Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 37.2023
2023.09.11 — 2023.09.17
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
A Promising Model of Cooperation. Why BRICS Plus, as a new model of international cooperation, is suitable for a multipolar era. (Перспективная модель сотрудничества. Почему БРИКС Плюс как новая модель международного сотрудничества подходит для многополярной эпохи.) / Russia, September, 2023
Keywords: brics+

The 15th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit in South Africa promised to be the event of the year from the day it was announced. Global media was awash with analysis of the popularity of the BRICS Plus format. Dozens of countries applied to participate in the summit. Even French President Emmanuel Macron asked for an invitation on behalf France, a NATO and EU member. BRICS Plus is popular because it is a new format of international cooperation that respects member sovereignty and focuses purely on economics. BRICS Plus is warmly received thanks to the history of the BRICS group, its institutional design, and the momentum the group is gaining globally.

The BRICS model was not drafted by a handful of powerful politicians, but rather emerged as a product of nations coalescing around shared ideas of economic development. The term itself was coined by a Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill in 2001. He used the term to describe what at the time were the most promising emerging markets in the world. BRICS was used as an analytical framework and there was no notion of the economic coordination mechanism that we see today.

Community not bloc

But the idea was picked up by the constituent countries. The First BRIC Summit meeting (South Africa was not a member at that time) was held in Russia in 2009. Coordination deepened continuously and in 2023 there were even conversations about a BRICS currency.

The way BRICS emerged without "centralising pressure" informs its structure today. There are no imposing treaties, nor a secretariat with its own political interest; instead, there is ongoing multilateral coordination. Perhaps the most centralising institution of the BRICS grouping is the New Development Bank (NDB), which was inaugurated by BRICS leaders at the Sixth BRICS Summit in Brazil in 2014. As Zhu Jiejin, professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University, has said, "In terms of governance structure, the NDB differs from the World Bank, as its founding members have equal voting rights and no country has a veto." This institutional design mirrors the ethos of BRICS and is attractive to smaller developing countries often struggling to find a voice in international forums.

The steady development of the BRICS mechanism, aligned firmly with the Charter of the United Nations, meant the BRICS has developed into a community rather than a bloc in the traditional sense. As a result, countries' internal affairs remain off-bounds, no political demands are placed on members, and there is no single hegemon with outsized influence on the direction of the grouping.

The history of the BRICS model informed its current decentralised design. And the unique institutional framework is what so many countries across Africa and the rest of the Global South find so attractive.

Opening the doors

China championed the expansion of BRICS to BRICS Plus by inviting 13 developing economies to join the 2022 BRICS Summit. African countries had already been boosting relations with BRICS, with leaders of 18 African countries and several African regional organisations invited to the 2018 summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the adoption of the "Plus" suffix opened the doors fully.

Assuming the chairmanship in 2023, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said he will "use this opportunity to advance the interests of our continent." Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov echoed this sentiment, stating "Russia welcomes this development." Unsurprisingly, several African governments applied to join, including Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Besides the attraction of the BRICS Plus community, nations are also being pushed towards it. The push is intensifying as the established international coordination mechanism struggles with the changing balance of power. At a time when the BRICS Plus model offers investment, European ambassadors continue colonial attitudes to the point that they have to be expelled, as the recent case of Germany's top diplomat in Chad shows. Similarly with culture, as Uganda pursues its sovereign right to protect family values, US politicians threaten the country with sanctions and cutting aid.

More broadly, observers note that the use of unilateral sanctions, militarisation of trade, and the push of a liberal-progressive global culture by the US and its allies are pushing non-aligned states to tighten relations with the BRICS. As Oleg Yanovsky, a leading Russian foreign affairs scholar, points out, the West offers an "us-and-them bifurcation" while China and Russia's international initiatives including BRICS provide the opportunity to remain non-aligned. This factor drives developing countries to join the BRICS.

In addition, the momentum of the BRICS acts as a draw towards the grouping. Heads of state see where their partners and neighbours are going and the decentralised development benefits they are receiving, and naturally want to be part of the community. Even before the expansion, BRICS accounts for a quarter of global GDP and 41 percent of the world population. The economic success story of each member, including Russia, whose economy is growing despite unprecedented Western sanctions, motivates countries in the Global South to be part of the growth story. A successful, rapidly growing, and decentralised community is one that developing nations should want to join - so it is no surprise that they are applying to participate.

The world is at the precipice of a paradigm shift in international relations. Soon, there will be no great power duality or unipolar hegemony, but a broad array of rapidly developing states across the world. Each time-period needs its international coordination model.

Around a century ago, the League of Nations was established in Europe to usher in a new paradigm of diplomacy. It failed, but lessons were learnt and the United Nations was created after World War II.

As the world becomes multipolar, the BRICS Plus community is growing. The explicit rejection of domestic and cultural policy dictate, the rejection of letting national security matters affect trade, the rejection of militarising the grouping or positioning it against other organisations all draw countries in.

And what underlines the extent to which the BRICS Plus model heralds a new paradigm is that its origin is not rooted in conflict but cooperation. The BRICS Plus model is fitting for the coming paradigm shift away from unipolar politics to a world of many development hubs and diverse civilisations.

                Further participation of African countries in BRICS meetings important — Russian diplomat (Важно дальнейшее участие африканских стран во встречах БРИКС — российский дипломат) / Russia, September, 2023
                Keywords: brics+, quotation

                Further participation of African countries in BRICS meetings important — Russian diplomat

                "African countries can be invited to some or other BRICS events, especially in view of the decisions to admit a number of African countries, such as Egypt and Ethiopia, to BRICS," Oleg Ozerov said

                MOSCOW, September 12. /TASS/. Russia recognizes the importance of African countries' participation in further BRICS events, Oleg Ozerov, Russian Ambassador-at-Large and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum, told TASS.

                "Of course, African countries can be invited to some or other BRICS events, especially in view of the decisions to admit a number of African countries, such as Egypt and Ethiopia, to BRICS," Ozerov said. According to him, Moscow assumes that "the participation of African countries in certain BRICS events makes sense."

                "Another issue is how it will be solved in practice. We'll see as we prepared for the next summit [which will be held in Russia in 2024," he pointed out.

                Ozerov also recalled that many African countries were invited to the recent BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, which took place at the end of August in the Outreach format. He also stressed that the BRICS enlargement process "will not stop at this point" as "there are other countries that are ready" to become members of the association.

                              The G20 Wins the Group Battle (G20 выигрывает групповую битву) / USA, September, 2023
                              Keywords: global_governance, expert_opinion

                              The joint declaration that emerged from last week's summit in New Delhi offered further confirmation that the G20 is the only body with the scope and legitimacy to offer truly global solutions to global problems. Alternative groupings such as the G7 and the new expanded BRICS look like sideshows in comparison.

                              LONDON – Following the recent summit of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), where the group agreed to add six new members, I argued that neither it nor the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States – plus the European Union) has the credibility or the capacity to tackle global challenges. That leaves the G20 (comprising 19 of the world's largest economies, plus the EU) as the only grouping with the legitimacy to offer truly global solutions to global problems.

                              1. 0
                                Sri Lanka's Dangerous Domestic Debt Restructuring

                                JAYATI GHOSH & KANCHANA N. RUWANPURA think the government's attempt to resolve the balance-of-payments crisis through austerity will backfire.

                              The joint declaration that emerged from last week's G20 summit in New Delhi provides further confirmation of this. Member states reached a consensus to address a wide range of issues. Despite obvious challenges – such as the considerable differences in how member states operate – they managed to reassert the G20's relevance after a lengthy period in which its role had been called into question.

                              We should applaud those who played the biggest roles – presumably India and the US – in pushing through the final communiqué. The New Delhi declaration could be the first step in a stronger concerted effort to address global issues like climate change, the need for a revamped World Bank, infectious disease control, economic stability, the war in Ukraine, and other matters. Though this agenda was agreed in the absence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Russian and Chinese representatives who did attend would not have signed on to anything without having cleared it with their respective governments.

                              Many speculate that Xi skipped the summit in order to snub India – one of China's longstanding rivals – and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Whatever the motive, his decision had the effect of undermining the significance of the recent BRICS meeting, which many saw as a victory for China.

                              As I argued last month, the lack of Indo-Chinese solidarity will be a major stumbling block for the new BRICS. Now, Xi's absence from the G20 summit has deepened the divide between the two countries. If Xi wants to convince us otherwise, he will need to reach out to Modi. As matters stand, the success of the G20 meeting makes Modi the clear winner in this season of summitry. Perceptions matter, and right now he looks more like a visionary statesman than Xi does.

                              Moreover, the G20 achieved another subtle, but important, step by agreeing to expand its ranks to include the African Union – making it a G21. This breakthrough gives Modi a clear diplomatic victory, allowing him to burnish his image as a champion of the Global South. It also further underscores the seemingly random nature of the BRICS' own expansion, which includes Egypt and Ethiopia, but not other, more important African countries, such as Nigeria. The big question now is whether a permanent seat at the table will make the African Union itself a more effective body.

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                              Since the BRICS meeting, I have spoken to people who believe that the G7 is still a highly effective body compared to the G20, as evidenced by the solidarity it has shown on issues like Russia's war in Ukraine. I beg to differ. Though the G20 communiqué's language on the war did not rise to the level that Ukraine's leaders would prefer, it was robust enough to send a clear message to others who may want to violate internationally recognized borders. It also conveys to Putin that he should not expect even superficial backing from some of his supposed BRICS friends. And, of course, the declaration does not inhibit Western countries or individual leaders from condemning the war in more forceful terms.

                              More to the point, the voice that matters when it comes to Ukraine is not the G7 but NATO – just as the G20 is the collective voice that truly matters when it comes to the global economy, climate change, public health, and many other issues. As much as G7 leaders would like to think that they are still a major influence in global affairs, the reality suggests otherwise. The big takeaway from the New Delhi summit is that you cannot possibly deal with big global challenges unless you include the major emerging powers.

                              Yes, the G20's critics will counter that it is too large and unwieldy to be effective. But I would simply repeat what I wrote back in 2001, when I first coined the BRIC acronym. If eurozone member states really wanted to demonstrate their belief in the permanence of their joint project, I observed, they would send just one delegate to international gatherings like the G20, rather than retaining their individual representatives. That made the group less unwieldy and set a powerful precedent. If other blocs, including the BRICS, did the same, the result would be a global-governance grouping that is truly fit for purpose.

                                            African Union becomes a G20 permanent member: implications for BRICS+ (Африканский союз стал постоянным членом G20: последствия для БРИКС+) / Russia, September, 2023
                                            Keywords: brics+

                                            The decision of the G20 economies to admit the African Union as a permanent member at the Group's 2023 meeting in India comes at a time when many observers started to question the relevance and effectiveness of this global forum. The admission of the AU is a step in the right direction and needs to be followed by further openness of the G20 to other regional integration blocks and regional organizations, including regional development institutions. A greater outreach to the rest of the global community will allow for a reinvigoration of the G20 platform, particularly if the economic potential of regionalism is used to strengthen the capabilities of global economic institutions.

                                            The accession of the AU into G20 comes after a rising number of academics and policy-makers in 2022-2023 called for addressing the lack of inclusivity on the part of the G20 with respect to the developing world and Africa in particular. Back in 2018 I suggested that "there is no reason why the EU should end up being the only regional block represented in the G-20 framework" – my proposal was for other regional blocs (including those from Africa) to become part of the G20 platform. Henceforth, in 2019-2022 I repeatedly called for the African Union to become a member of the regional platform of the G20 as well as its permanent member alongside the EU.

                                            Apart from the greater representation of Africa and the Global South in the G20 forum, another significance of AU's admission to the Group of 20 is that it creates greater scope for synergies and closer cooperation between globalism (global institutions and platforms such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO, G20) and regionalism (regional integration blocs, regional development banks and regional financing arrangements). If other regional blocs do become part of the G20 platform, there will then be scope for these blocs to work more closely with the WTO, while regional development institutions could coordinate their operations with the IMF and the World bank.

                                            After India the next G20 chairmanship is passed on to Brazil and then to South Africa – all BRICS members. This will be the opportunity for BRICS to increase their coordination within G20 and to further expand the possibilities for greater representation of the Global South in this global platform. The latter may be attained via creating a platform for regional integration arrangements in which G20 economies are members. Both Brazil and South Africa perform crucial regional roles in the respective regional blocs – MERCOSUR and the AU respectively. This may create scope for these BRICS members to advance the creation of a forum for regional integration arrangements within the G20 – a regional 20 (R20) that would bring together the main regional blocks of the global economy.

                                            The inclusion of the AU into the G20 will have an important bearing on the future evolution of BRICS+. The choice this year for the expansion of the bloc was via adding new countries to the core, with the theme of regional integration blocs becoming parts of the BRICS+ platform being essentially ignored. With rising signs of the West starting to actively sway national economies and regional blocs of the Global South into the G20, competing connectivity projects and the G7 outreach formats, the pressure will be on the BRICS bloc to widen the scope of BRICS+ to allow for more developing economies and regional arrangements to be included into the platform. Further one-by-one additions of individual countries to the BRICS core will most likely be insufficient to keep up with increased "Global South diplomacy" activism on the part of advanced economies. The BRICS will need to employ the "integration of integrations" tool more actively in order to attain greater scale, speed and scope in the outreach to the Global South.

                                            Indeed, if the G20 moves in the direction of incorporating more regional integration blocs, there will then need to be action from BRICS+ to create a platform for regional arrangements in order to improve policy coordination of the Global South in the G20. The creation of a regional platform within BRICS+ would also allow the bloc to be more competitive in extending its outreach to such important regional groupings as ASEAN – thus far Indonesia that is a key member of ASEAN and its only representative in the G20 has opted to stay outside of the BRICS core. In terms of the future evolution of the BRICS+ format a lot will depend on Russia's BRICS chairmanship next year – the hope is that opportunities to extend the BRICS outreach to the developing world will not be wasted as they were back in 2019-2021 when no BRICS+ meetings were undertaken.

                                                          Can we trust the BRICS+? (Можем ли мы доверять БРИКС+?) / Marocco, September, 2023
                                                          Keywords: brics+, expert_opinion

                                                          The 15th BRICS Summit, in Johannesburg from 22-24 August 2023, proved that a new world economic order could emerge, opening a new chapter in human history. The important news is the expansion of the BRICS; six countries have been invited to the group, bringing the total of its affiliated countries up to 11 as of January 1, 2024. The BRICS+ will be a major economic and commercial power; covering over 30% of the global GDP and 46.5% of the world population. In addition, the new development bank BRICS might become an alternative to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

                                                          The 15th BRICS Summit is an important event for the world, especially for the global South. Why is it so important? The reason is simple. The birth and strengthening of the BRICS+ is a step towards limiting the dominance of the West, which has become increasingly aggressive and overconfident since the fall of the Berlin Wall. This is a positive change. However, the countries of the underdeveloped South (most African countries) must be particularly vigilant, because nothing particularly shows that the BRICS+, once structured and organized, would not opt for an imperialist economic tendency or an authoritarian political system. One must not forget that human rights and democracy are universal values. Justice is requested by all citizens of the world regardless of their geographical position. The South needs a new era of freedom and justice.

                                                          The people of the global South continue to suffer from the persistence of colonialism in its contemporary form (neocolonialism), whose proponents are the Bretton Woods institutions and their so-called development partners. The BRICS+ will thus be an opportunity for the countries of the global South to strengthen their national and international sovereignties. In other words, it will be an opportunity to free themselves from the control and hegemony of the North. The official statements at the 15th BRICS summit constantly stressed the importance of the grouping for sustainable and equitable development for each country, especially those from Africa, which has long suffered from the domination of the North. Still, the five countries were very vigilant in selecting the countries invited to join the group.

                                                          The four founding countries of the BRICS are aware that the creation of a multipolar world begins with the de-dollarization of trade. Political crises (wars, guerrilla, terrorism, etc.) and the multiple sanctions imposed on some countries (Syria, Iran, Brazil, Venezuela, Russia, Ukraine, etc.) show that emerging economies can no longer trust the current global system, especially after the desire to expand NATO, the invasion of Iraq, the persistent political deadlock and great economic insecurity in Libya, among other global crises (Palestine, Tunisia, Lebanon, Mali…). The permanent and provocative crises of recent decades have shown that certain countries of the global South cannot decide sovereignly and independently on their economic and political development without "soft" or "hard" interventions from the United States (US) and its allies. Even Europe is subjugated by the US and it is now flailing under its crumbling democratic, economic, and social system due to this. No country should trust the US. Therefore, in a world infested by permanent crises (political crises, economic crises, financial crises, health crises, terrorism…), bringing the South and the North together is a necessity.

                                                          Faced against this unipolar system, unified by its ideology and formal organization, the new bloc is taking its first steps towards formal structuring. Can it succeed? Economically, BRICS+ can compete with the North, but politically it will be too difficult since BRICS+ involves a great deal of heterogeneity: some countries have very deep political, religious, and cultural conflicts.

                                                          Inviting Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Ethiopia, Argentina, and Egypt is a clever consent of the BRICS to progressively establish a new system of de-dollarization and create cracks in old global institutions such as OPEC, the World Bank, and the IMF. However, will it succeed in uniting its members to serve democracy and social justice in the global South? The answer is no, as some countries of the BRICS+ have authoritarian systems. The global south must collaborate with certain countries of the North to serve the democratic and social restructuring of their societies. Win-win collaboration between all countries is a necessity for a better and just world. Therefore, global institutions and organizations must be restructured by respecting the sovereignty of each country.

                                                          Certainly, others would integrate the BRICS+, but still, it must not become an economic and monetary grouping dominated by certain countries like those that excel in AI, industrial, nuclear, and weapons technology, or those with abundant natural resources. Poor and vulnerable countries must be able to pave the way for their own development, free from the shackles of the BRICS+. This would be a new way of dependence and exploitation.

                                                          The last question is, will the BRICS+ be an opportunity to create a just multipolar system? While it is nigh impossible in the short term, in the long term it depends on whether the poor and underdeveloped countries can manage to find a good negotiating position. They ought to show their independence without truly cutting ties with the North so that they can negotiate comfortably their interests with the BRICS+. The "new" global order speaks the same economic language as the United States and its allies: more profit. We must not believe that the first of January 2024 is a date for the freedom and independence of the global South, but that it is the coming of a new economic power that wants to conquer new markets, especially in Africa. Let's be vigilant because freedom and democracy are defended by the people.

                                                          We remind our readers that publication of articles on our site does not mean that we agree with what is written. Our policy is to publish anything which we consider of interest, so as to assist our readers in forming their opinions. Sometimes we even publish articles with which we totally disagree, since we believe it is important for our readers to be informed on as wide a spectrum of views as possible.

                                                                        The 2023 "Expansion Summit": BRICS+ History in the Making («Саммит расширения» 2023 года: история БРИКС+ в процессе становления) / Russia, September, 2023
                                                                        Keywords: brics+, expert_opinion
                                                                        Yaroslav Lissovolik

                                                                        The 2023 BRICS summit is over, and it has clearly been one of the most historic and transformational BRICS summits on record. In particular, a major expansion was unleashed by the bloc, with six new members forming part of the BRICS core starting from January 1, 2024: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Iran. At the same time, the BRICS summit Declaration has underwhelmed in terms of the ambition on the economic front as compared to expectations. Some of the key economic priorities, including trade liberalization among BRICS and the progression towards a common currency have not had an explicit or emphatic reference in the final document:

                                                                        • On expansion: six new members form part of the BRICS core starting from January 1, 2024: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Iran. This expansion enables BRICS to cover almost all of the main regions of the Global South, most notably the Middle East that is now represented by Iran, Saudi Arabia and UAE. Perhaps, the only remaining region left outside the core is ASEAN/South-East Asia. Indonesia was discussed as a possible member, but it opted to stay on the sidelines in the end with the possibility of entry in later periods.
                                                                        • On BRICS+ format and the circle of friends of BRICS: in para 92 of the Declaration the BRICS have tasked the Foreign Ministers "to further develop the BRICS partner country model and a list of prospective partner countries and report by the next Summit". In essence a circle of friends is emerging in line with what was advocated by Brazil. The BRICS+ format is welcomed in the context of South Africa's presidency, but there is no framework or plan advanced as to how this format is to be further developed.
                                                                        • On BRICS common currency: there is a vague reference in para 45 of the Declaration: "We task our Finance Ministers and/or Central Bank Governors, as appropriate, to consider the issue of local currencies, payment instruments and platforms and report back to us by the next Summit". Compared to earlier discussions this is less concrete and emphatic, with no explicit reference made to a common currency. Still, the fact that this paragraph made it into the final Declaration allows the BRICS countries to move towards forming working groups to discuss the possible modalities of the single currency for the next BRICS summit.

                                                                        In the economic sphere, one of the key themes is clearly the greater use of national currencies and there clearly is yet more that needs to be done to advance this process. Apart from the New Development Bank (NDB) that may step up efforts in this sphere there are also the regional development banks, where BRICS and BRICS+ countries are members. Thus far, the BRICS have not exploited the full potential for economic cooperation that resides in bringing together all the regional integration projects and regional development institutions of BRICS and the broader Global South.

                                                                        As regards the common BRICS currency, Lula is clearly standing out as the champion of the cause, with statements from the Brazilian president emphasizing the benefits of the common currency for trade and investment among BRICS. In particular, Brazil's leader, called for the creation of a reference unit for BRICS countries—something that is likely akin to an accounting unit that has been discussed at the expert level in the preceding several months. The importance of Lula's comments is in laying the groundwork for further progress on this front, with increasing likelihood of the R5 project taking off towards the year 2025 when Brazil takes over the chairmanship in BRICS. China may become more supportive of the common BRICS currency in the near term as it may conclude that going solo with only pursuing the internationalization of its own currency may not achieve as much in the way of de-dollarization, with exposure to technological, trade and other restrictions also being a factor to reckon with.

                                                                        A key area of focus in the coming years should also be the expansion in the mandate of the BRICS New Development Bank as well as the BRICS Contingency Reserve Arrangement (CRA). With respect to the latter, there are several key trajectories that could be explored in view of lacking effectiveness and impact on the part of the BRICS CRA:

                                                                        • Coordination of macroeconomic policies on the part of the BRICS/BRICS+ economies
                                                                        • Publication of BRICS economic trends and preparation of research materials that identify risks and provide early warning systems for BRICS economies
                                                                        • Analytical work on the expediency and modalities of a common BRICS currency
                                                                        • Creation of a platform of cooperation among the regional financing arrangements in which BRICS countries are members.

                                                                        There also needs to be a far more ambitious agenda for the New Development Bank after the BRICS "expansion summit", with the key near term priorities including:

                                                                        • Further expansion of membership with a particular focus on the regional partners of the current members to widen the scope for "connectivity" and regional green development
                                                                        • Creation of a common platform for regional development banks, in which BRICS+ countries are members
                                                                        • A more emphatic global profile, with active presence in BRICS/BRICS+ summits as well as the annual summits of the G20 group and other key international economic fora
                                                                        • Formation of a portfolio of NDB's "brand projects" that are to deliver a sizeable impact on growth and quality of economic development in the Global South
                                                                        • More active progression towards issuing financial instruments and undertaking lending in national currencies
                                                                        • Coordination with BRICS CRA of analytical work on the possibility of the creation of a BRICS common currency
                                                                        • Greater activism coming from the regional centers of NDB to weave the regional development agendas into NDB's project priorities
                                                                        Another key focus area in the economic sphere is trade liberalization—it has not featured in the recent summit decisions of BRICS economies, even though if pursued it may be one of the most important factors that could raise the weight and prominence of the expanded bloc in the world economy. The urgency in trade liberalization coming from BRICS is not only the opening of markets per se, but in providing greater development opportunities to the Global South, including with respect to Africa.

                                                                        In fact, it is precisely through greater trade liberalization that the BRICS economies can assist the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to become a driver of regional economic growth for Africa. Most of the expanded BRICS+ economies have relatively high import tariffs and there is sizeable scope for a concerted round of trade liberalization that would prioritize AfCFTA members.

                                                                        The agenda of trade liberalization would open up not only BRICS+ markets, but also a number of development trajectories for the bloc that could take its level of economic ambition to another level. In particular, a number of BRICS economies conduct their trade policies via their respective regional trade arrangements: Russia via the EAEU, Brazil via MERSOSUR, etc. A reduction in the level of import tariffs via-a-vis Africa coming from BRICs would necessitate a lowering of import barriers in the regional partners of BRICS core members, leading to a "multiplier effect" in trade liberalization encompassing a rising number of economies from the Global South.

                                                                        The BRICS+ trade liberalization agenda would accordingly bring the respective regional integration projects of BRICS+ economies towards greater coordination and cooperation, opening new venues for advancing a pragmatic economic agenda. In comparative terms, BRICS economies have far more scope for trade liberalization compared to developed economies—greater market access for Africa and other parts of the Global South may represent a key competitive advantage exercised by BRICS vis-à-vis the G7 economies.

                                                                        The recent G20 summit in India has, in fact, shown that Western economies will be seeking for ways to build their own bridges to the Global South, most notably through platforms that compete with China's Belt and Road (BRI) connectivity project. Of note in this respect was Biden's declaration on the launching of a BRI competitor framework that would include prominent members of the expanded BRICS+ such as India, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This came on top of the accession of the African Union into the G20—something that will raise pressure on BRICS+ to come up with a clear, pragmatic economic agenda that is appealing to the economies of the Global South. And of course, even after the impressive BRICS expansion in 2023 there remain a number of important economies in the Global South that thus far have not been brought into the orbit of BRICS+ cooperation, including the likes of Vietnam. U.S. President Joe Biden visited the country after the G20 summit and raised the U.S.-Vietnam relations to a level of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

                                                                        All these developments entail that BRICS+ needs to come up with credible and innovative projects for the Global South in the coming years. Postponing the "integration of integrations" path further in favor of piecemeal expansion will eventually lead to diminished enthusiasm from the developing economies to join the BRICS+ project. Expanding the outreach not just to individual countries, but to whole regional blocks, will enable BRICS to work more closely with regional associations such as ASEAN and the African Union. Indeed, the South-Western pocket of the Global South represented by ASEAN is effectively the only region in the developing world that remains outside the BRICS+ grouping. As historic and grand as was the BRICS 2023 expansion in membership, the competitive realities of the global economy call upon BRICS+ to take the outreach to the Global South to a whole different level.

                                                                                      View from Delhi: G20 is in need of genuine reform (Взгляд из Дели: G20 нуждается в подлинной реформе) / Russia, September, 2023
                                                                                      Keywords: global_governance, expert_opinion

                                                                                      G20 leaders at Rajghat paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi, New Delhi, September 10, 2023
                                                                                      India being the host country, the triumphalist tom-toming that G20 summit on September 9-10 was a "success" is both understandable and probably justifiable. Certainly, Indian diplomacy was in full cry. The negotiation of the G20 Declaration is no mean achievement in a highly polarised environment, notes M.K. Bhadrakumar, Indian Ambassador and prominent international observer.
                                                                                      That said, in a forward-looking perspective, the geopolitical factors that were at work in the Delhi summit will continue to remain the critical determinants for the G20's future as a format to forge new directions in economic strategies. In a world torn apart, many imponderables remain.
                                                                                      The geopolitical factors can be attributed largely to the fact that the G20 summit took place at an inflection point in the Ukraine war, an event that is, like the tip of an iceberg, a manifestation of the tensions building up between the Western powers and Russia in the post-cold war era.
                                                                                      The heart of the matter is that the Cold War ended through negotiations but the new era was not anchored in any peace treaty. The void created drift and anomalies — and security being indivisible, tensions began appearing as the NATO embarked on an expansion eastward into the former Warsaw Pact territories in the late 1990s.
                                                                                      With great prescience, George Kennan, the choreographer of Cold War strategies, forewarned that the Bill Clinton administration, seized of the "unipolar moment," was making a grave mistake, as Russia would feel threatened by NATO expansion, which would inexorably complicate the West's relations with Russia for a long, long time to come.
                                                                                      But NATO kept expanding and slouching toward Russia's western borders in an arc of encirclement. It was an unspoken secret that Ukraine was set to become ultimately the battleground where the titanic forces would clash.
                                                                                      Predictably, following the regime change in Ukraine backed by the West in 2014, an anti-Russian regime was installed in Kiev and the NATO embarked on a military build-up in that country alongside a concerted plan to induct it into the western alliance system.
                                                                                      Suffice to say, the "consensus" evolved at the G20 summit last week regarding Ukraine war is, in reality, a passing moment in the geopolitical struggle between the US and Russia, as embedded within it is the existential crisis Russia faces.
                                                                                      There is no shred of evidence that the US is willing to concede the legitimacy of Russia's defence and security interests or to give up its notions of exceptionalism and world hegemony. If anything, a very turbulent period lies ahead. Therefore, do not exaggerate the happy tidings out of the Delhi summit, much as one may savour the moment.
                                                                                      Washington's climbdown at the summit regarding Ukraine has been both a creative response to the mediatory efforts by the three BRICS countries — South Africa, India and Brazil — as much as, if not more, in its self-interest to avert isolation from the Global South.
                                                                                      Evidently, while Moscow is profusely complimenting India and Modi, the opposite is the case in the western opinion where the compromise on Ukraine has not gone down well at all. The British newspaper Financial Times, which is wired into government thinking, has written that Delhi Declaration refers only to the "war in Ukraine," a formulation that supporters of Kiev such as the US and NATO allies have previously rejected, as it implies both sides are equally complicit, and "called for a 'just and durable peace in Ukraine' but did not explicitly link that demand to the importance of Ukraine's territorial integrity."
                                                                                      Indeed, feelings are running high and, no doubt, as the Ukraine war enters the next brutal phase, they will boil over at the prospect of a Russian victory.
                                                                                      Again, there is no question that the West feels challenged by the dramatic surge of BRICS — more to the point, the group's seductive appeal among the developing countries, the so-called Global South, unnerves the West.
                                                                                      The West can never hope to gain entry into the BRICS tent, either. Meanwhile, the BRICS is moving with determination in the direction of replacing the international trading system which provided underpinning for western hegemony. The US' weaponisation of sanctions — and the seizure of Russian reserves arbitrarily — has created misgivings in the minds of many nations.
                                                                                      Plainly put, the US has forgotten its solemn promise when dollar replaced gold as the reserves in the early 1970s that its currency will be freely accessible for all countries. Today, the US turned that promise upside down and exploits dollar's primacy to print the currency as much as it wants and live beyond its means.
                                                                                      The growing trend is toward trading in local currencies, bypassing dollar. The BRICS is expected to accelerate these shifts. Make no mistake, sooner or later, BRICS may work on an alternative currency to replace dollar.
                                                                                      Conceivably, therefore, there will be western conspiracies to create dissonance within BRICS, and Washington is sure to continue to play on India's disquiet over China's towering presence in the Global South. While exploiting Indian phobias regarding China, the Biden administration also looks toward Modi government to act as a bridge between the West and the Global South. Are such expectations realistic?
                                                                                      The current developments in Africa with a pronounced anti-colonial, anti-western overtone, directly threaten to disrupt the continued transfer of wealth out of that resource-rich continent to the West. How can India, which has known the cruelty of colonial subjugation, collaborate with the West in such a paradigm?
                                                                                      Fundamentally, all these geopolitical factors taken into account, G20's future lies in its capacity for internal reform. Conceived during the financial crisis in 2007 when globalisation was still in vogue, G20 is today barely surviving in a vastly different global environment. Added to that, the "politicisation" ("Ukrainisation") of G20 by the Western powers undermines the format's raison d'être.
                                                                                      The world order itself is in transition and the G20 needs to move with the times to avoid obsolescence. For a start, the G20 format is packed with rich countries, most of whom are pretenders with little to contribute, at a juncture when the G7 no longer calls the shots. In GDP terms or population, BRICS has overtaken G7.
                                                                                      Greater representation of the Global South is needed by replacing the pretenders from the industrial world. Second, the IMF needs urgent reform, which is of course easier said than done, as it involves the US agreeing to give up its undue privileges of vetoing decisions it disfavours for political or geopolitical reasons — or, plainly, to punish certain countries.
                                                                                      With IMF reform, the G20 can hope to play a meaningful role focused on creating a new trading system. But the West is playing for time by politicising the G20, paranoid that its 5-centuries old dominance of the world economic order is ending. Unfortunately, visionary leadership is conspicuous by its absence in the Western world at such a historic moment of transition, M.K. Bhadrakumar concludes.
                                                                                                    Investment and Finance
                                                                                                    Investment and finance in BRICS
                                                                                                    NDB Board of Directors Convened its 41st Meeting in Shanghai (Совет директоров НБР провел 41-е заседание в Шанхае) / China, September, 2023
                                                                                                    Keywords: ndb, top_level_meeting

                                                                                                    On September 14, 2023, the Board of Directors (Board, BoD) of the New Development Bank (NDB) held its 41st Meeting at the Bank's Headquarters in Shanghai, where the Board members discussed matters pertaining to various aspects of the NDB's operations, resource mobilisation and future growth.

                                                                                                    The Board received a comprehensive update on the project pipeline as well as ongoing project implementation and disbursement. It was highlighted that NDB is committed to mobilizing resources for financing infrastructure and sustainable development projects, prioritizing high-impact operations in alignment with the development objectives of its members and in full support of their commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

                                                                                                    Updates on funding and LIBOR transition progress were provided to the Board. BoD approved the enhancement to the annual funding plan for 2023.

                                                                                                    The Board discussed the expansion of the Bank's membership, highlighting that membership expansion remains a priority to position NDB as a global institution with high credit standing and development impact.

                                                                                                    The Board also received reports by the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) of the New Development Bank pertaining to the evaluations of the COVID-19 Emergency Programme Loans, Brazil Renewable Energy Projects and Associated Transmission Project as well as South Africa Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction and Energy Sector Development Project.

                                                                                                    The Board also approved the revised Internal Audit Policy and Internal Audit Charter as well as the Multi-year Risk-based Internal Audit Plan for 2023-2025.

                                                                                                    The 28th meeting of the Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee and the 24th meeting of the Budget, Human Resources and Compensation Committee (BHRC) were held at the Bank's Headquarters on September 12, 2023 and September 13, 2023 respectively. The BHRC received a report on human resources and noted the budget utilisation for Q1.

                                                                                                    Background Information

                                                                                                    New Development Bank was established with the purpose of mobilizing resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging market economies and developing countries, complementing the efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development. In 2021, NDB initiated membership expansion and admitted Bangladesh, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Uruguay as its new member countries.

                                                                                                                  NDB's Board of Directors and Senior Management Meet with Governor Wang Zhonglin, Discuss Development Priorities and Areas of Collaboration (Совет директоров и высшее руководство НБР встретились с губернатором Ван Чжунлинем, обсудили приоритеты развития и области сотрудничества) / China, September, 2023
                                                                                                                  Keywords: ndb, top_level_meeting

                                                                                                                  September 15, 2023; Wuhan, Hubei — NDB's President and Board Member, H.E. Mrs. Dilma Rousseff; Mr. Dondo Mogajane, Chairperson of the Board and Director for South Africa; Mr. Zhijun Cheng, Director for China; Ms. Thuraiya Alhashmi, Director for the constituency of Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates and Egypt, together with NDB's Vice Presidents met with Mr. Wang Zhonglin, Deputy Secretary of the CPC Hubei Provincial Committee and Governor of the Hubei Provincial People's Government and his delegation in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

                                                                                                                  H.E. President Dilma Rousseff spoke about NDB's successful partnership with Hubei Province in financing COVID-19 relief efforts. She also briefed Governor Wang about NDB's membership expansion to help create a more multipolar international order and NDB's efforts to deepen local capital markets of its member countries.

                                                                                                                  "China is an example to the world on comprehensive development. The 'dual circulation' strategy and a commitment with a high quality technological and innovative development explain the good results obtained by its leaders. I am very proud of our partnership with Hubei Province on fighting COVID-19 together and we look forward to driving sustainable and inclusive growth by investing in such areas as health, transportation, renewable energy, digital development and education, while safeguarding the ecology and the environment," said H.E. Mrs. Dilma Rousseff.

                                                                                                                  Governor Wang highlighted the unique advantages of Hubei Province in driving inclusive economic growth in China given its central location, logistical and transportation potential, presence of rich natural resources, richness in science and educational institutions of eminence. He also spoke about how Hubei Province is focusing on the ecological mindset of safeguarding mountains, rivers, and wetlands while driving economic growth, as highlighted by President Xi Jinping.

                                                                                                                  Governor Wang thanked the New Development Bank for providing timely financial support to Hubei Province during COVID-19, which helped accelerate the prevention and recovery efforts. Highlighting synergies with NDB's General Strategy 2022-2026, the Governor highlighted NDB's focus on supporting low carbon development of its member countries.

                                                                                                                  NDB's delegation is on a two-day visit to Hubei Province. They will visit health facilities in Jingzhou on September 16, which were financed through NDB's RMB 7 billion COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Loan.

                                                                                                                  About NDB

                                                                                                                  The NDB was established in 2015 by Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa to mobilise resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging market economies and developing countries. In 2021, NDB initiated membership expansion and admitted Bangladesh, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Uruguay as its new member countries. As of December 31, 2022, the Bank's portfolio stands at USD 30.2 billion for 85 projects across sectors such as clean energy, transport, water and sanitation, environmental protection, social, and digital infrastructure.

                                                                                                                  For more information on NDB, please visit For more information on NDB's COVID-19 Response Programme, please visit:

                                                                                                                                World of Work
                                                                                                                                SOCIAL POLICY, TRADE UNIONS, ACTIONS
                                                                                                                                Russia Strengthens Cooperation with South Africa in Education (Россия укрепляет сотрудничество с ЮАР в сфере образования) / Russia, September, 2023
                                                                                                                                Keywords: social_issues

                                                                                                                                Tatiana Bokova, Intern of the Russian National Committee on BRICS Research – special for InfoBRICS

                                                                                                                                In a rapidly globalizing world, international cooperation in the field of education has become paramount. Nations are realizing the importance of fostering educational ties with other countries to enhance knowledge exchange, promote cultural understanding, and develop a globally competitive workforce. Russia, with its rich history of educational excellence, is taking a fresh and ambitious approach towards strengthening educational cooperation with South Africa, a nation with its own unique educational challenges and opportunities. Russia has taken a fresh look at relations with Asia and Africa since the events of 2022 and is now making efforts to establish multilateral co-operation. Russian universities routinely announce negotiations with African partners, the signing of agreements, joint programs, and conferences.

                                                                                                                                "Russia and African countries have been collaborating for many years across various sectors, particularly in the field of education. Tens of thousands of African residents are currently pursuing their studies in our country, and they later contribute to the development of their nations," stated Vadim Lobov, founder and president of Synergy Corporation.

                                                                                                                                Russia and South Africa have shared a long history of diplomatic relations, dating back to the era of the Soviet Union. However, it is only in recent years that both countries have recognized the potential for robust educational collaboration. South Africa's democratic transition in 1994 paved the way for renewed diplomatic and economic ties, and education became a key focus area. Russia is collaborating with African partners to enhance mutually beneficial cooperation and promote progress in bilateral relations. Russian-African cooperation embodies the concept of "soft power" through public diplomacy by utilizing both official channels, such as public speeches by officials, and unofficial channels including NGOs, universities, interstate forums, and exhibitions.

                                                                                                                                Over the years, the cultural and educational ties between Russia and South Africa have flourished. Joint cultural festivals, language programs, and academic exchanges have fostered a deeper understanding of each other's cultures and traditions. Collaborative research projects in fields like science, technology, and agriculture have led to valuable discoveries and knowledge sharing. The historical backdrop of the Russia-South Africa bilateral relations pertaining to cultural and educational domains has undergone a transformative development. Moving from a phase of diplomatic seclusion towards one of partnership, both nations have embarked on a journey of mutual understanding and cooperation. Together, they strive to overcome educational hurdles and foster cultural intermingling in a world that is rapidly evolving.

                                                                                                                                In July, the second Russia-Africa summit was held in St Petersburg, covering issues such as food, energy, space technology, information technology, education, sports and other areas. Russian President, Vladimir Putin, stated that the summit will be a driving force for political and humanitarian co-operation between Russia and Africa, endeavouring to enhance Russia-Africa relations. In total, 51 agreements on education and science were signed at the event, signalling deeper cooperation with Africa in the field of education in the future.

                                                                                                                                Collaborative research initiatives are thriving in various fields, including science, technology, and agriculture between Russia and South Africa. For instance, research partnerships have explored renewable energy solutions, climate change adaptation, and advanced medical technologies. These endeavors have led to innovative discoveries with potential global impact. The Russian Synergy University has recently launched the BRICS Association of Private Educational Organizations at the BRICS Forum in South Africa. The new Association will help partner organizations to open branches of educational institutions, develop online courses, and enhance academic mobility in BRICS countries. Moreover, it aims to provide easy access to quality education that satisfies the needs of progressive economic development.

                                                                                                                                Teacher training remains a key priority in the educational cooperation agenda. Russia is currently engaged in assisting South African educators by offering training and resources that are aimed at enhancing both teaching techniques and curriculum development. The goal is to enhance the quality of education at all levels. For example, Russia has invited South Africa to participate in a programme for the development of African studies in Russian universities and research organisations. Valery Falkov, Minister of Science and Higher Education of Russia, made such an offer to the African country. The project is aimed at training specialists in the study of Asia and Africa.Programme participants will be able to intern, study languages, history and culture in African countries. The Minister reports that Russia has trained more than 310,000 skilled professionals from Africa throughout their history of cooperation with the continent. Currently, there is a substantial rise in the number of budgetary spots available for African students. To be specific, the number of spots has increased from 1.7 thousand in 2020 to 4.7 thousand in 2023.

                                                                                                                                Language is a vital component of cultural exchange and international understanding. Language programs are being offered to South African students to learn Russian, and vice versa, further strengthening linguistic ties between the two nations. Russia is trying to promote accessibility of higher education, including by adapting courses and programmes into English, issuing more quota places, etc. For example, in the academic year 2020/21, over 27,000 African students studied in Russian universities. The Russian Federation also offers South Africa to participate in a programme to develop African studies in Russian universities. In addition, SPbU is actively working with African countries, including in the area of Russian language teaching. For five years, university has maintained its status of the most popular Russian university among foreigners. To enable prospective students to learn the basics of Russian before they arrive in Russia, SPbU has launched distance language courses in African countries.

                                                                                                                                Scholarships provided by both governments have financially assisted numerous students and researchers in their educational pursuits. These scholarships have not only incentivized academic excellence but have also widened the pool of talent in both countries. For instance, the number of African students receiving scholarships to study at Russian universities has increased by 150 percent over the past three years and is expected to grow by over 47,000 students in 2024. The quota for federally funded African students in the next academic year will exceed 4,700. In addition, joint schools will be established, for which adapted teaching aids are being prepared based on a combination of Russian and African national educational programmes. The implementation of projects such as Russian language learning and the introduction of high educational standards will create a better basis for our further mutually beneficial and equal co-operation.

                                                                                                                                The collaboration between Russia and South Africa in culture and education presents significant potential and promise. As both nations work to strengthen their current achievements and tackle challenges, various opportunities emerge. Increased student mobility can enable more young individuals to explore the diverse educational opportunities in each nation, with extended scholarships and grants making these experiences more accessible. Collaborative research in emerging areas including renewable energy, healthcare, and technology can produce innovative solutions to global challenges. Continued investment in such projects can lead to significant discoveries. It is important to intensify efforts to promote language learning, enabling greater accessibility for students to languages such as Russian and South African, thus facilitating deeper cultural engagement and academic exchange.

                                                                                                                                As Russia and South Africa begin their educational partnership, there is optimism for the future. Though obstacles remain, they are viewed as opportunities to increase comprehension and cooperation. The progress made in academic exchanges, research collaborations, teacher training, cultural enrichment, and digital learning initiatives is a testament to the commitment of both nations to promoting global knowledge. In today's globalized world, Russia's new approach to collaborating with South Africa on education demonstrates a joint understanding of the pivotal role that education plays in societal advancement.

                                                                                                                                              Apolitical people to gladly take part in 2024 BRICS Games in Russia — Putin (Аполитичные люди с радостью примут участие в Играх БРИКС-2024 в России — Путин) / Russia, September, 2023
                                                                                                                                              Keywords: social_issues, quotation, vladimir_putin

                                                                                                                                              "Everyone will be happy to take part in them," the Russian president went on to say

                                                                                                                                              VLADIVOSTOK, September 12. /TASS/. Anyone who is not concerned with politics will be happy to take part in such sports competitions as the Games of the Future and the BRICS Games in Russia next year, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday speaking at the plenary session of the 2023 Eastern Economic Forum (EEF).

                                                                                                                                              "Next year we will be hosting the Games of Future and the BRICS Games. Everyone will be happy to take part in them. Everyone, who is apolitical," he said.

                                                                                                                                              The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) is taking place in Vladivostok on September 10-13. The slogan for this year's forum is: On the Path to Partnership, Peace and Prosperity. The Roscongress Foundation is the event organizer. TASS is the EEF's general information partner.

                                                                                                                                              The 2024 BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Games will be hosted by the Russian city of Kazan between June 12 and 23 and will feature events in 25 different sports.

                                                                                                                                              Games of the Future

                                                                                                                                              The inaugural cybersport Games of the Future in 2024 will consist of new disciplines using advanced technology, the digital environment and physical activity. The competitions are designed to use cutting-edge developments in cybersports, robotics, both augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR), information technology (IT) and artificial intelligence (AI). The tournament offers $25 million in prize money.

                                                                                                                                              As part of the preparations for the Games of the Future, Russia has organized a series of Phygital Games. The first Phygital Games were held on September 21-23, 2022, the second - from November 24 through December 10, 2022, the third - on February 5-11, and the fourth - on March 9-10. The 5th edition of the Phygital Games was hosted by Kazan on May 16-19.

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