Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 11.2024
2024.03.11 — 2024.03.17
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Ethiopia and BRICS: Regional and Global Dimensions (Эфиопия и БРИКС: региональное и глобальное измерения) / Russia, March, 2024
Keywords: Ethiopia, expert_opinion, research

With the BRICS forum, Ethiopia got a new platform for cooperating with member states on specialised issues like finance, technology and global governance matters, which also positively enhances trust among the members states; Ethiopia is due to benefit substantially over time, writes Dareskedar Taye, Lead Researcher at the Institute of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia.

Ethiopia, one of the oldest nations in Africa, is twice as big as France and three times the size of Germany. Situated in the Horn Africa, it is a land-locked nation less than 60 km away from the Red Sea; it is also near the Indian Ocean, which borders neighbouring Somalia. Ethiopia's population has been growing rapidly since the beginning of the 21st century due to its exceptionally high birth rate; it was home to 67 million people in 2000, but by 2023 this figure had had grown to 126 million.

In its diplomatic endeavours, it has always maintained a strong presence, especially since the second half of the nineteenth century. Since then, major changes at the global level have exerted their influence upon Ethiopian diplomacy, sometimes in positive ways and at other times with adverse consequences. Ethiopia had already established bilateral relations with most European powers by the 20th century, namely Britain, Russia, France and Italy. It took only several years to expand bilateral relations with other major powers of the time. Ethiopia embraced multilateral diplomacy as early as the 20th century by joining institutions like the International Labor Organisation and International Telecommunications Union. Ethiopia joined the League of Nations with the assumption that the members would truly commit themselves to the principles of collective security. However, Ethiopia was not only invaded by another member of the League; still other members gave the invading nation their blessing. Despite being betrayed by the League of Nations, Ethiopia was not hesitant to sit with other nations to help establish the United Nations immediately following WWII.

Afterwards, Ethiopia shifted its focus towards Africa, where it played two important roles. First, as a free African nation at a time when almost all the others had been colonized, Ethiopia pursued a policy of supporting liberation movements in different parts of the continent. Following the independence of many African nations in the late 1950 and early 1960s, the diplomatic focus of Ethiopia became establishing an African platform that would help the continent determine its fate on its own. The effort culminated in 1963 with the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) with the vision of advancing pan-African ambitions. Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, then became the capital of Africa following a decision by OAU to make Addis Ababa its headquarters. Now, Addis Ababa is the political capital of Africa and the gateway to the continent.

Ethiopia tried at one point to promote a common African position during the Cold War. It also participated in numerous South-South cooperation platforms as well as the non-aligned movement. It is only after the 1974 Ethiopian Revolution that the country shifted its foreign policy orientation from the neutrality principle towards an ideologically-driven approach. Ethiopia joined the Soviet bloc and consolidated its bilateral relations with then-Soviet Russia and other socialist nations. The tendency of practicing an ideologically-driven foreign policy, however, ended with the Cold War.

Ethiopia had to confront new dynamics following the conclusion of the Cold War, both at home and at the global level. Domestically, the state pursued policy reforms embracing the privatisation of parastatal institutions and the liberalisation of policies and regulations, shifting the country towards a market economy. A new constitution which embraced a federal state structure, democratic governance and the market economy was put into place in 1995. As Ethiopia was endorsing domestic political and economic reforms, the world was experiencing the emergence of America as the only superpower, where the system was shifting towards a unipolar world.

The policy reforms within started to bear fruit at the beginning of the 21st century. To mention some of them briefly: 1) Ethiopia experienced economic growth in every year since 2000. While the rate of growth varied, it was by any measure positive growth, and has had a positive impact on poverty reduction. 2) The reform and resulting growth trajectory have been supplemented by foreign direct investment, and states like China and India have emerged as alternative sources of investment finance. 3) Ethiopia has begun to exercise foreign policy independently in its relationship with the great powers. During this period, Ethiopia has maintained strong political, economic and security-related relations with the US and EU on the one hand and with China, Russia and India on the other hand.

Maintaining independence in the rapidly changing global order has remained a national responsibility, particularly over the past fifteen years. During those years, the world witnessed a reconfiguration of power following the 2008 financial crisis, the emergence of China as its second-largest economy, the rise of BRICS as an alternative global governance arrangement, and the general rise of the East. Russia, which had offered an ideological alternative during Cold War, has also shown tremendous changes in its posture amid the changing global order. It is an era of change with an impact which has been felt across the world.

Ethiopia's accession to the BRICS forum has provided an impetus to its diplomatic efforts in a changing global order. Joining BRICS has meant a lot to Ethiopia.

Cultivating diplomatic trust with BRICS members

The more two or more states work together on a diverse array of issues for a long period of time, the greater the possibility is that they will cultivate diplomatic trust. Grand visions like regional integration or free trade areas are realised after many years of engagement at different levels of diplomatic engagement. The BRICS forum will also help Ethiopia expand the scope of the interaction it already maintains with the member nations. It is true that Ethiopia has good bilateral relations with most of the old and new members of BRICS. Ethiopia and Russia have a history of more than 125 years of bilateral diplomatic relations, and within the past five decades, the two nations have had strong security-related relations. Indians were among the first school teachers in Ethiopia in the early 20th century and now there are strong economic and political relations between the two. With China, Ethiopia has strong relations as manifested in the form of diplomacy, investment and infrastructure. South Africa and Ethiopia have maintained cordial ties since the times when the South Africans were fighting Apartheid. With the BRICS forum, Ethiopia got a new platform for cooperating with member states on specialised issues like finance, technology and global governance matters, which also positively enhances trust among the members states; Ethiopia is due to benefit substantially over time.

Diversification of friends and financial sources

Ethiopia is a developing nation in dire need of external financing for use in fully realising its development goals. The world is no longer fully controlled by global financial institutions established under Bretton Woods. New sources of financing are now available from the BRICS member states and from the institutions which were established by BRICS. For Ethiopia, member nations are important sources of investment financing, and Ethiopia needs to capitalize on it. Institutions like the New Development Bank will also be an important source of financing for Ethiopia.

Standing with other like-minded states in an era of a changing global order

History proves that great power transitions are usually accompanied with violence and shocks. As the world is heading towards change, it is wise to be on the side of like-minded states and to avoid the possible challenges that we may encounter in relation to that change. As BRICS is composed of major states from Africa, the Middle East, Eurasia and South America, the possibility exists that it will defend the interests of the developing nations and voice the concerns of these nations collectively.
                Expansion of BRICS: A quest for greater global influence? (Расширение БРИКС: стремление к большему глобальному влиянию?) / European Union, March, 2024
                Keywords: brics+
                European Union

                On 1 January 2024, BRICS – the intergovernmental organisation comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – admitted four new members: Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. The group's decision to open the door to new members was taken at its Johannesburg summit in August 2023, sparking a debate about its growing international influence. According to estimates, BRICS+, as the organisation has been informally called since its expansion, now accounts for 37.3 % of world GDP, or more than half as much as the EU (14.5 %). However, besides an increase in economic power the new members could bring potential conflicts (Saudi Arabia/Iran or Egypt/Ethiopia) into the group, making the reaching of consensus on common political positions more difficult. Since the new members would only contribute roughly 4 % to the group's cumulative GDP, the significance of the expansion should be seen beyond the purely economic effect, in the form of greater influence for the group and for developing countries as a whole within international organisations such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and the Bretton Woods institutions. The EU engages with BRICS+ countries individually. For instance, it has strategic partnerships with Brazil, India and South Africa, and is negotiating a free trade agreement with India. On the other hand, current conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza show the divergent approaches to security taken by the EU and BRICS+. The European Parliament has stressed that further political dialogue with the BRICS countries is needed, including on an individual basis. In an exchange of views with European Commission representatives in October 2023, Members of the Parliament's Committee on International Trade (INTA) underlined the need to keep an eye on the group's expansion, especially considering the effect of a potential BRICS+ currency and the consequences for EU trade policy.
                              Russian Minister of Justice Meets BRICS Ambassadors in Moscow (Министр юстиции России встретился с послами БРИКС в Москве) / Russia, March, 2024
                              Keywords: top_level_meeting

                              On 11 March Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation Konstantin Chuychenko held a meeting with ambassadors of BRICS countries as part of Russia's Chairship of BRICS.

                              Meeting participants discussed opportunities for further expanding legal cooperation and ways to create new platforms for systematic and multilateral discussions of issues related to justice within BRICS.

                              Konstantin Chuychenko spoke about how common legal principles could serve as an important tool for strengthening ties between BRICS countries and eventually lay the foundation for greater economic, humanitarian, and cultural integration between the states.

                              "The legal systems, schools, and traditions in our countries vary considerably. We should capitalize on the unique opportunity to learn from each other's best practices in law," he said.

                              The St. Petersburg International Legal Forum is an effective modern platform for discussing issues in international law and opportunities for cooperation. The First Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Justice will be held this year as part of the St. Petersburg International Legal Forum.

                              "Cooperation between the ministries of justice in BRICS countries deserves its own special platform, and that is why we have taken the initiative to establish a permanent BRICS Council of Ministers of Justice for cooperation," Chuychenko said. According to the Minister, the Council may serve to strengthen cooperation in justice on the basis of the principles of equality and mutual respect.

                              The Minister of Justice also focused on mechanisms for improving the arbitration of investment, noting that international efforts to resolve disputes between investors and the state should be systematic and long-term in nature. Russia has already presented a concept for the establishment of an International BRICS Arbitration Centre. Representatives within BRICS are currently consultating on the possibility of establishing such an institution taking into account the differences that exist in the different nations' legal systems.

                              The Roscongress Foundation manages the events of Russia's BRICS Chairship.

                                            BRICS Members Discuss Russian Initiative to Establish International Investment Arbitration Centre (Члены БРИКС обсудили российскую инициативу по созданию Международного инвестиционного арбитражного центра) / Russia, March, 2024
                                            Keywords: economic_challenges, top_level_meeting

                                            On 6 March an online expert meeting was held as part of Russia's Chairship of BRICS to discuss the Russian initiative to establish an International BRICS Investment Arbitration Centre.

                                            State Secretary and Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation Andrey Loginov kicked off the event with welcoming speech, drawing attention to the importance of open dialogue and stressing the relevance of arbitration when seeking to attract investment and economic development.

                                            A model based on analysis of foreign direct investment in BRICS member nations was proposed for the Centre, its key advantages were outlined. Best practices will be employed to improve the consistency, transparency, and predictability of arbitral awards.

                                            Participants shared their views on the Russian initiative and raised issues that would require a joint effort taking into account the features of the legal systems of BRICS countries.

                                            The Roscongress Foundation manages the events of Russia's BRICS Chairship.

                                                          Iran joins international information exchange with Russia and other BRICS countries (Иран присоединяется к международному обмену информацией с Россией и другими странами БРИКС) / Russia, March, 2024
                                                          Keywords: political_issues, cooperation

                                                          The largest state media of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which joined BRICS in 2024, confirmed their intentions to join the information exchange with the member countries of the association. IRNA, Iran's news agency, and Mehr Media Group, which publishes The Tehran Times, a popular newspaper in Iran, and owns the Mehr News agency, have signed co-operation agreements with the TV BRICS International Network.

                                                          The agreements reached will allow Iran's audience to receive the most up-to-date and objective information about the activities of Russia and other BRICS countries in the humanitarian and economic spheres. In turn, TV BRICS will also adapt materials from its colleagues in Tehran into foreign languages and distribute them through its partner network, which already includes more than 60 media outlets from 17 countries.

                                                          "In the Year of Russia's BRICS Chairmanship , several states representing Islamic culture have joined the interstate association. At this stage, it is very important to promote the dialogue of civilizations within the alliance and immerse people in the cultures of other countries to show how much we have in common. TV BRICS is essentially an information hub providing the BRICS+ countries with reliable foreign news from primary sources. We are pleased to begin co-operation with Iran and look forward to the successful development of our relationship. Today, Tehran offers its international partners many opportunities, especially in the fields of cultural exchange, tourism and business. There is very high interest in this in the BRICS media environment," noted TV BRICS CEO Janna Tolstikova.

                                                          The Islamic Republic News Agency - IRNA was founded 90 years ago. The media outlet maintains a website in 11 languages, publishes seven daily newspapers and several other periodicals. IRNA has an extensive correspondent network in 30 countries. "BRICS stands for the idea of a multipolar world and the members of the association can influence the voice of developing countries to be heard," emphasised IRNA CEO Ali Naderi during the signing of the agreement with TV BRICS.

                                                          Mehr Media Group also operates under government patronage and is considered one of the most reliable news providers in Iran. The Tehran Times, the republic's first English-language daily newspaper, has been published since 1979. Today it is read in 80 countries. Mehr News publishes audio-visual content in six languages. The publication's reporters and photographers work in all provinces of Iran, as well as in Europe, Asia and South America. Europe, Asia and South America.

                                                          Mohammed Mahdi Rahmati, CEO of Mehr Media Group, believes that interaction with other fast-growing media outlets promises productive joint activities in covering the alliance's economic, new technology, sports, cultural and tourism developments. "We hope to become a meaningful partner of TV BRICS and be able to integrate our country's agenda into the information picture of other BRICS members, " Mohammed Mahdi Rahmati elaborated .

                                                          Today, national media from 17 countries participate in the international information exchange on the TV BRICS platform: Russia, Brazil, India, China, South Africa, Egypt, Iran, Argentina, Armenia, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Cuba, Mozambique, Tunisia, and Chile.

                                                                        What Should We Expect from BRICS and What Should We Not? (Чего нам следует ожидать от БРИКС, а чего нет?) / Russia, March, 2024
                                                                        Keywords: expert_opinion

                                                                        Discussions about what BRICS can actually do and what it can't should begin with an understanding of how much the achievements or failures of other international institutions are related to their individual characteristics. The second may be a theoretical task, but it makes clear what the BRICS will not do, Valdai Club Programme Director Timofei Bordachev.

                                                                        Discrepancies between expectations and practice are one of the most noticeable characteristics of modern world politics, both in the performance of leading powers and in the activities of the international institutions they create. The origin of this phenomenon is the fact that the former is a product of subjective ideas or intentions, while the latter is the result of objective factors, which even the strongest political will cannot cancel. Moreover, the expectations of the general public often fall prey to its inertia in perception regarding the political process, or the statements of political figures who themselves change plans, depending on the dynamics of their capabilities.

                                                                        In essence, this phenomenon of international life does not represent a significant problem, because states rarely lose anything; due to the fact that their practical policies do not particularly correspond to our speculative constructions. However, we should still not be blind to the fact that disappointment can have negative consequences and, at the very least, reduce public enthusiasm for initiatives which are considered important, but not successful enough in the short term. In this regard, it would be wise to be clearer about what we can actually expect from those initiatives that are considered important in the Russian foreign policy system.

                                                                        The BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) represents one of the most curious phenomena of modern international politics. First of all, because this association of five significant states, which was joined by several more participants on January 1, 2024, conceptually contradicts all ideas prevailing in the 20th century about what an international organisation should be based on. In short, at the heart of BRICS there is no visible possibility of the participating countries pooling their economic and military resources. Even the permanent composition of the UN Security Council is a relatively homogeneous group and consists of powers that, with varying degrees of certainty, are recognized as victors in the last World War and all, without exception, possess military resources that are unattainably superior to those of other members of the international community. What can we say about such strong and "established" institutions as NATO, the G7 or the European Union? In the first case, we see a real unification of military capabilities, in the second — economic power.

                                                                        BRICS is not based on the balance of power of the main participants, as was the case with the most successful alliances of the past. Despite the fact that the Vienna Order, considered super-successful, was a collusion of the strongest European powers over the foundations of the legitimacy of the internal order in the countries they could reach, it still contained the idea of a mutual balance of power. As a matter of fact, the destruction of this balance as a result of the rapid strengthening of Germany became the reason for the collapse of the entire Vienna system. In BRICS it is nearly unthinkable that there could be one leader, like in NATO or the G7, which would be able to discipline the other participants and achieve jointly-set goals (these goals, formulated within the framework of the "leadership" model of the institute, are achievable precisely because they satisfy the interests of the leading country).

                                                                        In other words, BRICS, amazing as it may seem, is not a fake institution, a screen covering the basic mechanisms of mutual understanding among its participants. This is precisely what poses the greatest difficulty, both in achieving jointly a set of tasks, and for its understanding by outside observers, whose thinking is built within the framework of a long-established canon. If the first issue can still, as we see, be gradually overcome by the participating countries, then it is not yet possible to solve the second problem. Perhaps this is not necessary. First of all, because it would lead to the creation of a new template that begins to generate completely meaningless expectations. In fact, we still have to, firstly, assess the limits of cooperation between the BRICS countries in dynamically changing conditions, and, secondly, create some kind of a framework to assess the effectiveness of its activities.

                                                                        Discussions about what BRICS can actually do and what it can't should begin with an understanding of how much the achievements or failures of other international institutions are related to their individual characteristics. The second may be a theoretical task, but it makes clear what the BRICS will not do.

                                                                        The BRICS group is essentially an association of states that share a strategic vision of a fair world order, but pursue their national interests in practical issues of global economics and politics.

                                                                        Therefore, firstly, we cannot count on the BRICS group to create international financial institutions and instruments comparable in scale of influence to those controlled by the West — the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank.

                                                                        Secondly, one can hardly expect BRICS to make decisions of a confrontational or repressive nature in relation to other members of the international community. We understand, of course, that in their current situation, Western countries perceive as confrontational any action or decision that does not serve their specific interests. But if we ignore this unfortunate fact, we must still understand that we should not think that BRICS can become a "ram" for destroying the positions of the United States and Europe in world affairs. Another thing: it is no coincidence that the Western powers suspect everyone else of revolutionary or revisionist intentions; even completely innocent actions become dangerous for the organism of Western hegemony, given its current fragility.

                                                                        The question, therefore, is only whether the West can adapt to the inevitable reduction of its power over the main global institutions and agendas. Therefore, there is no reason to try to "pressure" our partners so that their actions become more destructive for the West; they will play this role anyway. Thirdly, BRICS is unlikely to be ready to solve, on a large scale, those problems of a global nature that the West either cannot solve, or, within the framework of its selfish interests, does not want to. However, BRICS will be able to create specific mechanisms for addressing development problems (poverty, hunger, environmental degradation, crime, terrorism, information security, artificial intelligence), which represent an alternative to Western approaches and solutions. This in itself will benefit global sustainability, but will also serve to help the West adapt to new conditions.

                                                                        And finally, one should not expect achievements from the BRICS countries in those issues where their national interests differ due to objective reasons, such as when they are linked to their achievement of key development goals. BRICS was created and is expanding in order to further strengthen the capabilities of its participants, but in no case weaken them.

                                                                        We must be especially careful to assess the connection between BRICS initiatives, as well as the potential consequences of their implementation, and the specific interests of the member countries, including Russia, in a variety of areas, from global security to private economic issues.

                                                                        If we talk about BRICS' practical influence on global affairs, then it would be worth thinking in the direction of several conditional criteria of effectiveness. Firstly, the degree to which they correspond to Russia's own interests, taking into account all the features of our participation in the world economy and international politics. In other words, to correlate what we want from BRICS with our own objective capabilities. There is a reason to think that Russia is not the weakest member of the BRICS group and, in this regard, its capabilities will also become significant in achieving certain goals of the entire group. Secondly, the ability of the participating countries to move forward within the framework of the agenda that they were able to formalise when there were only five members is important. Thirdly, the ability of BRICS to solve the problems of preserving and strengthening those elements of globalisation that meet the interests of its participants, but have been intensively destroyed by the West in recent years, will be quite important.
                                                                                      Investment and Finance
                                                                                      Investment and finance in BRICS
                                                                                      On the typology of regional integration blocs (О типологии региональных интеграционных блоков) / Russia, March, 2024
                                                                                      Keywords: expert_opinion, research

                                                                                      The widening array of regional integration arrangements across the global economy presents a variety of development models and structural features that may be amenable to broad characterization and classification. Some of the approaches in the past included the classification of regional blocs according to the level of economic integration reached – customs union, FTA or common market. Other approaches involved looking at regional blocs through the prism of how open they were to the outside world – hence the emergence of "open regionalism" as a platform whose liberalization impulses would be shared with the outside world. Structurally, however, there may be a case for differentiating between asymmetric regional blocs, where one sole economy plays a dominant role and more balanced regional platforms where economic weights are more evenly distributed among participants. Such a differentiated look at the evolving patterns of regionalism may provide insights into the past patterns of inter-regional interaction as well as clues on the possible future dynamics of accords that may be forged among regional integration arrangements.

                                                                                      One way to formulate a criterion for an asymmetric regional bloc would be to introduce a condition that the largest economy accounts for more than 50% of GDP of its total economic weight. Among such regional arrangements are MERCOSUR (Brazil accounts for more than 70% of the total[1]), Eurasian Economic Union (Russia accounts for nearly 90% of the total[2]) and USMCA (US accounts for nearly 88% of the total in 2023). At the other end of the spectrum are ASEAN (Indonesia accounts for close to 36% of the total)[3], African Union/African Continental Free Trade Area (Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa each accounting for 13-14% of the continental total) and the EU (Germany contributing close to 25% to the overall size of the EU's economy). The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a borderline case as Saudi Arabia accounts for close to 50% of the GCC total.

                                                                                      Thus far, the empirical evidence on whether asymmetric regional blocs are more constrained in forging alliances with other regions is mixed, though the more diversified blocs such as ASEAN and the EU are more active in forging alliances with other regional blocs and national economies. Among the developed economies one of the most active in building alliances with other regional blocks is EFTA (Switzerland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland) – while Switzerland has more than 50% in the bloc's GDP, the bloc was more diverse in the past with a significantly wider membership. The EFTA block has signed and implemented FTAs with the South African Customs Union (SACU) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), while also concluding FTAs with Central American States (Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama) and creating a European Economic Area (EEA) with the EU. In the developing world several regional blocks concluded FTAs or other types of trade agreements with the peers from other regions, including such alliances as the MERCOSUR-SACU preferential trade agreement, the Economic partnership agreement between the EU and the SADC EPA Group, and the FTA between ASEAN and the Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area. There is also a number of accords that are in the process of negotiation, in particular, the MERCOSUR-EU FTA accord as well as the EU-GCC FTA agreement[4].

                                                                                      In attempting to rationalize these empirical patterns it may be argued that in some cases asymmetric regional blocs may be more limited in concluding "region-to-region" agreements compared to the more balanced regional counterparts. This may be due to concerns from prospective regional partners about the dominance of one single economy in the counterpart regional bloc, resulting in country-to-country disagreements dominating over regional considerations (the lack of EU-EAEU connectivity in the past). Another possible constraint is the possibility of asymmetries within the RTA translating into perceived asymmetries/imbalances in terms of the distribution of costs/benefits of the trade alliance with other regional groupings.

                                                                                      Given these limitations that may be encountered by asymmetric blocs in forging alliances, there may be benefits derived by such regional groups from forming mega-regional formations with other regional integration arrangements. The resulting mega-regional structures benefit from several factors:

                                                                                      • Lower asymmetry associated with the dominant weight of any one single economy
                                                                                      • Increase in the overall economic weight of the enlarged group and the stronger gravity pull exerted by mega-regional formations vis-à-vis other economies and regions
                                                                                      • Greater geographical and sectoral diversification within the enlarged bloc – something that allows for greater dynamism in trade and investment
                                                                                      In light of the above, it should be noted that virtually all of the BRICS-5 economies are leaders in their respective regional integration blocs that are all asymmetric in terms of the economic weights of members. Apart from Russia's and Brazil's dominance in the EAEU and MERCOSUR respectively, there is a similar asymmetry in the case of South Africa in SACU (though none within the larger AfCFTA), India in the case of BIMSTEC or SAARC and China in the case of RCEP. This in turn points to the potential benefits to forming an enlarged platform for these BRICS-led regional integration arrangements to attenuate the sizeable asymmetries[5].

                                                                                      Overall, the typology of regional integration blocs according to the degree of asymmetry in the GDP distribution among members may provide insights into the possible dynamics of the "integration of integrations" stage of global development that is likely to be witnessed in the coming decades. It may well be possible that in view of the relatively limited number of regional heavy-weights there may be strong "first mover advantages" to forming the initial platform of "integration of integrations". The first platforms may establish standards and rules (environmental, labor, digital, rules of origin) that may be difficult to readily replicate in subsequent alliances/platforms. The larger the initial mega-regional platform built, the lower the scope for the laggards to forge their own "region-to region" alliances. And within the possible race towards securing the "initial integration of integrations" mega-regional platform the less asymmetric blocs such as ASEAN and the EU appear to be in the lead. A less competitive scenario could be associated with an early/ex-ante formation of a horizontal platform for regional integration arrangements at the level of G20 (a regional 20 (R20) platform) – but thus far there does not appear to be sufficient appetite neither in the Global South nor in the EU to move towards this scenario.






                                                                                                    Exploring BRICS Expansion and India's Role on Global Economic Landscape (Изучение расширения БРИКС и роли Индии в глобальном экономическом ландшафте) / South Africa, March, 2024
                                                                                                    Keywords: economic_challenges, expert_opinion
                                                                                                    South Africa

                                                                                                    BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), an informal association of emerging economies that primarily seeks to promote economic cooperation and development among its members, under Russia's presidency has admitted five new members – Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates into its fold. Russia has made the association's expansion of its numerical strength one of its priorities this year 2024.

                                                                                                    Within the context of geopolitical changes, that priority step to widen its geographical scope represents an important stage in the further development and strengthening of BRICS+ position on the world stage. Further aiming at creating a cohesive alliance to fight European and Western hegemony, BRICS+ however faces several challenges including differences in political systems, economic structures and cultural norms of its member countries.

                                                                                                    In this interview, President of Indian Business Alliance (IBA) and Founder of The Imperial Tailoring Co., Sammy Kotwani, says despite those challenges mentioned above, there are also many reasons to be optimistic about the prospects for BRICS+ and the Global South collaboration. Aware of the current evolving geopolitical power dynamics, BRICS+ possesses the collective strength and unique capacity to address the challenges of diversity and unequal distribution of resources in the Global South. Here are the interview excerpts:

                                                                                                    With rising political differences and economic developments, a number of countries are gearing for ascension unto BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). In your view what are the benefits of BRICS expansion?

                                                                                                    The expansion of BRICS, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, marks a significant stride towards fostering economic cooperation, geopolitical balance, and sustainable development. The collective strength of these diverse economies offers a multitude of benefits, such as enhanced trade opportunities, technological collaboration, and investment inflow. BRICS expansion not only amplifies the voice of emerging economies on the global stage but also promotes inclusive growth, innovation, and resilience amidst geopolitical uncertainties. The synergy among BRICS nations cultivates a conducive environment for knowledge sharing, infrastructure development, and capacity-building initiatives, ultimately driving economic prosperity and social progress across member states.

                                                                                                    During its presidency in 2023, India played its part, but it seemingly encounter challenges with Russia and China over the question relating to Ukraine. Within the context of BRICS, does India support Russia against Ukraine?

                                                                                                    India, as a longstanding proponent of multilateralism and peaceful resolution of conflicts, upholds diplomatic dialogue and negotiation as key tenets of foreign policy. In the context of BRICS, India advocates for dialogue and consensus-building to address regional challenges, including those related to Ukraine. While maintaining cordial relations with all BRICS members, India prioritizes a balanced and pragmatic approach towards addressing geopolitical tensions, upholding the principles of sovereignty, non-interference, and mutual respect among nations.

                                                                                                    What are your arguments here, that India faces competition with China vis-avis with Russia in leading the what is referred to as Global South?

                                                                                                    India navigates a nuanced path in the context of global competition with China and Russia within the Global South. While recognizing China's economic prowess and Russia's strategic significance, India positions itself as a vibrant democracy, a burgeoning economic powerhouse, and a key player in fostering South-South cooperation. Leveraging its cultural diversity, technological advancements, and entrepreneurial potential, India aims to consolidate its role as a responsible global player, championing inclusive development, innovation, and sustainable growth in partnership with other emerging economies.

                                                                                                    With the narratives and the reasons for the scramble for Africa's resources and Russia making its inroads into the continent, how would you assess BRICS (excluding South Africa) members' strategic economic footprints across Africa?

                                                                                                    The strategic economic footprints of BRICS members across Africa offer a transformative narrative of collaboration, investment, and capacity-building initiatives. While each BRICS member brings unique strengths and resources to the African continent, concerted efforts towards infrastructure development, technology transfer, and skill enhancement have propelled economic growth, social development, and mutual prosperity. Russia's engagements in Africa underscore the region's strategic importance, while coordinated actions by BRICS members amplify the impact of joint initiatives, fostering sustainable development across diverse sectors.

                                                                                                    How do you view perspectives for the Global South towards the emerging new economic architecture, especially the concept of de-dollarization?

                                                                                                    The transition towards a new economic architecture, characterized by de-dollarization and diversification of global financial frameworks, presents immense opportunities and challenges for the Global South. The concept of de-dollarization signifies a shift towards financial independence, stability, and resilience, aiming to reduce dependency on traditional monetary systems and mitigate economic vulnerabilities. Embracing this evolving paradigm, the Global South can harness its collective strengths, promote financial inclusivity, and shape a more equitable and sustainable economic order, fostering inclusive growth and mutual prosperity.

                                                                                                    Do you agree that the International Monetary Bank (IMF) and the World Bank, in terms of scope of operations and geographical performance, are far ahead of the New Development Bank (BRICS Bank)?

                                                                                                    The New Development Bank (BRICS Bank), though in its nascent stage, demonstrates a promising alternative to the IMF and World Bank, offering a platform for emerging economies to mobilize financial resources, fund sustainable projects, and address developmental challenges. While the IMF and world Bank boast a longer operational history and broader geographical reach, the NDB, with its focus on infrastructure financing, sustainable development, and inclusivity, presents a nimble and responsive financing model tailored to the needs of BRICS member states and beyond. As the NDB evolves, strategic coordination among international financial institutions can foster synergies, promote financial stability, and catalyze inclusive growth worldwide.

                                                                                                    As President of the Indian Business Alliance (IBA) in the Russian Federation, do you envisage India, on the platform of BRICS, to demonstrate practical steps in enforcing the diversity in culture, fashion, sports and education) along the pathways of multipolarism?

                                                                                                    As President of the Indian Business Alliance in the Russian Federation, I envision India, through the platform of BRICS, to champion cultural exchange, fashion innovation, sports diplomacy, and educational collaboration, celebrating diversity and inclusivity along the pathways of multipolarism. India's rich cultural heritage, vibrant fashion industry, sports prowess and education.

                                                                                                                  World of Work
                                                                                                                  SOCIAL POLICY, TRADE UNIONS, ACTIONS
                                                                                                                  BRICS Think Tank Council's First Meeting (Первое заседание Совета аналитических центров БРИКС) / Russia, March, 2024
                                                                                                                  Keywords: think_tank_council

                                                                                                                  On 7 March the inaugural meeting of the BRICS Think Tank Council took place in Russia. Representatives of the leading BRICS expert centers discussed the action plan and prioritized areas for the BRICS expert track in 2024. Among them are multilateralism and global governance; traditional and unconventional security threats; critical information infrastructure and cybersecurity; energy transition issues and environmental protection; international trade, business, and e-commerce; investment in advanced technology; the international monetary and financial system; education and science; healthcare, etc.

                                                                                                                  This year, the primary objective of the BRICS expert community is to formulate new proposals and practical recommendations for strengthening collaboration among BRICS countries in these areas, which they will then submit to the leaders prior to the BRICS Summit in Kazan in October. In pursuit of this goal, a number of expert events and consultations will be held under the Russian BRICS Chairship 2024.

                                                                                                                  BRICS Expert Council Russia at HSE University acts as the national coordinator for the BRICS Think Tank Council.

                                                                                                                  The BRICS Think Tank Council is a global dialogue for communication between national coordinators, established in 2013 at the BRICS Summit in South Africa. Its primary task is to create expert platforms for promoting the BRICS agenda and formulate recommendations for enhancing the BRICS countries' mechanisms of interaction.

                                                                                                                  The Roscongress Foundation manages the events of Russia's BRICS Chairship.

                                                                                                                                From Earth and Space: BRICS Universe Exhibition Opens in St. Petersburg (С Земли и космоса: в Санкт-Петербурге открылась выставка «Вселенная БРИКС») / Russia, March, 2024
                                                                                                                                Keywords: social_issues

                                                                                                                                On 7 March the BRICS Universe exhibition, a unique collection of photographs of UNESCO Creative Cities Network in BRICS countries taken from Earth along with pictures taken by Heroes of the Russian Federation, cosmonauts Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Ivan Vagner on the International Space Station, officially opened at the Museum of Cosmonautics and Rocket Technology, located in the Peter and Paul Fortress in St.Petersburg.

                                                                                                                                "It's a great honour to be part of an exhibition in a city where literally every building and every street are of historical importance. St. Petersburg is the jewel of our nation, and we want to introduce it and other beautiful cities to people in other countries, as well as to acquaint Russians with the wonderful creative cities of BRICS. We want to show how beautiful Earth appears from space and in the eyes of those who love their city and their country more than anything. We wanted to bring these two views together to make it possible for everyone at the exhibition to take a trip to a new city, regardless of where it might be," Kud-Sverchkov said during the opening ceremony. According to him, a picture from space requires a great deal of time and luck, with a rare chance of getting a good shot and sometimes stretching out over months.

                                                                                                                                The ceremony was also attended by Deputy Chairman of the St. Petersburg Committee for Culture Stanislav Moldovanov, Hero of the Russian Federation and cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko, BRICS diplomats and representatives, international students, and notable figures from the world of science, culture, and art. St. Petersburg photographers Dmitry Fufaev and Roman Pimenov, whose works were a part of the Earth Series on display at the exhibition, also attended the ceremony.

                                                                                                                                "I think it's interesting to show people on Earth the difference between how they see these beautiful landscapes from here and how they look from 400 kilometres away. I am sure that these amazing photographs will make it clear that space is closer than it may seem and how beautiful our planet really is, wherever you are looking at it from," Borisenko said.

                                                                                                                                The opening of the exhibition, which will continue until 3 April, coincided with the traditional midday firing of the signal cannon from the Naryshkin Bastion in the Peter and Paul Fortress, on this occasion fired by the project participant Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. "The firing of the cannon is a serious affair, similar to a rocket launch, and everything is calculated to the second," Kud-Sverchkov said.

                                                                                                                                The BRICS Universe project received its grant from the Presidential Foundation for Cultural Initiatives in August 2023 and would have been impossible without the partnership of the Grechko Nizhny Novgorod Planetarium and Roscosmos, the Creative Industries Foundation of the Ulyanovsk Region, and the Russia – BRICS Project Office of International Youth Cooperation with the support of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs. The project has enjoyed the patronage of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO and is a part of the events plan of Russia's BRICS Chairship in 2024, managed by the Roscongress Foundation.

                                                                                                                                48 Russian photographers were joined in the project by 41 photographers from other BRICS countries. 20 photos taken on Earth have been selected for the exhibition along with 20 taken by the cosmonauts on the International Space Station. Photos were picked from a total of 600 collected from all over of the world.

                                                                                                                                The international project kicked off on 1 February 2024 at the Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow. The next city to host the exhibition will be Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), after which the exhibition will travel to UNESCO cities Kargopol (Russia), Beijing (China), Nizhny Novgorod (Russia), Ulyanovsk (Russia), Mumbai (India), Durban (South Africa), and Kazan (Russia).

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