Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 23.2023
2023.06.05 — 2023.06.11
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
What are the potential alternatives to BRICS+? (Каковы потенциальные альтернативы БРИКС+?) / Russia, June, 2023
Keywords: brics+

The discussions on the creation of platforms such as BRICS+ that would bring together some of the regional integration blocks of the BRICS economies into a common platform of "integration of integrations" have progressed slowly at best. At this stage, most of the BRICS members have not yet outlined clearly their vision of what BRICS+ should represent as a concept despite numerous academic articles on this subject written in the past 5-6 years. At the same time, the process of closer cooperation among the regional integration arrangements has been revitalized recently, with MERCOSUR and the EU looking to boost their bilateral ties as well as cooperation with other regional blocks. There may hence be reasons to expect platforms of the "integration of integrations" that are alternative to BRICS+ to emerge in the coming years as the forces of regionalism are gaining momentum in the global economy.

As has been argued in the preceding years (Y. Lissovolik. A post-pandemic revival for regionalism: the role of the EU, 2020) one of the potential scenarios in the sphere of building a platform for regional integration blocks could be an EU-led effort that would bring together the largest regional integration arrangements that have cooperated extensively with the European Union. Such regional integration blocks from the Global South include the likes of MERCOSUR as well as GCC and ASEAN – the name for such a block could be MEGA on the basis of the first letters of the participating regional groupings. Such a North-South platform for the leading regional projects from the developed and the developing world could build on the already extensive advancements made by the EU in pursuing various cooperation initiatives with other regional blocks in areas such as green transition and digital development. One of the key near term "integration of integrations" in this EU-led track could be the EU-MERCOSUR FTA that has been revitalized after the coming of Lula to power in Brazil.

Another possible route is for the leading Global South regional arrangements to build their own platform that would composed of those regional arrangements that have been most active in building bridges with other regional integration blocks. These regional arrangements include the GCC, the African Union, MERCOSUR and ASEAN – the resulting GAMA platform brings together leading regional integration projects from all of the main regions of the Global South – Latin America, Africa and Asia. This platform could focus on delivering greater openness and trade concessions to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in view of the significant import duties still in force in the majority of the economies forming such a platform, particularly in Latin America and in the Middle East.

Another South-South platform of "integration of integrations" could be based on the IBSA grouping that is formed by India, Brazil and South Africa. Regional integration blocks from these economies, namely BIMSTEC, MERCOSUR and the African Union/AfCFTA could join forces with ASEAN to create an AMBA platform that apart from greater openness could also advance principles of neutrality/"non-alignment".

Finally, there is the possibility to create a platform of regional arrangements led by the BRICS economies. In the past decade the outreach activities of BRICS economies at the annual BRICS summits involved the participation of BIMSTEC from India, Eurasian Economic Union from Russia, African Union from South Africa, MERCOSUR from Brazil and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) from China/Russia. The BEAMS grouping that brings together all these regional blocks from BRICS "outreach portfolio" could advance BRICS initiatives along a wider BRICS+ circuit that involves the regional partners of BRICS core members. Such a platform could focus on such BRICS issues as the use of national currencies and payment systems, digital cooperation as well as trade liberalization. The platform could involve a BEAMS+ outreach to other regional blocks from the Global South, including ASEAN and GCC. Within the BRICS+ framework there may be a number of variations of the BEAMS approach, with the "integration of integrations" focused on trade liberalization bringing together the likes of BIMSTEC, EAEU, ASEAN-China FTA, AfCFTA, and MERCOSUR.

The main question at this stage is why none of the above platforms have been formed thus far. In the case of an EU-led scenario this may be due to the proclivity of the EU to proceed along the "integration of integrations" path on a bilateral basis, while retaining the leadership role in the regional realm in the Western world and globally. With respect to the AMBA and the BRICS+ routes there may be issues related to the lack of institutionalized/advanced South-South integration projects coming from India and China. Perhaps at this juncture the most likely platform to materialize in the coming years may be the GAMA grouping that brings together the most advanced and institutionally functional integration arrangements from the Global South.

Despite the slow start, the creation of platforms of regional integration blocks will increasingly become a key factor in the evolving competition between the advanced economies, the BRICS and the non-aligned economies. Of course, the possibility set of integration arrangements from within the vanguard of global regionalism may present many more formats for regional strategic alliances. Going forward there could be much more scope for the creation of North-South platforms as well as for the US and China to become more active in building not only bilateral but also regional alliance platforms. But what is clear is that whichever platform of "integration of integrations" comes first will exercise strong "first-mover advantages" in the emerging new global governance construct.

                Blinken Is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong About Everything in Helsinki (Блинкен ошибается, ошибается, ошибается во всем в Хельсинки) / Russia, June, 2023
                Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues

                In welcoming Finland to NATO during a visit to Helsinki on June 2, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave a speech which confirms what a growing number of world leaders believe: His arrogance is matched only by his delusions. The latest in a line of geopoliticians from the Brzezinski school, Blinken seems to believe that those he is addressing have no idea of history, nor of the hypocrisy he displays with virtually every utterance. He is seen as a true believer in a product no one wants, a "Rules-Based Order" (RBO), the rules which have no universal basis, and serve to benefit only Mr. Blinken and those in the "Military-Industrial Complex" who send him out to peddle it.

                Ivan Timofeev:
                Ending Western Domination Is Key to the Emerging World Order. Here's What Needs to Be Done to Achieve It
                The main thread of his Helsinki performance, that Putin and Russia are failing, makes clear both how foolish, and dangerous, he and his NATO allies are, in their efforts to turn NATO's war against Russia into a permanent war, while pushing NATO's "eastward expansion" to the Pacific, to create a second front against China.

                Blinken spoke glowingly of the "strategic failure" of Putin's "aggression" against Ukraine. "When you look at President Putin's long-term strategic aims and objectives, there is no question: Russia is significantly worse off today than it was before its full-scale invasion of Ukraine—militarily, economically, geopolitically" he cluelessly asserted. "Where Putin aimed to project strength, he's revealed weakness. Where he sought to divide, he unified. What he tried to prevent, he precipitated."

                Serious military and intelligence officials have to wonder if he truly believes such nonsense. The general consensus of Pentagon officials, when speaking off the record, as shown in the recent publication of leaked classified documents, is that there is no way Ukraine and NATO can "win" the military confrontation against Russia, and the best-case scenario they can project is tying down Russia in an endless conflict—which happens to be the stated aim of the U.S. Defense Secretary from Raytheon, Lloyd Austin. New economic reports show, however, that what they hoped would be a war of attrition that would wear down the Russian economy, has actually had the opposite effect, of making Russia stronger, while backfiring against the submissive governments of Europe.

                As for Blinken and his NATO allies isolating Russia, again, the opposite has occurred. With the exception of the NATO alliance and its partners in Global NATO from the Five Eyes and Japan, most of the world has rejected supporting sanctions against Russia, and instead is moving away from the collapsing financial system based on the dollar, run by Wall Street and City of London Malthusians. Blinken knows this first-hand, from the lecture he was given by South Africa's Foreign Minister, Naledi Pandor, who responded to his lecture about defense of the RBO by reminding him that South Africa "is a sovereign nation", and he should not come there and think he can bully them to drink his "democracy" snake oil!

                Andrey Kortunov:
                US Foreign Policy Is Advanced Smartphone with Weak Battery
                In fact, in the last months, there has been a near-stampede among nations of the Global South applying for membership in BRICS, knowing full well of Blinken's open hostility against Russia and China as the two leading partners of BRICS. The support for BRICS has turned what some call the "Global South" into what Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is calling the "Global Majority."

                As for Blinken's claim that the U.S. is committed to peace, one can read the article from January 2019 that he co-authored with a neocon war hawk, Robert Kagen, the husband of Victoria Nuland. Published by the Brookings Institute, he defended his call for a robust support for regime change in Syria by arguing that "force can be a necessary adjunct to effective diplomacy." Leaders of nations making up the Global Majority, who live outside the censorship/media bubble of the West, know that what Blinken was referring to was his support for arming and training Al Qaeda and ISIS to overthrow Assad, just a perfect example of the RBO in practice.

                              Meeting of BRICS Foreign Ministers in Cape Town: gauging the trends ahead of the summit (Встреча министров иностранных дел стран БРИКС в Кейптауне: оценка тенденций накануне саммита) / Russia, June, 2023
                              Keywords: foreign_ministers_meeting, expert_opinion

                              The meetings of BRICS foreign ministers in Cape Town on June 1-2 were awaited with notable impatience by the global community as several themes in BRICS development were very much in the spotlight throughout this year. One theme was the process of de-dollarization of BRICS economies and the possible creation of a BRICS common currency. Another theme was the discussion on the possible expansion in the BRICS core membership as nearly 20 developing economies have indicated their intention to join the block. Perhaps for the first time in more than a decade these issues made it into the Western mainstream media as the potential implications of BRICS decisions on the common currency and membership could have a major effect on the evolution of the global economic system.

                              As regards the issue of the creation of a new currency, the BRICS Foreign Ministers placed the emphasis on the use of national currencies in mutual settlements. The cautious approach of BRICS to the issue of the common currency thus far may be due to the need to consider all possible modalities of such a currency, including whether it is to be used as a means of mutual settlements, an accounting unit or as a reserve currency. At the same time, it does appear that the New Development Bank (NDB) was charged with producing a blueprint of how the common BRICS currency could be created and used in mutual transactions. Fundamentally, it appears that all BRICS economies see de-dollarization and the creation of alternative settlement instruments as expedient – the question is what are the common BRICS initiatives in this area that would be seen as optimal by all core members. There may be more substantive discussions on the BRICS common currency at the August summit, with further progress made in 2024 during Russia's BRICS chairmanship.

                              With respect to the issue of the block's expansion the BRICS Foreign Ministers have indicated that work is still ongoing on defining the criteria for new members. No concrete "priority candidates" were singled out. The gradualism in the expansion process is warranted as there may be risks associated with the expansion in the ranks of the BRICS core – the decision-making process is likely to get more complicated at a time when BRICS are set to make crucial decisions with sizeable long-term implications not only with respect to BRICS own future but also for the global economy. In the end BRICS members may come to the conclusion that expanding the BRICS core is problematic and that other formats such as the BRICS+/BRICS++ or a permanent "circle of friends" that participate in the BRICS summits may be preferable. In this respect, it is important to look at the modalities of BRICS meetings with the so-called "Friends of BRICS" that were held during the second day of meetings on June 2.

                              The meetings of the "Friends of BRICS" featured such economies as Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros, Gabon, Kazakhstan as well as Egypt, Argentina, Bangladesh, Guinea-Bissau and Indonesia. Some of these countries were invited from within the group of those that had earlier applied to join the BRICS block, while others featured as representatives of the respective regions and regional associations of the Global South. To some degree the composition of the countries invited into the "Friends of BRICS" circle may offer insights into the format of the BRICS+ meetings at the summit in August later this year.

                              Overall, South Africa is sustaining the impulse towards greater BRICS openness after the BRICS+ meetings last year during China's chairmanship. And while a full-fledged admission of new members into the BRICS core appears unlikely in the very near term, there may be further advancements made by BRICS in developing the BRICS+ format and setting the stage for a greater cooperation of BRICS with other developing economies and regional integration blocks. As regards de-dollarization and the creation of a new BRICS currency, the most important development is that these issues are now squarely part of the BRICS agenda, which raises the prospects of material changes on this front in the coming years.

                                            BRICS Is Evolving from China-Russia Dream to Potential U.S. Nightmare / Tom O'Connor (БРИКС превращается из китайско-российской мечты в потенциальный кошмар США / Том О'Коннор) / United States, June, 2023
                                            Keywords: expert_opinion, global_governance
                                            United States

                                            Global interest among nations seeking to join the BRICS economic bloc led by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa is demonstrating its growing influence as a new geopolitical force with the potential to challenge the largely Western-led financial system.

                                            As the group prepares to hold a fateful conference this summer, transformations long in store for the international order are beginning to take effect.

                                            "The main drivers are to do with an overall belief that the United States has become both unreliable and overbearing in its foreign policy," said Chris Devonshire-Ellis, chairman of the Dezan Shira & Associates business firm dedicated to doing business across Asia.

                                            "Unreliability such as issues concerning the recent U.S. debt ceiling—which has only been pushed back to 2025—and the risks of sanctions," Devonshire-Ellis told Newsweek. "Overbearing in that it has used international mechanisms to punish countries it doesn't agree with (cutting countries off SWIFT) and has appeared to use the G7 as an economic 'gang' to support and justify what it does elsewhere."
                                            The debt ceiling crisis forced President Joe Biden to cut his Asia trip short after his appearance at the G7 meeting late last month in Hiroshima alongside the leaders of Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.

                                            And while the influential group sought to showcase a united front, another meeting held by leading diplomats of the five core BRICS members last weekend in South Africa also generated global interest.

                                            "Other countries are starting to become concerned at this type of behavior: unsustainable debt levels and the imposition of a 'rules based order' and global economics that only appear to service the U.S. and its immediate allies—at the expense of everybody else," Devonshire-Ellis said.

                                            "Simply put," he added, "numerous global leaders from Africa, Latin America, Central Asia and the Middle East, as well as China and Russia, have stopped believing in the United States as a responsible global leader."

                                            BRICS, which began as "BRIC" before South Africa's inclusion as a term for emerging economies coined by then-Goldman Sach's economist Jim O'Neill in 2001, held its debut summit in 2009. But it has generated a sharp uptick in interest over the past year since China hosted a "BRICS+" meeting that drew 19 heads of state last June.

                                            In the leadup to the recent BRICS ministerial in Cape Town, South Africa's Ambassador-at-Large to BRICS Anil Sooklal told Newsweek that more than 20 countries have applied to join or expressed interest in becoming members of BRICS as it plans to debate expansion at the upcoming August leaders' summit set to be held in Durban.

                                            Sooklal emphasized at the time that BRICS did not seek confrontation against any other blocs, including the G7, but rather sought cooperation in creating a more equitable and inclusive international architecture.

                                            Irina Yarygina, head of the Economics and Banking Business Department at the Moscow Institute of Foreign Relations (MGIMO), echoed a number of these points.

                                            "Actually, globalization has reached a new stage of its development associated with the formation of difference alliances," Yarygina told Newsweek, "whose members share the main principles of interaction (mutual respect and equality) within the framework of reaching definite economic and social problems in the interest of their nations."

                                            "One of such a kind of intergovernmental alliance is BRICS," she added, "whose member countries do not seek to dominate, but are interested in constructive relations, ensuring secure well-being."

                                            Yarygina noted that the BRICS agenda encompasses an ambitious range of issues on which multilateral cooperation is sought, including security issues, post-pandemic recovery, technology sharing, sustainable development and people-to-people exchanges.

                                            "It is important for everyone to recognize the multipolarity of the world as a new process of globalization," she said, "and strive for compromises within the framework of creation of a better future for mankind."

                                            At the heart of BRICS, however, is an effort to diversify market access away from the domination of the U.S. dollar, by far the world's largest reserve currency, as well as U.S.-led financial networks subject to tools such as sanctions.

                                            "Investment cooperation, along with other areas, is designed to strengthen balanced and inclusive economic growth and increase the level of the international competitiveness of BRICS economies," Yarygina said. "We consider these principles to be attractive to developing countries, and highly appreciate their intention to join BRICS economic and financial platform."

                                            Leading this effort is BRICS' Shanghai-based New Development Bank (NDB), which has already expanded to include Bangladesh, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates as partners.

                                            Cobus van Staden, a senior researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs, told Newsweek that "the interest among developing countries to join the NBD is driven by dual dynamics."

                                            "First, there is a lack of development financing options open to the Global South, particularly for concessional financing aimed at infrastructure development," van Staden said. "This reality has significantly contributed to the current debt crisis in the Global South, because lack of concessional options forces countries towards market-rated lending. So, the NDB opens another set of options for these countries, in addition to traditional development finance sources like the World Bank."

                                            "Second, a smaller subset of developing countries has complicated relationships with Western powers, especially in relation to sanctions," he added. "For countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, the NDB represents a potential source of financing and influence outside of forums dominated by Western norms and different forms of conditionality linked to financing from institutions like the World Bank."

                                            The interest expressed by both Riyadh and Tehran in joining BRICS and its NDB has taken on a new light in the wake of Beijing's successful effort to broker a deal in March for the two longtime rivals to reestablish relations.

                                            While van Staden stated that China and Russia have their "own preoccupations around the use of dollar-targeted sanctions" that "are contributing to the sudden momentum in exploring alternative currency trade," he also said he was "struck by the relatively quick engagement from the rest of the developing world."

                                            "I think this is partly informed by alternative views of the global order coming from the Global North and the Global South," van Staden said.

                                            He pointed to a survey published by the European Council on Foreign Relations in February, one year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which found vast differences in the opinions expressed by respondents in the West from those in China, India, Russia and Türkiye.

                                            Respondents across nine European Union countries, the U.S. and the U.K. were more likely to say that the conflict would produce a world divided between two blocs led by China and the U.S., while those in the four non-Western nations were more likely to choose a more even distribution of global power among multiple countries.

                                            The trend has been particularly evident during South Africa's BRICS chair tenure, as many nations across the continent see both China and the U.S. as roughly equally popular, even while Washington warns nations against doing business with Beijing. Van Staden also noted that U.S. trade with Africa throughout all of 2022 was less than China's trade with the continent in just the first quarter of this year.

                                            "This raises new challenges for U.S. foreign policy," van Staden said, "because it will increasingly have to make allowance for these countries' desire to keep dealing with a wider range of global powers, while also keeping traditional partners like the U.S. on board."

                                            "Putting too much us-or-them pressure on these countries risks them leaning more conclusively towards China," he added, "among other reasons because China is many of their main trading and financing partners."

                                            As BRICS sets its sights on expansion, however, there are also significant disputes among core members. Perhaps the most serious of all is the difficult relationship between China and India. The two countries have been long locked in a border dispute that sparked a war six decades ago and turned deadly once again in 2020, with bilateral cooperation deteriorating between adjoining states that are home to the world's two largest populations.

                                            "China and India don't have any modus vivendi to deal with the disputes at hand," Vijay Prashad, executive director of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, told Newsweek. "They're not just border disputes, they're pretty fundamental, even about questions of trade and in international relations."

                                            That being said, Prashad he said that even "India and China have been able to collaborate in BRICS and work through BRICS institutions," such as the NDB, whose first director general, K.V. Kamath, was from India.

                                            China and India are also members of another common bloc, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), as is India's other top rival, Pakistan. This group, which also includes Russia, along with four Central Asian states, is also set to expand across geopolitical fault lines, with Iran on its way to full membership and Saudi Arabia being one of many countries to have applied for dialogue partner status.

                                            Prashad has seen this attitude gain greater traction across the Global South, giving rise to what he called a form of "new non-alignment" among countries such as Indonesia, Mexico and Türkiye, "and therefore it's generated interest in BRICS," he said.

                                            In past decades, Prashad said "when the United States or Western European countries talked about globalization, they talked about universal interests, countries in the south felt, 'Well, maybe there's something to that, maybe there are global interests.'"

                                            But he noted that since the financial crisis of 2007, "there's a growth of a mood which suggests, 'Hey, listen, what you sold us as the global interest is actually your parochial interest, and we want to put forward our own national interest.'"

                                            This trend has only been accelerated by growing Chinese economic initiatives that have also fortified Beijing's influence across the globe.

                                            "Many countries are making a calculation, and they'll say, 'Chinese capital, whether it's private or public capital, it's not a utopia, it's not a salvation, but it's certainly not coming with the kind of conditionalities that are imposed by the International Monetary Fund,'" Prashad said.

                                            So far, the U.S. has yet to directly challenge BRICS, though a growing chorus in Washington has expressed alarm over the calls abroad for de-dollarization that could further limit the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions. In the face of this, Prashad said he hoped "that sober minds in Washington will prevail" as the multipolar model advances.

                                            "There may be a shift going on," Prashad said, "and the United States might have to come to terms with that, rather than contest the BRICS project, this new nonalignment project."

                                                          South Africa Values its Relations with Russia and BRICS (ЮАР дорожит отношениями с Россией и БРИКС) / Greece, June, 2023
                                                          Keywords: expert_opinion, quotation

                                                          This insightful interview offers understanding about the current relations between South Africa and Russia, and BRICS. It focuses on the bilateral economic cooperation between South Africa and Russia, and some aspects with the BRICS. With an estimated 58 million population, South Africa is the 25th largest country in the world. It has friendly relations dated from the Soviet times, and now with the Russian Federation. It joined the BRICS, an organisation of five emerging economies, in December 2010 in line with the country's foreign policy to strengthen South-South relations.

                                                          Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of South Africa to the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus, Mzuvukile Maqetuka, who has been in this current post since 2021, gave this interview to our media executive Kester Kenn Klomegah early June 2023. Here are the interview excerpts:

                                                          Question: First, what are your Government's position and your thoughts on the emerging world order? Do you think absolute neutral position by majority of African countries helps push the evolutionary process of this new world order?

                                                          Mzuvukile Maqetuka: South Africa's neutral position is consistent on all military conflicts around the world, that the international community needs to work together to bring peace.

                                                          South Africa is committed to the articles of the United Nations (UN) Charter, including the principle that all members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means. Since the dawn of democracy in South Africa almost 30 years ago, we have called for the reform of the United Nations and multilateral organisations to make such structures more representative, inclusive of African representation.

                                                          South Africa is a sovereign state, governed by a democratic Constitution and committed to the consistent application of international law. We will continue to fulfil our obligations in terms of the various international agreements and treaties to which we are signatories.

                                                          On the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the international community needs to urgently achieve a cessation of hostilities and to prevent further loss of life and displacement of civilians in Ukraine. It needs to support meaningful dialogue towards lasting peace, which ensures the security and stability of all nations. We support the principle that members should refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of other states. The South African position seeks to contribute to the creation of conditions that make the achievement of a durable resolution of the conflict possible.

                                                          Q: What are the key results from the last June meeting of the Russia-South African Business Council at the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry? What challenges have been identified hindering economic cooperation between the two countries?

                                                          Russia and South Africa are known to be closely cooperating in the mining and energy sectors. What efforts is your country making to diversify investment opportunities into other sectors for Russian business people?

                                                          In what areas do you think the Russia-South African bilateral relations could be improved and what do you suggest to be done, promoting relations both ways?

                                                          Maqetuka: The South Africa–Russia Business Council submits the reports of their meetings to the Joint Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) which is chaired by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa and the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation. The last session of ITEC was held in Pretoria on 30 March 2023.

                                                          Russia and South Africa are focusing on intensifying trade relations and economic development. Both countries aspire to strengthen cooperation within the Russian-South African business community.

                                                          One of the current priorities of the SA-Russia Business Council is to develop a joint programme of cooperation which would involve relevant authorities on both sides to facilitate business to business meetings in identified sectors.

                                                          Some of the subcommittees in the Business Council continue to perform exceptionally well. For example, the Agricultural subcommittee has maintained high levels of agricultural exports to the Russian Federation. South African citrus fruit exports to Russia are of top quality and falls within the top 3 of citrus fruit exporter countries for the Russian market.

                                                          Another example is South African wines exported to the Russian Federation, such as KWV wines which has recently achieved a spot in the top 50, and one of four South African wine brands, in the "World's Most Admired Wine Brand in Africa & Middle East".

                                                          According to the South African Department of Trade and Competition (dtic) statistics, total trade (export + import) between South Africa and Russia in March 2023 was R638,945,978 South African Rand.

                                                          In March 2023 total exports from South Africa to Russia were R392,335,607. In comparison to February 2023, the total exports increased by 38%. In comparison to the same period of 2022 (March 2022), exports increased by 298%.

                                                          Q: Now that you have arrived as the South African ambassador, what would you say are your Government's priorities then? What are, generally, the investment opportunities for external countries and foreign investors in South Africa?

                                                          Maqetuka: South Africa has one of the biggest economies on the continent, and it is still rapidly developing. South Africa is the most diversified as well as the most industrialised economy on the continent.

                                                          The South African economy is essentially based on private enterprise, but the state participates in many ways. Economic policy has been aimed primarily at sustaining growth and achieving a measure of industrial self-sufficiency. Agriculture is of major importance to South Africa. It produces a significant portion of exports and contributes greatly to the domestic economy.

                                                          South Africa is rich in a variety of minerals. In addition to diamonds and gold, the country also contains reserves of iron ore, platinum, manganese, chromium, copper, uranium, silver, beryllium, and titanium. Not much deposits of petroleum have been found that may be commercially exploitable, but there are moderate quantities of natural gas located off the southern coast, and synthetic fuel is made from coal at two large plants in the provinces of Free State and Mpumalanga. South Africa is the world's largest producer of platinum and chromium, which are mined at centres such as Rustenburg and Steelpoort in the northeast and are becoming increasingly significant economically.

                                                          The major manufacturing sectors are food processing and the production of textiles, metals, and chemicals. Agriculture and fisheries provide the basis for substantial activity in meat, fish, and fruit canning, sugar refining, and other processing; more than half these products are exported.

                                                          A large and complex chemical industry has developed from early beginnings in the manufacture of explosives for use in mining. A coal-based petrochemical industry produces a wide range of plastics, resins, and industrial chemicals.

                                                          South Africa has a well-developed financial system, centred on the South African Reserve Bank, which is the sole issuing authority for the rand, the national currency. There are many registered banking institutions, a number of which concentrate on commercial banking, as well as merchant, savings, investment, and discount banks. One such bank, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, is a quasi-governmental company created to promote development projects. Private pension and provident funds and more than two dozen insurance companies play significant roles in the financial sector.

                                                          Tourism is becoming increasingly important to South Africa's economy and this sector, which is an economic driver, is finally making positive recovery post Covid-19. While the majority of tourists still come from African countries, an increasing number of arrivals are from Europe, the Americas and Russia. Since SA and Russia signed the visa waiver agreement in 2017, which allows for 90-day visa free travel between our two countries, we have seen a steady increase in Russian tourists visiting South Africa.

                                                          South Africa welcomed and fully supported the adoption by African nations of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which we believe will contribute tremendously in pursuit of economic integration of our continent towards the attainment of our vision: Agenda 2063, the Africa We Want.

                                                          Through the implementation of AfCFTA, African states are determined to increase manufacturing and industrial capacity so that we trade in African goods and products, produced in Africa.

                                                          As the largest African investor in other African countries, South Africa hopes to build on this and mobilise resources for industrial investment.

                                                          Q: How comparable is Russia to those external investors in South Africa? Why are China and India so popular with economic diplomacy there in your country?

                                                          Maqetuka: South Africa was the first member of an expanded BRICS in 2010 when the group of four (Brazil, Russia, India and China) was already holding its 3rd Summit in China that year. We considered it an honour to have been invited to form part of this partnership of leading emerging markets and developing countries.

                                                          Together, the Federative Republic of Brazil, the Russian Federation, the Republic of India, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of South Africa represent over 42% of the global population, 30% of the world's territory, 23% of GDP and 18% of global trade.

                                                          The BRICS partnership has grown in scope and depth with BRICS members exploring practical cooperation in a spirit of openness and solidarity to find mutual interests and common values. Around 150 meetings are held annually across the three pillars of BRICS cooperation: political and security cooperation, financial and economic cooperation, and cultural and people-to-people cooperation. Over 30 agreements and memoranda of understanding provide a legal foundation for cooperation in the areas as diverse as the Contingent Reserve Arrangement, customs, tax, interbank cooperation, culture, science, technology and innovation, agricultural research, energy efficiency, competition policy and diplomatic academies.

                                                          The South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, hosted the most recent Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Relations on 1 June 2023 in Cape Town. The mid-term meeting provided an opportunity for BRICS Foreign Ministers to reflect on regional and global developments. The ministerial meeting was preceded by the meeting of Sherpas and Sous-Sherpas from 29 – 30 May 2023 and the Russian delegation attended all these meetings in Cape Town, Minister Lavrov was leading the delegation.

                                                          As chair of BRICS, South Africa practices the policy of inclusive engagement and invited 15 Foreign Ministers from Africa and the global south to a "Friends of BRICS" meeting held on 2 June 2023.

                                                          From 22 to 24 August 2023, all BRICS Leaders are expected to attend the 15th BRICS Summit in South Africa at the Sandton Convention Centre (SCC) in Johannesburg, Gauteng.

                                                          BRICS Leaders will engage with business during the BRICS Business Forum and engage with the New Development Bank, BRICS Business Council and other mechanisms during the Summit. South Africa will also continue its Outreach to Leaders from Africa and the global South and hold a BRICS Outreach and BRICS Plus Dialogue during the 15th BRICS Summit.

                                                          Q: Do you also think that Russia can engage in transfer of its science and technology in different sectors to Africa? What else do you have on the agenda in the Russian Federation?

                                                          Maqetuka: In May 2023, a delegation from South Africa's Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) travelled to Moscow to attend the annual Skolkovo Startup Village. During the delegation's visit to Russia, Memoranda of Understanding were signed in the field of innovation and technology.

                                                          TIA is a national public entity in South Africa that serves as the key institutional intervention to bridge the innovation chasm between research and development from higher education institutions, science councils, public entities, and private sector,and commercialisation. The Organization's focus is on technological development; from proof of concept to pre commercialisation.

                                                          The Russian Federation has identified the expansion of science and technology cooperation as spearheaded by the Russian Academy of Science as an important part of its renewed engagement with the African Continent, this is witnessed in the theme of the Economic and Humanitarian Forum that forms part of the 2nd Russia-Africa Summit scheduled for July 2023 i.e., Technology and Security for Sovereign Development that Benefits People. The Summit is scheduled to discuss very important themes including Infrastructure, Innovation, and Improvements to the Urban Environment; Nuclear Technologies for African Development; Building Independent Systems for Assessing and Promoting National Science Programmes in Russia and Africa: Opportunities for Mutual Support; Achieving Technological Sovereignty Through Industrial Cooperation; Improving the Reliability of Africa's Energy Infrastructure with Low Emission Technologies; How Russian Digital Technologies Can Boost Africa's Industrial Potential; Bringing Russian Prospecting and Development Technologies to Africa; Effective Healthcare Cooperation: Technologies, Innovations, Human Capital; Bringing Russian Shipbuilding to Africa: A Modern Fleet to Develop the Entire Continent; An Emerging Global Order as Seen by African and Russian Researchers: Alternatives to Western Models

                                                          Q: What is your assessment of the possibilities of a joint, coordinated foreign trade policy within the BRICS? What do you think about the proposal to introduce national currency trade settlement arrangements within the BRICS?

                                                          Maqetuka: The South African Reserve Bank will give consideration to possible national currency trade settlement arrangements amongst BRICS countries following extensive and detailed work on the matter.

                                                          Key questions will include its intended arrangement and consideration will be given to any related risk, including, though not limited to, any sanctions risk to South Africa.

                                                                        BRICS+ as a substantial and credible alternative to Western hegemony (БРИКС+ как существенная и заслуживающая доверия альтернатива западной гегемонии) / Greece, June, 2023
                                                                        Keywords: brics+

                                                                        On Aug. 22, about 2½ months from today, the most significant development in international finance since 1971 will be unveiled. It involves the rollout of a major new currency that could weaken the role of the dollar in global payments and ultimately displace the U.S. dollar as the leading payment currency and reserve currency. It could happen in just a few years, predicts James G. Rickards, an editor of Strategic Intelligence, an American lawyer, economist, and investment banker with 40 years of experience working in capital markets on Wall Street.

                                                                        The process by which this will happen is unprecedented, and the world is unprepared for this geopolitical shock wave.

                                                                        This monetary shock will be delivered by a group called the BRICS. The acronym BRICS stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

                                                                        This play for global reserve currency status by the BRICS will affect world trade, direct foreign investment and investor portfolios in dramatic and unforeseen ways.

                                                                        The most important development in the BRICS system concerns the expansion of BRICS membership. This has led to the informal adoption of the name BRICS+ for the expanded organization.

                                                                        There are currently eight nations that have formally applied for membership and 17 others that have expressed interest in joining. The eight formal applicants are: Algeria, Argentina, Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

                                                                        The 17 countries that have expressed interest are: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

                                                                        There's more to this list than just increasing the headcount at future BRICS meetings. If Saudi Arabia and Russia are both members, you have two of the three largest energy producers in the world under one tent (the U.S. is the other member of the energy Big Three). If Russia, China, Brazil and India are all members, you have four of the seven largest countries in the world measured by landmass possessing 30% of the Earth's dry surface and related natural resources.

                                                                        Almost 50% of the world's wheat and rice production as well as 15% of the world's gold reserves are in the BRICS.

                                                                        Meanwhile, China, India, Brazil and Russia are four of the nine highest-population countries on the planet with a combined population of 3.2 billion people or 40% of the Earth's population.

                                                                        China, India, Brazil, Russia and Saudi Arabia have a combined GDP of $29 trillion or 28% of nominal global GDP. If one uses purchasing power parity to measure GDP, then the BRICS share is over 54%. Russia and China have two of the three largest nuclear arsenals in the world (the other leader is the United States).

                                                                        By every measure — population, landmass, energy output, GDP, food output and nuclear weapons — BRICS is not just another multilateral debating society. They are a substantial and credible alternative to Western hegemony.

                                                                        BRICS acting together is one pole of a new multipolar or even bipolar world.

                                                                        When the new currency launch is announced in August, the currency will not fall on an empty field. It will fall into a sophisticated network of capital and communications. This network will greatly enhance its chances of success.

                                                                        The BRICS are also developing an optical fiber submarine telecommunications system that would connect its members. It is being developed under the name BRICS Cable. Part of the motivation for BRICS Cable is to foil spying by the U.S. National Security Agency on message traffic carried through existing cable networks.

                                                                        What's behind this quest to ditch the dollar? In no small part the answer is U.S. weaponization of the dollar through the use of sanctions.

                                                                        On numerous occasions from 2007–2014, I warned U.S. officials from the Treasury, Pentagon and intelligence community that overuse or abuse of dollar sanctions would lead adversaries to abandon the dollar to avoid the impact of sanctions. Such abandonment would lead to the diluted potency of sanctions, unforeseen costs imposed on the U.S. and eventually to the collapse of confidence in the dollar itself. These warnings were mostly ignored.

                                                                        We have now reached the first and second stages of this forecast and are dangerously close to the third.

                                                                        For years, the U.S. has used sanctions to punish nations like Iran. But the sanctions the U.S. and its allies imposed on Russia after it invaded Ukraine last year went far beyond previous sanctions regimes. They were unprecedented. Many other nations began to conclude that they could be next if they run afoul of the U.S. on certain issues. And that fear has greatly accelerated the push to opt out of the dollar system entirely.

                                                                        This desire is not limited to current targets such as Russia but is shared by potential targets including China, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Argentina and many others. The global desire to move away from the dollar as a medium of exchange for international trade in goods and services is hardly new. The difference today is that it's gone from a discussion point to a novelty to a looming reality in a remarkably short period of time.

                                                                        Yet all arrangements may soon be superseded by a new BRICS+ currency, which will be announced in Durban, South Africa, at the annual BRICS Leaders' Summit Conference on Aug. 22–24.

                                                                        The currency will be pegged to a basket of commodities for use in trade among members. Initially, the BRICS+ commodity basket would include oil, wheat, copper and other essential goods traded globally in specified quantities.

                                                                        Based on the impracticality of commodity baskets as uniform stores of value, it appears likely that the new BRICS+ currency will be linked to a weight of gold.

                                                                        This plays to the strengths of BRICS members Russia and China, who are the two largest gold producers in the world and are ranked sixth and seventh respectively among the 100 nations with gold reserves.

                                                                        These and related developments are frequently touted as the "end of the dollar as a reserve currency."

                                                                        This entire turn of events — introduction of a new gold-backed currency, rapid adoption as a payment currency and gradual use as a reserve asset currency — will begin on Aug. 22, 2023, after years of development.

                                                                        The result will be an upheaval of the international monetary system coming in a matter of weeks, concludes James Rickards.

                                                                                      Diplomacy Watch: S. Africa suggests moving BRICS summit to China (Южная Африка предлагает перенести саммит БРИКС в Китай) / United States, June, 2023
                                                                                      Keywords: summit, political_issues

                                                                                      South Africa may surrender its role as host of this year's BRICS summit in an effort to dodge international pressure to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes, according to reports in South African media this week.

                                                                                      As a party to the Rome Statute — the treaty underpinning the ICC — Pretoria would theoretically be obligated to arrest Putin and send him to the Hague for trial. But China and India would face no such obligation, leading some South African officials to suggest handing the summit to Beijing. (Brazil — the fifth member of the bloc of major developing countries — is also an ICC member, ruling it out as an alternative host.)

                                                                                      The news highlights the delicate balance that South Africa has sought to strike in relation to the war in Ukraine. Despite pressure from Western partners, Pretoria has opted to maintain ties with Moscow and insisted on maintaining a neutral position on the conflict.

                                                                                      Some actions, including the choice to conduct military drills with Russia on the anniversary of the invasion, have already cast that neutrality into question. Granting Putin diplomatic immunity for the summit could further entrench the Western view that Pretoria is really on Moscow's side, endangering South Africa's strong trade relations with the United State and Europe.

                                                                                      It's also unclear whether leaders in Pretoria can legally grant diplomatic immunity in this case. South Africa opted not to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during a 2015 visit despite the fact that he was wanted by the ICC for alleged genocide and other war crimes. South African courts found that the government's decision was unlawful, a precedent that would likely carry over in Putin's case, and the leading opposition party has already taken legal steps to try to force the government to arrest the Russian leader if he does step foot in the country.

                                                                                      The government's decision drew significant (though ultimately toothless) blowback from the ICC and its international boosters. Given Putin's current status as enemy number one in the West, there is reason to believe that the backlash could be far worse this time around.

                                                                                      Regardless of where the BRICS summit takes place, it's become increasingly clear that South Africa's approach to the war — characterized by a focus on ending the conflict as soon as possible and an unwillingness to place all blame on Russia — resonates across much of the world.

                                                                                      "A regional conflict has not replaced eradicating global poverty as the world's greatest global challenge," Naledi Pandor, Pretoria's minister of international relations and cooperation, said recently. "This is not the world we hoped for when the Cold War ended."

                                                                                      The "end-the-war-now" camp will often point to other crises across the world that have gotten less attention in world forums than the conflict in Ukraine. And they've got a point: While Ukraine has received lavish funding and media coverage, conflict-plagued states like Burkina Faso and Ethiopia struggle to get aid or attention from the international community, as the Norwegian Refugee Council noted in a recent report.

                                                                                      As the war drags on, this camp has increasingly shown a willingness to take the initiative in finding ways to end the conflict. South Africa joined with Congo-Brazzaville, Egypt, Senegal, Uganda, and Zambia last month to create a peace initiative for the war. Pretoria announced Tuesday that the heads of state from each of the six countries will travel to both Kyiv and Moscow later this month.

                                                                                      Their goal, according to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, is to "secure a commitment from both sides that they too should seek […] to end this conflict by peaceful means" and to get each party to share their "minimum requirements to end the conflict."

                                                                                      "We will be able to give our own point of view as Africans on how we perceive the impact of this war on Africa in terms of food prices, grain, and fuel prices, as well as on Europe and the rest of the world because it has become a rather globalized type of conflict," Ramaphosa added.

                                                                                      Meanwhile, the Holy See dispatched its peace envoy, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, to Ukraine, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The Vatican says Zuppi's trip was more of a fact-finding mission than an attempt at mediation, noting that conversations with Ukrainian leaders "will certainly be useful for evaluating the steps to continue taking both on a humanitarian level and in the search for paths of a just and lasting peace."

                                                                                      The twin efforts have earned a mixed reaction from the United States. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week that efforts for a ceasefire in the short term will lead to a "Potemkin peace," suggesting that any pause in fighting would be a chance for Moscow to regroup and prepare a more effective strategy. State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel expanded on that point on Wednesday, when he described the peace proposals as "well-intentioned" but argued that Russia remains unwilling to engage in good faith on a potential end to the war.

                                                                                      But perhaps their more important audience lies farther east. While the Holy See reportedly doesn't expect to get a warm welcome in Moscow, the African mission includes numerous leaders that the Kremlin can ill afford to frustrate at a time when much of the world has lined up against it. Only time will tell if Ramaphosa and company have the leverage necessary to change Putin's calculus.

                                                                                      In other diplomatic news related to the war in Ukraine:

                                                                                      — Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said that his country is not opposed to giving weapons to Ukraine via intermediaries, signaling a shift in Belgrade's historically pro-Russia posture, according to the Financial Times. The change comes after Western leaders backed Serbia during a recent spate of tensions in Kosovo. Vučić also noted that he has not spoken with Putin for over a year — a sharp drop off given that the two leaders had historically called each other every three months or so.

                                                                                      — India will not invite Ukraine to the Group of 20 summit set to take place in New Delhi later this year, according to AP News. Kyiv has often been invited to attend major international meetings since last year's invasion, especially since the war and related disruptions to the global economy have often been high priorities for multilateral groupings. "It is not something that we have reviewed and it is not something very honestly which we have discussed with anybody," said Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

                                                                                      — Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto pitched a detailed peace plan at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore, with details including a rapid ceasefire and a buffer zone between the warring parties, according to the Financial Times. The proposal drew a sharp rebuke from Ukraine and its backers in the West, who largely panned it as unserious. More surprising was the response from Prabowo's boss, Indonesian President Joko Widodo. The leader, who is best known as Jokowi, told reporters Tuesday that the plan "was from Mr. Prabowo himself," adding that he had demanded an explanation from his defense minister.

                                                                                      — A major dam in a Russian-controlled part of Ukraine collapsed on Tuesday, leading Russian and Ukrainian officials to blame each other for the ensuing environmental disaster. The New York Times reported that a "deliberate explosion" inside the dam was the most likely culprit, but it remains difficult to determine who was responsible for the breach given that neither side appears to have much to gain from such an attack. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered to lead a joint investigation into the incident during separate calls with Putin and Zelensky on Wednesday.

                                                                                      — A close ally told the U.S. last June that Ukraine planned to sabotage the Nord Stream pipeline, just three months before the natural gas conduit was rocked by several explosions, according to the Washington Post. The report, which draws on documents from the Discord Leaks, adds further evidence to the theory that Ukraine was behind the attack on the pipeline, which, as the Post noted, "U.S. and Western officials have called a brazen and dangerous act of sabotage on Europe's energy infrastructure."

                                                                                      U.S. State Department news:

                                                                                      In a Wednesday press conference, State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said the United States is not yet ready to support an international investigation into the destroyed dam in Ukraine. "We're still assessing what exactly transpired, and we are determining what steps we can take to support our Ukrainian partners and those who have been impacted and displaced by the flooding," Patel said.

                                                                                                    Investment and Finance
                                                                                                    Investment and finance in BRICS
                                                                                                    BRICS bank apolitical, Russia expects to continue projects — Finance Minister (Банк БРИКС аполитичен, Россия рассчитывает на продолжение проектов — министр финансов) / Russia, June, 2023
                                                                                                    Keywords: economic_challenges, expert_opinion, ndb

                                                                                                    MOSCOW, June 5. The New Development Bank (NDB), founded by BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), operates outside of politics and Russia expects to continue implementing projects, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said in an interview with CGTN TV channel.

                                                                                                    "We are absolutely certain that the bank operates outside of politics to meet the needs of shareholders. We will continue to cooperate with the bank to ensure that the bank's project, investment, and credit operations in Russia continue despite any restrictions," he said.

                                                                                                    Siluanov emphasized that one of Russia's top priorities in working with the NDB is to continue implementing project portfolios and finish those that have been already started. He added that there are numerous mechanisms in place to continue project implementation and that the bank is carrying out its tasks despite the problems that have emerged as a result of the sanctions placed on Russia.

                                                                                                    In regards to the BRICS Pay payment system, Siiluanov said, "During the NDB meetings, we discussed the bank's new functionality. This was Russia's proposal - we are facing certain problems in settlements, so we are looking for various options for a way out of this situation. We believe that the NDB could take on this functionality, it is a new task for the bank, and it could be accomplished using new systems and digital financial assets," he added.

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