Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 5.2019
2019.01.28 — 2019.02.03
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Russia-India-China Foreign Ministers to meet soon to discuss Afghan situation & fluidity in geo-politics (Министры иностранных дел России, Индии и Китая встретятся в ближайшее время для обсуждения ситуации в Афганистане и нестабильности геополитики) / India, January, 2019
Keywords: foreign_ministers_meeting, political_issues

Foreign Ministers of Russia-India-China or RIC are expected to meet in near future in China to take stock of current fluidity in geo-politics including situation in Afghanistan in the backdrop of US decision to withdraw troops and efforts to enter into a deal with Taliban.

Strengthening multilateralism and reforming multilateral institutions including UN and WTO besides the need for open economy, countering terror, strengthening BRICS and SCO will also be on the agenda of the meet, according to informed sources.

The meet is also significant amid evolving situation in Syria from where USA has also decided to withdraw troops and three foreign ministers are also expected to take stock of the situation in West Asia. Over the past year India has stepped up engagements with both Russia and China that included informal summits in the backdrop of tumultuous geo-politics.

Last November Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir and Chinese President Xi Jinping, held a Trilateral Meeting in Buenos Aires on sidelines of G-20 Summit and agreed to also promote global stability.

The three leaders had exchanged views on expanding mutual cooperation in international forums, and to encourage greater interaction among the three countries. They agreed on the importance of reform and strengthening of multilateral institutions which have benefitted the world, including the United Nations, WTO and well-established as well as new global financial institutions. The trio underscored the benefits of a multilateral trading system and an open world economy for global growth and prosperity.

The three leaders also agreed to have regular consultations at all levels to jointly promote international and regional peace and stability, to strengthen cooperation through BRICS, SCO and EAS mechanisms, to address global challenges such as terrorism and climate change, and to encourage peaceful resolution of all differences. The three leaders had also discussed current international situation, strengthening of multipolarity and international law, joint counterwork against illegitimate sanction pressure on the states which conduct independent foreign policy, cooperation in East Asia Summit.
Envoy says disagreements over Venezuela will not affect Russia-Brazil relations (По словам посланника, разногласия по поводу Венесуэлы не повлияют на российско-бразильские отношения) / Russia, January, 2019
Keywords: cooperation, quotation, political_issues

Russian Ambassador to Brazil Sergei Akopov has told that it concerns in particular cooperation in the BRICS group

RIO DE JANEIRO, January 28. /TASS/. Disagreements on the situation in Venezuela between Russia and Brazil should not have an adverse effect on bilateral ties and cooperation in the BRICS group, Russian Ambassador to Brazil Sergei Akopov has told TASS.

"I would quote the words of [Brazil's] Vice President [Antonio Hamilton] Mourao who was likewise asked that question. He said that we could disagree on individual issues, but that does not mean that we will not build relations in other areas of mutual interest. I believe that is the correct stance. We adhere to the same position as well and expect that the disagreements on the Venezuelan issue that we have will not affect our cooperation in general, for example, within the BRICS group, or our bilateral relations," the diplomat said.

Commenting on reports on the possibility of Brazil's participation in a potential military operation in Venezuela, Akopov again recalled Mourao's remarks who ruled out this scenario. "I believe it is not in the interests of Latin American countries to organize a military intervention there, since that would be out of sync with all fundamental principles, on which international relations and foreign policy in the region are built," he stressed.

Crisis in Venezuela

On January 23, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president during an opposition rally in Caracas. Venezuela's incumbent President Nicolas Maduro described that as an attempted coup.

The Lima Group member-countries, including Brazil, as well as Albania, Georgia, Israel, the US, Switzerland and the Organization of American States (OAS) have already recognized Guaido as Venezuela's interim president.

Russia, Bolivia, Iran, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Turkey expressed their support for Maduro, while Belarus and China called for resolving all disagreements peacefully and spoke out against outside interference.
Speech by Deputy Minister Landers participation at the GEG-Africa Programme and the T20 African Standing Group Meeting, the G20 and Africa: Navigating African Priorities for the G20, 29 January 2019 (Выступление заместителя министра Ландерса об участии в программе GEG-Africa и совещании Постоянной группы африканских стран T20, G20 и Африки: ориентирование африканских приоритетов в G20, 29 января 2019 года) / South Africa, January, 2019
Keywords: mofa, speech, top_level_meeting
Country: South Africa

Programme Director,
Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Director-General Dondo
Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive of the NEPAD Agency,
Dr Yashuo Fujita, Deputy Director, JICA Research Institute
Representatives of International Organisations and Think-Tanks present, and

Thank you for the warm words of welcome.

On behalf of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) of the Republic of South Africa and as co-sponsor of this Conference, I am pleased to deliver the opening remarks at this important meeting. Today I wish to share with you South Africa's strategic and foreign policy imperatives that guide our work in the G20.

Last year, the Buenos Aires G20 Leaders' Summit marked the 10th year anniversary of the G20 meeting at Leaders' Summit level. It was an historic opportunity for the Leaders to reflect on current global economic, financial and development challenges.

Since its elevation to Summit level, the grouping has expanded its role and mandate and has increasingly incorporated issues of a developmental, trade and foreign policy dimension in its agenda.

My focus today will focus on two broad areas. Firstly, I wish to outline South Africa's foreign policy approach to its engagement with the G20. Secondly, I wish to outline our priorities in terms of the developmental agenda and G20 support for Africa, in particular.

1. South Africa's foreign policy approach to the G20

In terms of our foreign policy approach, South Africa's participation at the G20 is guided by the four strategic foreign policy pillars of our Republic, i) advancing our national interest to attain domestic objectives; ii) enhancing the African agenda and promoting Africa's sustainable development; iii) influencing the global multilateral architecture; and iv) advancing the agenda of the South through strengthening South-South cooperation and North-South Dialogue.

Our participation in the G20 seeks to provide strategic direction in establishing an international economic and financial policy platform that will drive and negotiate the best possible outcomes for South Africa, Africa and the developing world.

Given the overlap between our own National Development Plan, the African Union's Agenda 2063, and the United Nation's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, there exist high levels of synergy between South Africa's domestic priorities and the AU's Agenda 2063 as well as the global blue print for sustainable development, the UN's Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

As the only permanent African member of the G20, South Africa continues to coordinate its position with Senegal as the Representative of NEPAD and the current Chair of the African Union who participate at G20 meetings as invited guests.

I now turn my attention to the G20 Buenos Aires Leaders' Summit, 2018 and its outcomes.

Guided by its own development priorities and the AU's development blueprint, Agenda 2063, South Africa participated in the Buenos Aires Leaders' Summit that was held under the theme, "Building Consensus for Fair and Sustainable Development". The Summit focused on the priority areas of "the future of work", "infrastructure for development", and "a sustainable food future".

Despite prevailing geo-political and international trade tensions, the G20 Leaders were able to muster the political will to adopt the Buenos Aires Leaders' Declaration by consensus. It was underpinned by the Leaders' "renewed commitment to work together to improve a rules-based international order that is capable of effectively responding to a rapidly changing world." This was a significant achievement recalling that the recently held G7 and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summits were unable to adopt a consensus Declaration.

This is also significant given the prevailing backlash against trade, multilateralism and the anti-globalisation sentiment from some quarters. Regrettably, the G20 Leaders' were not able to make a strong pronouncement on multilateralism due to stated positions by some members.

President Ramaphosa throughout his engagements at the Summit 1stly emphasized the following:

  1. The need to build safer and more resilient global financial systems;
  2. The promotion of the international development agenda;
  3. The continued commitment to a rules based multilateral system;
  4. The need for inclusive growth and sustainable economies; and
  5. The rejection of seemingly rising unilateralism and protectionism.
South Africa utilized the Summit to promote and strengthen the interests of the African Continent and the South by focusing on the following 10 important priorities and outcomes:

(i) Sustainable Development

Whilst the negotiations were robust, South Africa managed to focus the Leaders' attention on Africa's developmental agenda. The Buenos Aires Update and the G20 Action Plan outlines the G20's collective concrete actions towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In this regard, South Africa emphasized the need for G20 support for the implementation of the industrialization in Africa initiative. The Leaders' agreed to continue support for the G20 Partnership with Africa, including the Compact with Africa under the Finance Track, #eSkillsforGirls and Rural Youth Development initiatives.

Further, the Summit endorsed the G20 High Level principle on Sustainable Habitat through regional Planning and launched the G20 Initiative for Early Childhood Development (ECD).

(ii) Illicit Financial Flows

Despite initial resistance from some members, South Africa managed to reaffirm the Leaders' collective and continued support for the G20's prioritisation of addressing Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) as a developmental issue for Africa. This is of particular significance following the findings by the AU High Level Panel on IFFs, which identified this scourge as a major impediment to Africa's development.

(iii) The Future of Work

South Africa throughout the negotiations emphasized the need to embrace technological advancement for the benefit of all and to ensure that technological development reduces rather than deepens inequality.

In this regard, a key priority for this Summit was the Future of Work, where Leaders' resolved to promote the building of inclusive, fair and sustainable Future of Work that will result in decent work and skills development.

The Leaders' further endorsed the Menu of Policy Options for the Future of Work bearing in mind that the "transition will create challenges and that policy responses and international cooperation will help ensure that the benefits of the technological transformation are widely shared."

(iv) Trade

Unsurprisingly, the negotiations on trade were the most controversial. The proposed text was problematic for three reasons. (i) It did not reference the current trade tensions; (ii) the text was negotiated by a small group of countries and presented to the Group as "a delicate balanced and negotiated text that cannot be changed"; and (iii) from a substantive point of view the G20 pronounced on World Trade Organisation (WTO) reform at a time when there is no consensus within the WTO or the Africa group in Geneva on this process. Further, the proposed text made no mention of increased protectionism.

Notwithstanding our reservations, South Africa agreed to go along with the consensus, noting that the process should be Geneva based, membership driven and inclusive.

South Africa reiterated that the G20 needs to show leadership in light of the current global trade tensions. We reaffirmed the centrality of the rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system, as embodied in the WTO that promotes a predictable trade environment and recognizes the importance of the development dimension.

In this regard, South Africa on the margins of the G20 Summit, and in our capacity as BRICS Chair, issued a BRICS Media Statement outlining this priority.

Notwithstanding the current tensions in the area of international trade and investment, it was significant that G20 Leaders' agreed that "trade remains an important engine of inclusive growth and economic development and recognized that the Multilateral Trading System has positively contribute to that end."

(v) Climate Change

On the contentious issue of Climate Change, there remains clear division within the G20 between the United States and the rest of the G20 (19 members) in reference to the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

As was the case at the Hamburg Summit in 2017, all those G20 members who are signatories to the Paris Agreement reaffirmed that the Paris Agreement is irreversible and committed to its full implementation. Developing countries succeeded in ensuring that the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances was reflected in the Declaration.

The United States insisted on a separate paragraph that reiterated their decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

All G20 members did however, look forward to a successful UNFCCC COP24 and agreed to engage in the Talanoa Dialogue.

(vi) Energy Transitions

South Africa promoted the key issue of the need for increased energy access in Africa. Reference to "Energy Transitions" reiterated the "acknowledgement of the role that all energy sources and technologies in the energy mix and the different possible paths to achieve cleaner energy systems." G20 Leaders' recognized the "opportunities for innovation, growth and job creation through increased investment into cleaner and sustainable energy sources – including renewable, technologies and infrastructure."

(vii) Education

G20 Leaders' launched the G20 Early Childhood Development Initiative and made the firm political statement that "access to education is a human right and a strategic public policy area for the development of more inclusive, prosperous, and peaceful societies."

The importance of girls' education was also underlined.

(viii) Digitalisation

South Africa joined other members in highlighting the need for digital inclusion and G20 support to address digital divides. G20 Leaders' "welcomed the G20 Repository of Digital Policies to share and promote the adoption of innovative digital business models." The importance of the interface between trade and the digital economy was highlighted.

(ix) A Sustainable Food Future

G20 Leaders' reaffirmed their commitment to addressing challenges of food security that is crucial to achieving a world free of hunger and all forms of malnutrition. In this regard, the G20 will build on the G20 Food Security and Nutrition Framework to promote sustainable agriculture in rural areas with a specific focus on sustainable soil, water and riverbanks management.

The G20 members as a collective endeavored to work with, "the private sector, the scientific community and all other relevant stakeholders to enhance value addition, productivity, efficiency, sustainability and upgrading in Agro-Food Global Value Chains and encourage initiatives to reduce food loss and waste."

(x) Gender Mainstreaming

G20 Leaders' agreed that gender equality is essential for economic growth and fair and sustainable development and that gender will be mainstreamed across the G20 Working Groups. G20 Leaders' noted progress made in achieving the G20 Brisbane Summit commitment to "reduce the gender gap in labour force participation rates by 25% by 2025" and recognized that more needs to be done.

(xi) Health

South Africa continued to spearhead the G20's work to advance counter measures to Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) through National and Regional Action Plans on AMR based on the One-Health approach.

The Summit noted the work done by the Global AMR Research & Development (R&D) Hub with a view to exploring practical market incentives for the Hub's sustainability. As per the Argentine Presidency's priorities in the field of Health, G20 Leaders' endeavoured to address malnutrition and childhood overweight and obesity. Of importance to Africa, G20 Leaders' stated their "commitment to ending HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and looked for to the successful 6% replenishment of the Global Fund in 2019."

We believe, that the above outcomes presents an important step in ensuring that the G20 strengthens and provide political support to the UN led processes of sustainable development and to promote Africa's development agenda.

In conclusion,

Looking ahead to the G20 Osaka Summit to be held on 28 and 29 June 2019, and building on the strong commitment of the G20 to development and African priorities, we are encouraged by the Prime Minister Abe's commitment to use his Presidency of the G20 to "lead global economic growth by promoting free trade and innovation, achieving both economic growth and reduction of disparities, and contributing to the development agenda and other global issues with the SDGs at its core. Through these efforts, Japan seeks to realise and promote a free and open, inclusive and sustainable, "human-centred future society."

In this context, the deliberations of this conference is as an important input in guiding South Africa's approach and engagement in the work of the G20 during 2019.

I thank you.


OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
Insights on the Iran deal, BRICS and handling a crisis in Venezuela (Взгляд на сделку по Ирану, БРИКС и урегулирование кризиса в Венесуэле) / China, January, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues
Author: Pepe Escobar

Brazil is once again in the eye of a political hurricane, after President Jair Bolsonaro's appearance at Davos and explosive revelations directly linking his clan to a criminal organization in Rio de Janeiro.

With his administration barely a month old, Bolsonaro is already being seen as expendable to the elites that propelled him to power – from the powerful agribusiness lobby to the financial system and the military.

The new game among the elites of a major actor in the Global South, BRICS member and eighth-biggest economy in the world consists of shaping a scenario capable of rescuing one the great frontiers where global capitalism is expanding from total irrelevancy.

That includes the possibility of a "soft coup," with the Bolsonaro clan sidelined by the Brazilian military rallying around the vice-president, General Hamilton Mourao.

Under these circumstances, a conversation with former Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim is more than sobering. Amorim is universally recognized as one of the top diplomats of the young 21st century, a symbol of the recent past, under president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, when Brazil was at the top of its game as a resource-rich continental nation actively projecting power as a BRICS leader.

I had the pleasure of meeting Ambassador Amorim, who is also the author of Acting Globally: Memoirs of Brazil's Assertive Foreign Policy, in Sao Paulo. Here are some highlights of our conversation – from the birth of BRICS to the current Venezuela crisis.

BRICS – the most important group in the drive toward a multipolar world – is a very dirty word in Washington. How did it all start?

I had met [British economist] Jim O'Neill a few times, who first talked about BRIC, which was not yet a group and nobody saw as a group. This may sound pretentious, but it's a curious story. I told him, "It is you that invented the BRICS, right?" He said, "Yes, of course, I'm very proud of it." Then I replied, "Yes, but I'm the one who made it happen." Well, it was not exactly me – under the Lula government and all that it entails. The first action in terms of creating the BRIC group – still without an "S" – came from Sergey Lavrov, in a meeting we had in New York in 2006. They had the RIC [Russia, India, China], but they did not hold many summits. And we had IBSA [India, Brazil, South Africa]. Both China and Russia were always trying to get into IBSA. There was the idea that these were three great democracies, each one in a continent and in a major developing country – so the Russians and Chinese might have thought, "We also want to get in, why not, because we are not democracies?" IBSA was also present in the commercial G-20 at the WTO, and IBSA had similar ideas about reform of the UN Security Council; so the geopolitical interests were not the same.

Then Lavrov proposed BRIC as a forum, I think maybe to find some more equilibrium inside the RIC. I always talked in terms of BRICS, so one day he asked me, "Why do you say BRICS?" and I replied, "because it's plural, in Portuguese," so in a sense, we were already anticipating the entry of South Africa.

We first agreed we would have a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Lavrov and I already had something more substantial, the Indians and the Chinese just read a speech, so it looked like there would not be a consequential follow-up. Next year we met at the Brazilian UN mission, outside of the UN, and decided to do it later out of New York. Lavrov then offered Yekaterinburg, where we had the first ministerial meeting in 2008, and then next year the first presidential summit, also in Yekaterinburg, and in Brazil in 2010. It was here that the idea of BRIC was expanded into BRICS – through a dinner that concluded IBSA and inaugurated BRICS.

At the time, did you think about expanding to other top emerging economies, such as Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, Iran?

IBSA was born on the second day of president Lula's government [in January 2003], out of an idea to create a group of developing countries, around seven or eight. I thought a larger group would be very complicated, based on my experience – how to coordinate positions and engage in concrete projects. For instance, Egypt would have to be a member.

When did you start to seriously discuss practical steps toward the emergence of a multipolar world – such as trade in members' currencies? Was it in 2010?

In 2010 certainly, we had the idea of trade using each member's currency, not yet the idea – that happened under the Dilma [Rousseff] government – of the BRICS bank. But we were already talking about the coordination of our development banks. The concept of multipolarity, the Russians may have been the first to outline it. What I do remember about the use of the concept was by the French, especially when there were serious divergences about the attack on Iraq.

Former French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin insisted on it.

Villepin, yes, but even Hubert Vedrine [foreign minister under Jacques Chirac from 1997-2002] before him, who came up with the concept of "hyperpower." So the ones who spread the concept were the French, and we adhered to it, among developing countries. The French, when they talked about the expansion of the UN Security Council, they said they were in favor regarding Germany and Japan, but also "three great nations of the South," Brazil included.

The Lula government started in January 2003. Geopolitics at the time was conditioned by the war on terror. We were already expecting the invasion of Iraq. How did you, in the first days of January 2003, knowing that Dick Cheney and the neocons were about to turn the Middle East upside down, with direct and indirect repercussions on the Global South, how did you start conceiving a multi-vector Brazilian foreign policy? Which were the priorities?

I think neither president Lula nor myself used the term "multipolar" – even though the concept was already on the table. We wanted to have good relations with the US but also with the largest developing countries. When we started the greatest problems were the Free Trade Area of the Americas [FTAA], so we had to look for other partners; the WTO and negotiations in the Doha round; and Iraq. The combination of all these led Brazil to get closer to India and South Africa, to a great extent via the WTO, and because of Iraq, we got closer to Russia, Germany and France. When president Lula went to Davos …

That was Lula's first Davos, right?

Yes, but first he went to the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre [in Brazil], then he went to Davos. The message was the search for an equilibrium; to do business, of course, but based on the idea of democratic social change.

Were you discussing Iraq in detail with Russia, Germany and France?

Yes, we were, with [Gerhard] Schroeder in Germany and Chirac, as well as Villepin at the Security Council. And there was a fourth problem: Venezuela. Lula had already talked about it with [Hugo] Chavez. During the inauguration of president Lucio Gutierrez of Ecuador, Lula's first foreign trip, on January 15, Lula proposed, in a meeting in a room full of presidents, the creation of the Friends of Venezuela Group, at a moment when the crisis was acute, even though the country was not as debilitated as today.

Already in January 2003 was there neocon pressure on Brazil in relation to Venezuela?

I think they did not know how to deal with Lula and the new government. But they were very strong on Venezuela – especially [US diplomat] Roger Noriega. And yet they saw Brazil was proposing something and accepted it. Fidel [Castro] was against it, but Chavez, in the end, was convinced by Lula. And this is also relevant for today. Lula said it in so many words; this is not a Friends of Chavez group, it's a Friends of Venezuela group. So this must also include the United States, Spain and Portugal – under conservative administrations. That was a way to escape from the OAS [Organization of American States] and its penchant for the Monroe doctrine [the US policy of opposing European colonialism in the Americas].

I used to talk to Colin Powell quite frequently – and not to receive instructions. There were many issues he wanted to know about, and he trusted Brazil. He had a notion of the importance of Brazil, our capacity for dialogue.

Switching to the Obama era, tell us about the role of Brazil, alongside Turkey, in the Iran nuclear negotiation, when you clinched a deal in Tehran in less than 24 hours, only for it to be smashed by then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton the next day.

It was a long process, followed by 19 hours of negotiations; the Iranians tried to reopen one of the issues, both Lula and [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan refused. What facilitated our role as mediators was that the US had its hands full in the Middle East. I already had contacts with Javier Solana, then a sort of foreign affairs minister of the EU, and also [Egyptian diplomat Mohamed] ElBaradei, from my time at the UN. [Barack] Obama, in a meeting of the G8 + 5 in Italy, during a bilateral with us, he said three things: "I extended my hand and they did not answer"; "We need to solve the nuclear dossier"; and "I need friends to say what I cannot say." What we did in the end, because we thought it was the right thing to do, with a lot of work and facing hardships, was exactly what the Americans wanted. One month before the deal I thought it would not happen. But then we received a letter from Obama, and to my greatest surprise, that was a reiteration of the same initial three points.

Hillary always had a different position. I foresaw her reaction as a possibility. We talked on the phone, in Madrid, when I was coming back from Iran, and I said, "Look, in Brazil we have this expression, 'I didn't read it, and I didn't like it.'" She did not want a deal. In a phone call before my trip, she was adding some other points of discussion and I said, "Hillary, this is a trust-building agreement. And these points that you mention were not in the letter delivered by your own president." I'm not exaggerating, what followed was a silence lasting half a minute. So I thought, did she read the letter? Or she read it, and because they are a great power they can do what they want, and we have to take it, and adapt to it?

So what about China and Russia accepting the American line – no deal, more sanctions?

I know the sweeteners that made them accept it – concessions on the sanctions front. But geopolitically …

What's your informed hypothesis?

There are two. This was a problem they did not solve. Who's part of the global directory? The five permanent members of the Security Council. Now we have two developing countries, who are not even part of the Security Council, and they solve it? By coincidence, both were non-permanent members of the Security Council at the time. The other thing is whenever we are discussing a nuclear issue, the five get closer, because they are all nuclear powers.

What's your insider view, as a statesman, of Vladimir Putin, demonized 24/7 in the US as a major existential threat to the West?

The first time I saw Putin face to face was when he received three nations from the Group of Rio, and the main topic of discussion was Iraq. That was before the invasion in March 2003. What most impressed me was his great knowledge of the dossiers – something you usually don't expect from presidents. He's extremely sharp, very intelligent, obviously cares for Russian interests but at the same time pays attention to the balance of power. A very realist politician. I don't see him as a great idealist. He's like a 19th-century politician, very conscious geopolitically.

Now, in the South American chessboard, regarding the Venezuelan crisis, we are seeing a direct confrontation between the four major poles of Eurasia – Russia, China, Iran, Turkey – against the US. And with another BRICS member, Brazil, siding against Russia and China.

In a multipolar world, we now have a huge test, because Brazil presides over the BRICS in 2019. How is Brazil going to be seen inside BRICS? There used to be an atmosphere of trust inside BRICS.

I've got to say that based on my experience at the Security Council, when I was ambassador, during the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso [from 1995 to 2003], the Russians and the Chinese gave immense weight to respect for national sovereignty. In terms of international law, they always stress non-intervention. I hope we won't have a confrontation like Vietnam in our region. But when President [Donald] Trump says that all options are on the table, he's obviously accepting a military solution. This is very dangerous. I see a very sound Brazilian position coming from General Mourao [the Brazilian vice-president]. And yet the Foreign Ministry says Brazil will support politically and economically a government that does not exist – so that already means intervention.

On a personal level, in the drive towards multipolarity, what is the most important story in the world for the next 10 or 20 years? What is the issue that drives you the most?

I think that the fundamental theme is psychological – and also civilizational. It's respect for The Other – and the acceptance of alterity. And this also concerns international relations. We need to understand that the common good is part of our well-being. This reflects on individual attitudes, in internal attitudes in politics, and in international relations. Look at the current, violent attack on multilateralism. We should see that it's better to work multilaterally than capitulate to the law of the jungle.
The agrarian question of the 21st century (Аграрный вопрос XXI века) / Netherlands, January, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion, economic_challenges
Author: Alberto Alonso-Fradejas

What are the implications of the rise of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) for agrarian and environmental transformations, worldwide and in the BRICS countries in particular? This is the main issue with which the BRICS Initiative for Critical Agrarian Studies (BICAS) has been concerned since 2013, when it was launched in Beijing by a collective of largely BRICS-based research institutions1.

Between 12-14 November 2018, the National University of Brasilia (UnB) hosted the 6th International Conference of the BICAS initiative on "Development and agrarian transformations: BRICS, competition and cooperation in the Global South". In line with the BICAS identity, this multifaceted question was examined through critical agrarian political economy, ecology and sociology lenses. To this purpose, the conference ushered five plenary panel sessions, as well as self-organized and thematic parallel sessions, all held in Portuguese, Spanish and English.

Among the some 200 conference participants were 45 engaged researchers from China, South Africa, Russia, and India, as well as from other countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and North America. There were also 57 representatives from the Brazilian family farmers (CONTAG) and landless rural workers (MST) movements.

It was no coincidence that the 6th BICAS Conference was held in Brazil. From the very beginning, the debate was shaped by the election of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro in the presidential elections held barely two weeks before the conference. In the opening panel Alexandre Conceição from the national board of the MST stressed that amid the rise of fascism in Brazil, the struggle to democratize land ownership and wealth in the countryside needs to go hand in hand with that aimed at re-building democracy from below; and this perspective permeated the conference debates. These swung between the socio-ecological and the political dimensions of current agrarian and environmental transformations in and around the BRICS, in a generalized context of corrupt liberal democracy, as argued by George Meszaros from Warwick University.

This was also the way in which Henry Veltmeyer, from St. Mary's and Zacatecas Universities, framed his key note speech on "The Agrarian Question of the 21st Century". Within the broad contours of the current global resource rush, heightened financialization of agriculture, and authoritarian right-wing populism on the rise in most of the BRICS countries and elsewhere, Henry queried, what are the prospects for family farmers, fishers, pastoralists and rural workers as economic subjects? And who is the emancipatory political subject in the current context?

Regarding the former question, different perspectives were raised from within the BRICS. Jingzhong Ye from China Agricultural University discussed the new strategy of the Chinese government to modernize Chinese family farmers through their integration in high value commodity chains, while a new round of agrarian reform was underway to keep at bay economic differentiation among family farmers. Sudhir Kumar Suthar from Jawaharlal Nehru University emphasized on the need to pay more and better attention to the psychosocial dimension of rural distress in India, and to the growingly fluid urban-rural linkages in that country. More controversially, Walter Belik from Campinas University argued the peasantry as an autonomous, self-sufficient producer has vanished from the Brazilian countryside during the last 50 years. And Sergio Pereira Leite, from the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro, depicted a Brazilian countryside in which land commodification has reached new heights after land became a highly coveted financial asset at the turn of the century, and thereby object to sky-rocketing prices. Conversely, Ruth Hall from PLAAS-University of Western Cape was more optimistic about current chances for family farmers and landless workers in South Africa after President Ramaphosa's commitment to speed-up a redistributive land reform earlier this year.

There was also room to discuss the role of the BRICS in current agro-environmental transformations beyond their national borders. Lidia Cabral from IDS-University of Sussex, and Ramón Fogel from the Interdisciplinary Rural Studies Centre, discussed Brazilian investments and development cooperation efforts in Mozambique and Paraguay as double-edged swords. Isabela Nogueira de Moraes from the Brazil/LabChina described Chinese foreign investment as building up towards a "global extractive infrastructure". And Wendy Wolford from Cornell University shared her surprise with the very gentle way in which the BRICS countries were treated during the conference. She asked "whether the growth of the BRICS over the past decade and into the future comes at the expense of others. In other words, are the BRICS engaging in the development of underdevelopment? If so, where exactly is the frontier from which the BRICS will extract the raw materials necessary for industrial production?"

Hot discussion topics during breaks and lunches, the issues of resistance and the emancipatory political subject figured less prominently in the conference debates. Nonetheless, Alexander Nikulin from the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, raised the question of where it is that the BRICS countries stand within global geopolitics of power today; have they joined the global north? And regardless of whether the answer to the previous question is positive or negative, what implications does this have for agrarian and environmental transformations nowadays? Both Lauro Mattei from the Federal University of Santa Catarina and Henry Veltmeyer argued that agrarian and environmental transformations nowadays unfold within a new wave of neoliberalism.

I believe this is truly the case. And I also believe that it is important to pay careful attention to historical continuities, while inquiring about the particular avenues through which neoliberal capitalism circulates today. What are the implications of the rising power of financial capital and financiers in the BRICS and worldwide, financial crisis notwithstanding, for agriculture and natural resources? And how do the BRICS countries react to the "multistakeholderization" of agricultural commodity chains and natural resource governance? What are the challenges and possibilities for civil society-led accountability politics in these countries?

As Alexandre Conceição, the leader of MST flagged since the very beginning, this has major implications for our understanding of, and possibilities for, an emancipatory and progressive rural politics in the BRICS and elsewhere.

In drawing the broad contours of a research agenda on this regard, Sergio Pereira Leite stressed the need to "study the elites from the inside outside". Leonilde Medeiros from the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro urged us to do the same with movements advocating for social justice. Moreover, and paraphrasing E.P. Thompson, Leonilde wondered about what moral economy (or economies) are violated by contemporary neoliberal capitalism. For State University of Sao Paulo's Bernardo Mançano Fernandes, Leonilde's latter question was at the core of his thesis on socio-territorial movements. These "refer to forms of grassroots politics for which territory, understood as space appropriated by concrete social relations and forms of power, is their defining feature". Now, whether these movements advocate from social justice, and the particular reasons, ways and effectiveness of their struggles, remain empirical questions.

Indeed, the 6th International Conference of the BRICS initiative for Critical Agrarian Studies (BICAS) raised many questions for an engaged research agenda on the current dynamics of global agro-environmental change in and around the BRICS countries, while offering empirically grounded and theoretically challenging food for thought. The conference program and 69 full papers submitted can be found here. And while we wait for a new BICAS conference, possibly in India in 2020, here you can find all of the BICAS working papers published since 2013.


1. These include the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) of the University of the Western Cape, the University of Brasilia (UnB), the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), the State University of São Paulo (UNESP), the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), and the College of Humanities and Development Studies (COHD) of China Agricultural University, in collaboration with the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), the Future Agricultures Consortium, Terra de Direitos, and the Transnational Institute (TNI).
Russia, China, Brazil Stock Markets Better Than The S&P 500 (Фондовые рынки России, Китая, Бразилии лучше, чем S&P 500) / USA, February, 2019
Keywords: investments, economic_challenges, expert_opinion
Author: Kenneth Rapoza

Take that trade warriors and all you hard landing true-believers. The MSCI China started 2019 beating the Nasdaq, S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Money in the MSCI China gained nearly 12% last month. China paid off.

Take that left-wingers: Brazil is the best of the BRICs yet again. Investors who started 2019 putting money in the iShares MSCI Brazil (EWZ), the most popular way into Latin America's largest economy, watched their money grow by more than 18% despite the noise that new president Jair Bolsonaro would drive the country into the ground and has a son mired in political scandal less than four weeks after his election. The market is not focused on that at this time.

And to the Russia haters: Yeah, Russia hacked your election, your energy grid, your grandmother's Facebook account and is up 12.7% this year in dollars as measured by the VanEck Russia (RSX) ETF. Even Oleg Deripaska's aluminum company, Rusal, got its sanctioned lifted last week. EN+ Group shares had literally no volume a week ago. Now investors in the company created by Deripaska is up 65.7% in British pounds.

"The pullback in 2018 created value and investors seem to be recognizing this and are reducing their extremely large under-allocations," says Jan Dehn, head of research for the Ashmore Group, an emerging-market fund manager based in London.

Emerging markets as a whole have outperformed. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is up 9.43% so far this year, compared to 8.4% for the S&P 500 and a little over 7% for the Dow. Sentiment has improved. This follows the good performance in aggregate over the last three years when, in dollar terms, local bonds returned 18.8%, stocks delivered 34% return and high-yield corporate debt returned 23.74%, beating the U.S. equivalent markets in all three themes, according to Ashmore.

The gains in January are largely a recovery for another weak year for emerging market equities in 2018. A strong dollar almost always pulls the rug from under emerging markets, even if the economic fundamentals are sound. And the dollar has been strong on the assumption of three rate hikes this year by the Federal Reserve.

"The current recovery in emerging market assets is not a relief rally," says Gabriel Gersztein, global head of emerging markets for BNP Paribas in Sao Paulo. "It is the start of a reverting move," he says, noting that after China's Premier Li Keqiang hinted that China would not weaken its currency to counteract Trump tariffs, the market reacted positively, boosting nearly all emerging markets.

Fundamentally speaking, of the three big BRICs beating the U.S., only Brazil is on a growth trend. China is slowing and in need of stimulus. Russia is growing, but not like Brazil, and faces significant geopolitical risks.

China is the one everyone watches, almost by osmosis. The trade war is in the air we breathe.

Caixin's PMI for January fell to 48.3 from 49.7 in December. Their manufacturing survey focuses on private, small to medium-sized companies likely to be more impacted by U.S. tariffs than government companies. Numbers on exports and manufacturing are expected to weaken in China not just due to economic weakness, but due to the fact that most companies revved up their export and import orders ahead of the big tariff announcement out of Washington in September. That front-loading of tradeable goods is over for now, and China investors believe the generalist got China wrong, mispriced it and bought.

Yum China (YUMC) reported its fourth-quarter earnings this morning and beat consensus forecasts. Because of strong earnings from YUMC, LMVH, Diageo China and Alibaba, coupled with solid nonmanufacturing PMI numbers, "the belief that China is export-dependent can be put to rest," says Brendan Ahern, CIO of KraneShares.

Going into February, mutual fund investors continued to sell developed markets to build cash and to invest in emerging markets, according to Cambridge, Massachusetts-based fund-tracking firm EPFR Global.

In fact, despite a solid January for the S&P 500, U.S. equity funds extended their longest run of redemptions since the third quarter of 2017.Emerging market bonds and equity funds extended their longest inflow streaks in over a year.

Going into the final day of January, investors again opted for diversified exposure, with flows into global emerging market equity funds accounting for over three quarters of the headline number for all equity funds, meaning they are buying a diversified group of emerging market stocks from other countries, rather than just one country or one sector in a country. Funds with dividend mandates recorded their biggest inflow into emerging market stock funds in over three months, based on EPFR Global data.

Investors are more cautious when it comes to taking on single-country exposure.

During a week when BRIC equity funds posted their biggest inflow since 2012, flows into the four-country fund groups dedicated to those markets were modest, ranging from an outflow of $21 million and an inflow of $15 million.

"The economic numbers for China at the moment point to a hard landing for the economy," says Neil MacKinnon, an economist with VTB Capital in London. He points out that the IMF recently lowered its global growth forecast at the World Economic Forum last week. The core economies are slowing, some worse than others. This is particularly true in Japan and parts of Europe. All of this could impact demand for emerging markets on the export side but primarily on the demand side as money managers here might be more risk-averse if the core of their portfolio money in countries like the U.S. starts losing money.

"The European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan will have to come up with more stimulus, and I think the ECB has yet to acknowledge the risks they face," says MacKinnon. "Italy is in recession, which keeps it in a debt trap and increases the risk of a fresh debt and banking crisis."

In the meantime, emerging markets look safe by comparison.

Flows into emerging market bond funds continue to favor the dollar and euro-denominated ones over local currency bonds. Those funds are being helped by the market's perception that short-term U.S. interest rates have peaked, easing the pressure on borrowers repaying dollar-denominated debt in other currencies. High-yield emerging market bonds are on a tear. They chalked up their fourth straight month of inflows.

Despite the MSCI China beating the S&P 500, on the fixed-income side, Chinese bond funds are looking a bit boring.

According to EPFR Global, they posted outflows recently for the third time since the beginning of last year. But an entire China-bond bear market isn't in the works. The global bond fund allocations to China that hit a new record high in November have since just slipped back to normal as 2019 gets underway.

"The worst is over," says BNP Paribas Gersztein. "After the sell-off, the risk-reward of emerging markets looks attractive."

For media or event bookings related to Brazil, Russia, India or China, contact Forbes directly or find me on Twitter at @BRICBreaker
NDB successfully registers RMB 10 billion bond programme in China interbank bond market (НБР успешно зарегистрировал 10-миллиардную облигационную программу на китайском рынке межбанковских облигаций) / China, January, 2019
Keywords: ndb, investments

The New Development Bank (NDB) has successfully obtained the Letter of Registration (Zhong Shi Xie Zhu, 2019 No. RB1) of an RMB bond programme in the China Interbank Bond Market from the National Association of Financial Market Institutional Investors (NAFMII) on January 9, 2019. The NDB has been granted approval to raise up to RMB 10 billion in the China interbank bond market within 2 years of the Programme registration date. The proceeds of the Programme will be used to finance infrastructure and sustainable development projects in the Bank's member countries.

The NDB is the first issuer to establish an onshore RMB bond programme according to the Interim Measures for the Administration of Bond Issuance by Overseas Institutions in the National Interbank Bond Market under the People's Bank of China and Ministry of Finance Announcement [2018] No.16 (the Measures) issued on September 25, 2018.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited, Bank of China Limited, Agricultural Bank of China Limited and China Construction Bank Limited have been appointed as the joint lead underwriters of the Programme.

Bond offerings under the Programme will be eligible to institutional investors in the China Interbank Bond Market as well as offshore RMB investors through the Bond Connect scheme between Mainland China and Hong Kong.

Registration of the Programme reiterates the Bank's commitment to become a regular issuer in China with a strong credit history in order to ensure better liquidity and diversification for investors.
"NDB will contribute to the development of financial markets in its member countries and raise funds not only in hard currencies but also in local currencies," said Mr. Leslie Maasdorp, NDB VP & CFO. "We view China Interbank Bond Market as a very promising market that will offer the NDB an additional source of liquidity on an ongoing basis, supporting the growth of our investments in infrastructure and sustainable development projects in line with the Bank's mandate," he added.
In July 2016, the NDB successfully issued the first onshore bond in China for an amount of RMB 3 billion (approx. USD 450 million) and a tenor of 5 years. It was the first time that an international financial institution issued a green financial bond in the China interbank bond market and it was also the first time for the NDB to tap the capital market. The issuance was regarded as a great success, with the total subscription amounting to more than RMB 9 billion and the participation of more than 30 investors.

Background information

The NDB was established by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, complementing the existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development. To fulfill its purpose, the NDB will support public or private projects through loans, guarantees, equity participation and other financial instruments. According to the NDB's General Strategy, sustainable infrastructure development is at the core of the Bank's operational strategy for 2017-2021. In August 2018, the Bank received AA+ long-term issuer credit ratings from S&P and Fitch.
Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Corruption and democracy in South Africa (Коррупция и демократия в ЮАР) / South Africa, January, 2019
Keywords: rating, political_issues, economic_challenges
South Africa

Transparency International has released its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2018.

The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of corruption in the public sector, according to experts and business people.

The ranking uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is considered to be highly corrupt and 100 is considered to be honest and transparent.

This year, New Zealand and Denmark rank highest with scores of 89 and 88 respectively. Syria, South Sudan and Somalia rank lowest with scores of 14, 12 and 9 respectively.

The best performing region is Western Europe with an average score of 66.

The worst performing regions are Sub-Saharan Africa (average score 32) and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (average score 34).

South Africa

South Africa has seen endured large scale bribery, fraud and corruption scandals over the past two years.

High-ranking officials across government, including former president Jacob Zuma, have been implicated in state capture through the Gupta family, where influence and kick-backs were used to score multi-billion rand government contracts, and to allegedly influence government appointments.

In recent months, testimony before the state capture commission – which was established in the wake of the scandal – revealed that the bribery and corruption extended well beyond just the Gupta family, with high-profile officials and politicians again being implicated.

Despite Sub-Saharan Africa's low score, South Africa was one of the highest-ranking countries in the region with a score of 43. The move to establish the state capture commission and launch investigations into the matter was seen as a positive move.

However this score is still below the 50 mark which shows that the country clearly needs to intensify its efforts to make serious inroads against corruption, according to David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch.

"Our experience of state capture is a textbook example of the relationship between corruption and the undermining of democracy," he said.

"For example, we have seen how in order to loot public funds, the perpetrators have had to undermine those key pillars of democracy that are responsible for holding those in power to account.

"The undermining of Parliament and the criminal justice institutions are key cases in point.

"On the other hand, we have also seen how institutions that reflect the strength of our democracy such as civil society organisations, the media and the courts have been critical features of the fightback against state capture."

South Africa ranked 73 out of the 180 countries and territories assessed – down from 71st in the 2017 index. The country's corruption score was unchanged.

Lewis added that the position of the BRICS countries is particularly discouraging, as four of the five members (India being the exception) have fared worse than last year, or showed no change.

"South Africa, with the score of 43 out of 100 and a rank of 73 out of 180 countries, is still ahead of its BRICS counterparts," he said.

"India has risen slightly to a score of 41, pushing its rank to 78, while Brazil has dropped to 35 (rank 105), China sits at 39 (rank 87), and Russia at 28 (rank 138)."

Cyril Ramaphosa's relations with the West sour on eve of State of the Nation Address (Накануне обращения к нации отношения Кирилла Рамафосы с Западом портятся) / South Africa, February, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion, cyril_ramaphosa, political_issues
South Africa
Author: Ferial Haffajee

Cyril Ramaphosa's policy of balanced global relationships hit the skids on Sunday when international relations minister Lindiwe Sisulu issued a démarche, a serious step in diplomatic relationships.

President Cyril Ramaphosa's presidency has taken a tough stance on five leading Western nations which went public with their political and economic concerns about South Africa, instead of using diplomatic protocol.

By late Sunday, the minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Lindiwe Sisulu, had instructed her department to issue a démarche against the ambassadors of Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United States and the United Kingdom after their letter to Ramaphosa was splashed across the Sunday Times front page.

The démarche is likely to strengthen China's influence in South Africa after a year in which Ramaphosa had attempted to balance the geopolitical axis between East and West. Under former President Jacob Zuma, South Africa thumbed its nose at the West and adopted a far closer relationship with both China and Russia, and also with India.

As he tried to hang on to power exactly a year ago this week, one of the reasons then president Jacob Zuma asserted was that he needed to introduce his successor President Cyril Ramaphosa on to the global stage.

Most notably, Zuma said he needed to usher Ramaphosa into the new group of nations – the powerful BRICS conurbation of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. He wanted to stay until July 2018 when South Africa hosted the BRICS Summit.

The governing ANC did not accede to his wish and Ramaphosa has gone on to sculpt an outward-looking presidency. Most notably, Ramaphosa has firmed South Africa's relationship with China: in 2018, Ramaphosa paid a state visit to China and hosted Chinese premier Xi Jinping in South Africa.

Ever-pragmatic China regards South Africa as a strategic partner in Africa and it has included the country in its Belt and Road Initiative, the infrastructure drive to reconstruct the Silk Road trade route for the 21st century. The superpower has quickly turned its attention from Zuma to Ramaphosa.

At the same time, Ramaphosa tilted South Africa's axis back to the West, working hard to reinvest in relationships with the UK and with the European Union. British Prime Minister Theresa May was an early visitor to South Africa. But that policy of balanced global relationships hit the skids on Sunday when Ramaphosa's international relations minister Sisulu issued the démarche, a serious step in diplomatic relationships.

She said that she was "disappointed" at the five ambassadors' action.

"In terms of acceptable diplomatic practice, protocol and convention, diplomatic missions are expected to communicate through Dirco.

"The government is intensifying its efforts to deepen and expand economic relations with a number of countries around the world and is pleased with the enthusiastic response its efforts have yielded thus far. All matters that have been raised by investors are being addressed by the respective clusters of our government. We are satisfied that all the branches of our democratic state, including state agencies, are vigorously pursuing their respective mandates to address our current challenges," said Sisulu.

The Sunday Times reported that the governments of Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands and Switzerland said Ramaphosa had to turn words into action on corruption. In addition, the embassies outlined a number of political factors that militated against the President's aim to attract R1.2-trillion in inward investment into South Africa. These included constantly shifting policy on black empowerment and mining, in particular.

On the continent, South Africa is aligning with modernists like Ghanaian president Nana Akufo-Addo and with Rwandan president Paul Kagame. South Africa also signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

While US President Donald Trump has not yet appointed an ambassador to South Africa, the fact that former US president Barack Obama delivered the annual Nelson Mandela Lecture in Johannesburg in July 2018 opened up soft power relationships with the US which struggled in the administration of Zuma.

While Zuma and Russian president Vladimir Putin had a bromance, the relationship with Ramaphosa has suffered. At the BRICS Summit in 2018, Putin was visibly miffed: he arrived late and left early. This is because China was clearly the star of the BRICS Summit while the new government in South Africa put the kibosh on the nuclear deal. Rosatom, the Russian nuclear agency, was courted by Zuma and his government for years and he tried hard to ram through the fiscus-breaking deal without success.

Ramaphosa addressed the United Nations General Assembly in 2018 and also co-chaired the International Labour Organisation's Future of Work commission to consider the impact of automation on the world of work and of employment. DM

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