discuss topical issues on the international agenda and cooperation at leading multilateral platforms. They will exchange opinions on the prospects for expanding the BRICS strategic partnership, including the institutional development of the association. There are plans to focus on preparations for the upcoming BRICS summit on August 23-24, 2023.

                                            Invited heads of foreign policy agencies from several developing countries will take part in a separate meeting under the auspices of the BRICS Foreign Ministers Council.

                                            Question: Ambassador-at-Large for Asia and BRICS at the South African Foreign Ministry Anil Sooklal said 30 countries had applied to join BRICS. How long will it take BRICS to review these applications? When will BRICS decide on accepting new members?

                                            Maria Zakharova: It is too early to say how long it will take to review all applications. In accordance with the leaders' instructions, work is underway in BRICS to coordinate the expansion process modalities. After a consensus is reached on all variables and an appropriate decision is made at the BRICS summit, it will be possible to start reviewing specific applications. Then, we can return to your question. We still have to go through the preparatory phase.

                                            This process takes time and painstaking work. It would not make much sense to give any dates at this point. It will be a far-fetched assumption. We are talking about decisions that will largely determine the association's future. Much work remains to be done.

                                            Having said that, I would like to make it clear that we welcome the South African Chairmanship's commitment to achieving progress in discussing BRICS enlargement. I hope this issue will have been properly reviewed by the BRICS summit in Johannesburg on August 22-24, 2023. In any case, it is on the agenda of the upcoming meeting of the BRICS foreign ministers in Cape Town on June 1-2.

                                                          South Africa trip notes: BRICS+ takes on greater prominence (Заметки о поездке в Южную Африку: БРИКС+ становится все более популярным) / Russia, May, 2023
                                                          Keywords: brics+, expert_opinion
                                                          Author: Yaroslav Lissovolik


                                                          In mid-May South Africa hosted the BRICS Academic Forum in Cape Town, where discussions focused on the most pressing issues on the BRICS agenda such as the modalities of BRICS-Africa cooperation, including through the advancement of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Perhaps the key message that came from the Forum was the call for collective action and cooperation not only among the BRICS economies but also with the wider BRICS+ space of the Global South. In particular, regarding the attainment of SDGs commitment to multilateralism was termed as being crucial, with South African representatives calling for building a "developmental trajectory with a human face" in which "no small country is left behind". Clearly the BRICS+ framework within the BRICS academic discussions is taking on greater prominence, with the participants of the Forum calling for more academic work to be undertaken on the modalities of BRICS+ going forward.

                                                          With respect to the possibilities for BRICS contribution to the success of Africa's flagship project, the creation of the AfCFTA, participants noted the criticality of greater investment and technical assistance to come from BRICS to African countries. But perhaps the most important contribution that BRICS could deliver to AfCFTA's success is via providing greater market access by lowering import duties and non-tariff barriers on African exports. There is tremendous scope for a coordinated reduction in trade barriers on the part of BRICS with respect to Africa as some of the BRICS economies still have average import tariffs on agricultural goods in excess of 35%. This creates scope for trade liberalization that vis-à-vis Africa could be far more significant than in the case of Western economies where import tariffs are significantly lower. Greater market access is a key competitive edge that BRICS can wield via-a-vis Africa compared to the developed economies – to a far greater degree than in areas such as technical assistance, where leading Western economies and Bretton Woods institutions arguably still have a significant edge.

                                                          What is even more important, most BRICS economies currently conduct their trade policy via their priority regional integration arrangements – Russia via the Eurasian Economic Union, South Africa via SACU, SADC and AfCFTA, Brazil via MERCOSUR. What this means is that coordination of market liberalization from BRICS to Africa will necessitate the use of a BRICS+ format in which AfCFTA cooperates in the same inter-regional platform with the respective BRICS regional integration arrangements such as MERCOSUR, Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and others. This in turn implies that greater trade liberalization vis-à-vis Africa will come not only from the BRICS core members, but also their regional partners in the respective trade arrangements. The platform that brings together the main regional integration arrangements of the Global South denoted as BEAMS would provide for the possibility of market openness from dozens of members of these respective regional blocks – BIMSTEC, EAEU, AfCFTA, MERCOSUR, SCO. This is the "multiplier effect" of BRICS+ in terms of trade liberalization that can be prioritized vis-à-vis African economies.

                                                          Greater market access coming from BRICS to Africa will go a long way to correcting the current trade imbalances in the world economy, whereby there is lower than potential South-South trade (including among South-South regional partners) compared to the trade conducted by developing economies with the West. The BRICS+ multiplier in the BRICS-Africa trade liberalization could also serve as an important stepping stone to the formation of a free trade area across the Global South. Finally, greater market access coming from BRICS to Africa could be a powerful trigger to boosting not just trade and investment, but also the use of national currencies.

                                                          The theme of the use of national currencies and the possibility of the formation of a common BRICS currency was discussed at the Forum, but in light of how topical these issues are now in the context of the upcoming BRICS summit discussions this year, there could have been greater focus on these crucial themes. In the context of the emphasis placed by South African representatives on the creation of a diversified financial system for attaining greater sustainability in economic development, I argued in my presentation that de-dollarization and the creation of a common BRICS currency could be among the measures that could prove conducive towards a more stable and diversified financial system across the Global South.

                                                          Another possible measure in this respect could be the formation of a platform for the largest commercial banks of the BRICS countries that would complement the platform for national development banks that currently exists under the aegis of the BRICS New Development Bank. Such a platform for the leading commercial banks could bring together the Bank of China, State Bank of India, Sberbank, Banco do Brasil, and Standard bank. Such a platform could promote the financial presence of BRICS countries' commercial banks in the respective BRICS financial markets as in most cases it is primarily the Chinese banks that have a greater presence in the markets of the Global South – in the case of Sberbank for example after extended periods of painful soul-searching in Europe and experimenting with Agile organizational structures it is yet to become agile in emerging markets and launch its commercial presence in either China or the majority of other BRICS markets.

                                                          With respect to the financial sector a key concern raised in the Forum was the issue of capital outflows from developing economies – something that is part of the problem (referred to as the Lucas paradox) of net capital flows being directed from the developing to the developed world rather than the other way around: it is the faster growing developing economies that should be getting the capital flows from the advanced countries. My view is that these concerns could be addressed via the strengthening of BRICS CRA and expanding its mandate to strengthen the macroeconomic framework in the Global South. This could be further buttressed via forming a platform for regional financing arrangements (RFAs) in which BRICS countries are members. BRICS CRA could perform a coordinating role for these RFAs in mobilizing resources for ensuring macroeconomic stability in the developing world. De-dollarization, greater use of national currencies and deeper BRICS financial markets may also be among the elements of resolving the Lucas paradox.

                                                          There may be other platforms in the BRICS+ financial space directed at the attainment of SDGs such as a platform for the regional development banks in which BRICS countries are members. Such a platform could bring together the Eurasian Development Bank, CAF, FOCEM, SDF, other regional development institutions as well as the BRICS New Development Bank as a coordinator of such an alliance of BRICS+ development banks/funds. Such a platform could mobilize resources that are sizeable enough to conduct key development projects across the Global South – according to the IMF, the resources of the regional development institutions in the global economy are greater than those of the IMF and the World Bank.

                                                          In the end, however, the undertakings by BRICS might not succeed if there is no ownership of the developmental goals of BRICS and more broadly the BRICS+ economies. In this respect, it is important for the consolidated voice of the Global South to be heard across the world on key international issues, including on the priorities of economic development. The opinion polls that make it into the media space are predominantly from the developed economies – perhaps there could be scope to create a network of BRICS+ leading polling agencies that would provide the views of the population in the developing countries separately or on a consolidated basis. Such a network may be denoted as "BRICS Pulse" and could make the voice of the Global South community heard globally; it could also serve as an important benchmark for policy-makers in the BRICS+ economies. At this crucial juncture in global development BRICS+ needs a more rhythmic and faster pulse that is heard from all over the vast expanses of the Global South!

                                                                        Russia supports fostering partnership in BRICS — top security official (Россия выступает за развитие партнерства в БРИКС / Russia, May, 2023
                                                                        Keywords: national_security, quotation

                                                                        Nikolay Patrushev assured that Russia highly appreciates the achieved level and nature of relations within the alliance

                                                                        MOSCOW, May 24. /TASS/. Moscow is ready to continue developing comprehensive cooperation in BRICS, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev said at a meeting with his colleagues in the alliance on Wednesday.

                                                                        "We support the further promotion of the strategic partnership in the 'group of five' on all key directions," he said.

                                                                        Patrushev assured that Russia highly appreciates the achieved level and nature of relations within the alliance. He noted that they fully comply with the interests of all five countries.

                                                                        "We welcome the successful start of the South African chairmanship in BRICS," he added. "We are ready to provide comprehensive support to our South African partners," the top security official concluded.

                                                                        BRICS member states include Russia, Brazil, China, India and South Africa.

                                                                                      Brazil's top diplomat says G7 giving way to G20, BRICS (Главный дипломат Бразилии заявил, что G7 уступает место G20, БРИКС) / Russia, May, 2023
                                                                                      Keywords: quotation, global_governance

                                                                                      The Group of Seven (G7) is losing its influence, giving way to the Group of Twenty (G20) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira (photo) said.

                                                                                      "Although the BRICS informal group has neither a charter or a permanent secretariat, it is a cornerstone of international cooperation. Today, it's simply impossible to talk about international cooperation or negotiations that would not take the G20 and BRICS into account.

                                                                                      "30 countries have applied to join the BRICS, they arrive almost weekly," – Bloomberg quotes Ambassador-at-Large Anil Suklal.

                                                                                      Now they want to join BRICS:

                                                                                      — Algiers,
                                                                                      — Argentina,
                                                                                      — Afghanistan,
                                                                                      — Bangladesh,
                                                                                      — Bahrain,
                                                                                      — Belarus,
                                                                                      — Venezuela,
                                                                                      — Egypt,
                                                                                      — Zimbabwe,
                                                                                      — Indonesia,
                                                                                      — Iran,
                                                                                      — Kazakhstan,
                                                                                      — Mexico,
                                                                                      — Nigeria,
                                                                                      — Nicaragua,
                                                                                      — UAE,
                                                                                      — Pakistan,
                                                                                      — Saudi Arabia,
                                                                                      — Senegal,
                                                                                      — Syria,
                                                                                      — Sudan,
                                                                                      — Thailand,
                                                                                      — Tunisia,
                                                                                      — Türkiye,
                                                                                      — Uruguay.

                                                                                                    Investment and Finance
                                                                                                    Investment and finance in BRICS
                                                                                                    Brazil views BRICS bank as alternative to traditional financial institutions — president (Бразилия рассматривает банк БРИКС как альтернативу традиционным финансовым институтам — президент) / Russia, May, 2023
                                                                                                    Keywords: NDB

                                                                                                    In his opinion, traditional international financial and banking institutions ignore the needs of developing nations and are not suitable for them, because many of those countries are being "strangled by overwhelming debt burdens"

                                                                                                    RIO DE JANEIRO, May 26. /TASS/. The government of Brazil views the New Development Bank of the BRICS group of nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) as a promising alternative to traditional financial institutions, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has said.

                                                                                                    "We want the BRICS bank to strengthen as an alternative financial [instrument], and we will reinforce our cooperation with the African Development Bank," he said at a meeting with ambassadors from African countries.

                                                                                                    In his opinion, traditional international financial and banking institutions ignore the needs of developing nations and are not suitable for them, because many of those countries are being "strangled by overwhelming debt burdens."

                                                                                                    The agreement on establishing the BRICS New Development Bank was reached on July 15, 2014 in Brazil's Fortaleza. The bank's starting capital was set at $100 bln. The Shanghai-headquartered bank has been set up to finance infrastructure projects and projects for sustainable development of BRICS and other developing countries. The bank previously received international credit ratings of "AA +" from Fitch Ratings and S&P Global Ratings, which allow it to effectively attract long-term funding in international and local capital markets. Over the years, the bank has approved almost 100 projects totaling $32.8 billion in support of such areas as transport, water supply, clean energy, digital and social infrastructure, and urban construction.

                                                                                                    In 2021, the bank approved the accession of Bangladesh, Egypt, UAE and Uruguay.

                                                                                                                  Could BRICS Rescue Argentina's Economy? (Может ли БРИКС спасти экономику Аргентины?) / Qatar, May, 2023
                                                                                                                  Keywords: economic_challenges, expert_opinion

                                                                                                                  By Jacob Sugarman

                                                                                                                  Patricia Bullrich is working the crowd. Speaking to representatives of more than 600 companies at the 2023 AmCham Summit in Buenos Aires, the former left-wing rebel fighter and current right-wing presidential hopeful acknowledges that she would be merely an electoral "option" during more stable times.

                                                                                                                  But these are not stable times in Argentina — not with the inflation rate topping 100 percent and poverty hovering close to 40 percent.

                                                                                                                  In Bullrich's telling, her "character and determination" could be the salvation for a country grappling with a $44.5bn debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a once-in-a-century drought that has halved its output of soy and wheat. Under these circumstances, would a Bullrich administration embrace membership in BRICS — an alliance that's an acronym for US adversaries Russia and China, along with Brazil, India and South Africa?

                                                                                                                  "We're not going to BRICS," she says during a Q&A at the summit, adding that her geopolitical allies would be the "democracies" of the United States, Western Europe and Israel.

                                                                                                                  Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, another leading candidate for president from the same centre-right Juntos por el Cambio (Together for Change) coalition, made similar comments to the AmCham crowd this month but said he would be willing to trade with any nation, including those in BRICS.

                                                                                                                  Still, whoever prevails in this October's presidential election may not have the luxury of pursuing their political convictions in an increasingly multipolar world.

                                                                                                                  Argentina is facing its worst economic crisis since the depression of 1998 to 2002, when unemployment climbed above 20 percent and more than half of the population slid below the poverty line. President Alberto Fernandez of the centre-left Frente de Todos (Everyone's Front) coalition has already announced that he will not seek a second term, while his vice president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has declined to run following a controversial fraud conviction.

                                                                                                                  Last June, in a video conference with BRICS representatives and heads of state, Fernandez requested full membership in the group on behalf of Argentina. More recently, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pledged to help "remove [the IMF's] knife from Argentina's neck".

                                                                                                                  Whether the South American nation will ultimately join BRICS remains an open question, although it is unlikely before the October election. There is also no guarantee that membership would move the needle. What is clear, however, is that Argentina could use all the help it can get.

                                                                                                                  "When you're in the opposition, you're free to say whatever you want," Vicky Murillo, director of the Institute of Latin American Studies at Columbia University in New York City, told Al Jazeera. "But if either coalition wins, the next government will have to pay close attention to Brazil and China. Those relationships are too important to make ideological distinctions."

                                                                                                                  Emerging markets

                                                                                                                  Coined by a Goldman Sachs analyst in 2001, BRICS (then BRIC) is an acronym used to describe some of the largest emerging markets in the world. The countries held their first diplomatic summit in Yekaterinburg, Russia, in 2009, and the nascent bloc added South Africa the following year.

                                                                                                                  Representing more than 40 percent of the world's population, BRICS was conceived as a counterweight to the G7 countries that have long dominated the global economy and its financial institutions. To that end, the bloc established the New Development Bank during its sixth annual summit in Fortaleza, Brazil, in 2014.

                                                                                                                  "The founding logic of the New Development Bank is to have an alternative financing mechanism that emphasises the needs of developing countries rather than those of wealthy nations," said Andres Arauz, a senior research fellow at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC, and a former Ecuadorian minister of knowledge.

                                                                                                                  "Although its goals are ambitious, the NDB only has around $12bn that it can distribute to member countries," he told Al Jazeera. "But the BRICS nations themselves have trillions of dollars in reserves and a lot of liquidity available to help Argentina refinance its debts."

                                                                                                                  To understand why Argentina has pursued a closer relationship with BRICS, one need look no further than its most recent loan from the IMF. In 2018, the fund provided a record $57bn to the right-wing administration of then-President Mauricio Macri.

                                                                                                                  But rather than rebuilding Argentina's crumbling infrastructure, that money was largely used to finance capital flight — a violation of the IMF's bylaws. The economy stalled, inflation soared to more than 50 percent in 2019, and voters ended Macri's presidency after a single term. His successor, Alberto Fernandez, cancelled the final tranche of the loan, but his administration has failed to staunch the bleeding.

                                                                                                                  The COVID-19 pandemic, a costly war in Ukraine and this year's historic drought have all served to boost the election prospects of the Juntos por el Cambio candidates, as well as those of La Libertad Avanza's (Freedom Advances) Javier Milei — a political outsider who has proposed dollarising the Argentinian economy.

                                                                                                                  "BRICS has the capacity to redefine Argentina's relationship with debt," Julio Gambina, an economist and professor at the National University of Rosario in Argentina, told Al Jazeera. "Its investments could allow the country to build a community economy that prioritises the needs of people and families rather than transnational companies. But this is still a theoretical."

                                                                                                                  Hampering Argentina's potential entry to BRICS is its history of joining and later departing international alliances, said Juan Gabriel Tokatlian, a professor of international relations at Torcuato Di Tella University in Buenos Aires.

                                                                                                                  In 1973, Argentina joined the Non-Aligned Movement — a coalition of countries that stood opposed to Cold War-era polarisation and promoted the interests of the developing world — only to exit the group in 1991. And it was a member of the Union of South American Nations before withdrawing in 2019.

                                                                                                                  "If Argentina were to gain entrance to BRICS only to drop out because an entering government has a different political orientation, that would be very costly," Tokatlian told Al Jazeera. "At the same time, the BRICS countries want to be certain that new entrants to the bloc will remain. So they're making their own strategic calculations."

                                                                                                                  Al Jazeera

                                                                                                                                AfCFTA plays key role in solving transport inefficiencies (AfCFTA играет ключевую роль в решении проблемы транспортной неэффективности) / South Africa, May, 2023
                                                                                                                                Keywords: economic_challenges
                                                                                                                                South Africa

                                                                                                                                The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is vital to solving transport inefficiencies in the continent, delegates at a webinar hosted by the Institute of Marketing Management (IMM) Graduate School of Marketing's Research Hub on Africa Day heard yesterday.

                                                                                                                                The webinar examined the opportunities for business arising from the AfCFTA and South Africa's hosting of the 15th BRICS Summit in August.

                                                                                                                                For South African businesses to fully take advantage of the opportunities provided by, being part of BRICS and, several infrastructure challenges had to be overcome, Elvin Harris, the chairperson of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (South Africa) said yesterday.

                                                                                                                                Harris said in many cases it was cheaper and easier for African businesses to trade with Asian and European businesses than with African businesses.

                                                                                                                                A study by the South African Development Community (SADC) secretariat estimated that transport inefficiencies cost African economies $170 billion (R3.3 trillion) annually.
                                                                                                                                The study said the lack of harmonisation of standards and regulations was hampering efficient transport flows, which is why the AfCTA was implemented to boost inter-Africa trade.

                                                                                                                                Industrial Development Corporation Robert Higgs said engagement between African and BRICS militaries could boost cooperation as these militaries had a similar mindset and were pragmatic rather than constrained by ideology.

                                                                                                                                "Defence diplomacy should be viewed as part of the solution. To give a practical example, I was part of the team that went with the South African frigate SAS Spioenkop to China in 2008. This was the first time an African naval ship had been to China and helped to change Chinese perceptions of Africa. It may also have helped to spur the BRIC into admitting South Africa to the BRICS," Higgs said.

                                                                                                                                Busi Mabuza, the chair of the BRICS Business Council, said economic relationships should not be weaponised, but rather be an avenue for dialogue and engagement.

                                                                                                                                In that respect the BRICS New Development Bank could provide funding to address the constraints of electricity generation and transmission.

                                                                                                                                Helen McIntee, the president of the African Marketing Confederation, said as we celebrated Africa Day (May 25) one should rejoice in the diversity that Africa offered.

                                                                                                                                "Culture is the new currency, and it is up to us marketers to ensure that the message of African unity gets through. In Nigeria for instance, a recent survey showed that 60% of businesses there did not know about the African Free Trade Area," she said.

                                                                                                                                Dr Petrus de Kock from IMM, said the movement of the world from fossil fuels to renewables provided an opportunity for African businesses as many of the minerals needed for a green economy, such as cobalt, copper and lithium, were located in African countries.

                                                                                                                                The importance of the BRICS engagement with Africa was underlined by South Africa making "Unlocking opportunities through the African Continental Free Trade Area" as one of the five key initiatives to be discussed at the BRICS Summit. 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.
                                                                                                                                              VEB CEO urges to speed up creation of financial infrastructure across SCO (Глава ВЭБа призвал ускорить создание финансовой инфраструктуры ШОС) / Russia, May, 2023
                                                                                                                                              Keywords: economic_challenges

                                                                                                                                              It is noted that the deepening of trade and economic cooperation is hardly possible without the creation of a brand new payment infrastructure

                                                                                                                                              SHANGHAI, May 23. /TASS/. Russia and China should speed up the creation of an efficient system of payments in rubles, yuan and the currencies of SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) and BRICS member states, CEO of the Russian state development corporation VEB.RF Igor Shuvalov said on Tuesday.

                                                                                                                                              The expansion of the use of national currencies will allow increasing trade turnover between those nations, according to Shuvalov.

                                                                                                                                              "Trade, as well as trade and economic cooperation overall, between the Russian Federation and China will only rise and expand. And we together with CDB, China Development Bank, will deepen our cooperation, the coordination of our actions on this path," he said at a Russian-Chinese Business Forum in Shanghai, adding that such efforts could be made through VEB, CDB and other financial institutions of the SCO and BRICS.

                                                                                                                                              The deepening of trade and economic cooperation is hardly possible without the creation of a brand new payment infrastructure, Shuvalov noted. "The creation of cutting-edge infrastructure is our economies' debt. We urge the government of the Russian Federation and our Chinese partners to act as actively as possible. An independent and efficient infrastructure of payments is necessary not only for ensuring the 'ruble/yuan' pair, but also for carrying out the most serious transactions in SCO and BRICS currencies," he stressed.

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