Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 29.2019
2019.07.15 — 2019.07.21
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Visit of External Affairs Minister to Brazil (July 25-26, 2019) (Визит министра иностранных дел в Бразилию (25-26 июля 2019 г.)) / India, July, 2019
Keywords: mofa, top_level_meeting

July 18, 2019

  • EAM would be visiting Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from July 25-26, 2019 to participate in the Stand alone meeting of BRICS Foreign Ministers. Last month BRICS leaders' had a successful informal summit on the sidelines of G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan. This would be EAM's first engagement with the BRICS Foreign Ministers since assuming office.
  • BRICS FM's meet twice annually. One meeting is hosted by the BRICS chair as a Standalone meeting, usually in the capital and the other meeting is held on the sidelines of the UNGA. In 2018, the then EAM had participated in the standalone meeting hosted by South Africa in Pretoria in June 2018 and the customary BRICS FM meeting on the margins of UNGA in September 2018.
  • EAM is expected to discuss amongst other issues, the preparation for the 11th BRICS Summit of the leaders to be held in Brasilia in November 2019.
  • India attaches high importance to its engagement with BRICS and has continued to engage BRICS at the highest levels. We believe that BRICS has emerged as a valuable forum for consultation, coordination and cooperation on contemporary global issues of mutual interest and has helped promote mutual understanding.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Regular Press Conference on July 19, 2019 (Очередная пресс-конференция 19 июля 2019 г. официального представителя МИД КНР Гэн Шуана) / China, July, 2019
Keywords: mofa, top_level_meeting

Q: You have just announced the visit of State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Brazil for the ministerial meeting of BRICS countries. Could you provide any details? Is there a plan of any bilateral meeting with Russian foreign minister and which topics are they going to discuss if there is a plan to meet?

A: The Formal Meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs is an important event for the BRICS cooperation this year. The BRICS foreign ministers will exchange in-depth views on current international landscape, major international and regional hotspot issues and the BRICS practical cooperation. Under the current complex and fluid circumstances, we hope and believe this foreign ministers' meeting will yield positive results and be vocal on upholding multilateralism, the basic norms governing international relations and the BRICS solidarity and cooperation. It will make full political preparations for the BRICS leaders' meeting in Brasilia.

Both China and Russia are important members of the BRICS cooperation and the two countries maintain close and effective coordination and cooperation under the BRICS and other multilateral frameworks.

Regarding whether State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will meet with Foreign Minister Lavrov, we cannot confirm that for the time being. But I think it's only ordinary for the two foreign ministers to fully exchange views in a timely manner on such occasions.

First Meeting of BRICS Vice-Ministers of Agriculture Held in Brazil; Women's Role in Agriculture, Promotion of Organic Farming Incorporated in Joint Declaration (Первая встреча заместителей министров сельского хозяйства стран БРИКС в Бразилии; Роль женщин в сельском хозяйстве, продвижение органического сельского хозяйства, включенные в совместную декларацию) / India, July, 2019
Keywords: top_level_meeting, concluded_agreements
Author: Chander Mohan

Indian Delegation led by Shri Sanjay Agarwal, Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India participated in the First Meeting of BRICS Vice-Ministers of Agriculture hosted by Brazil (17th to 18th July, 2019) in Brasilia.

The Indian Delegation included Shri G.N. Singh, Joint Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying and Dr. A. Arunachalam, Assistant Director General (International Relations), ICAR, New Delhi.

Mrs. Tereza Cristina, the Agriculture Minister of Brazil welcomed all the delegation from the BRICS countries and reaffirmed the BRICS's goals and objectives.

Shri Agarwal outlined the India's progress in the agriculture and allied sectors. He highlighted mechanisms to enhance the agricultural cooperation between the BRICS member countries to ensure the accelerated agricultural development by fortifying the agricultural research, investments and trade. Further, India affirmed its commitment to provide the enabling environment for the agricultural cooperation to enhance the productivity and also double the farmer's income in an inclusive manner by strengthening the BRICS Agricultural Research Platform.

A final draft of the Joint-Declaration to be adopted by the Agricultural Ministers of the BRICS Countries, was finalized. A few strategic points on the women's role in agriculture and the promotion of organic farming were also incorporated.

The BRICS Vice-Ministers reiterated the 5 priority areas by the Joint Action Plan (2017-2020) viz.:

Accelerated the agricultural development for enhancing the food security and nutrition.

Promoting the cooperation and exchange on climate change for stronger agricultural resilience to the national risks.

Strengthening the technology innovation and demonstration for greater agricultural sustainability.

Improving the safe agricultural trade and expanding the agricultural investments.

Strengthening, sharing and exchange of information for the better ICT application in BRICS agriculture.

As the Chair, Brazil will host the BRICS Agriculture Ministers' Meeting on Agriculture in Bonito from 25th to 26th September, 2019.

During the meet, the BRICS Delegation also visited the Agri-energy and Genetic Resources Units of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). The Delegation had a glimpse of laboratory testing of new sugarcane strains and the seed and gene banks.

Africa: Russia Among BRICS in Africa (Африка: Россия среди стран БРИКС в Африке) / South Africa, July, 2019
South Africa
Author: Kester KennKlomegah

Despite its highly praised global status, experts and researchers have said Russia has still lagged far behind economic engagement, compared to key foreign players, in Africa since Soviet's collapse in 1991.

In separate interviews, they pointed to how the African continent is more confidently integrating into the world economy and called for more development-oriented foreign policies that would help the continent overcome its development problems.

In an exclusive interview, the Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community, Stergomena Lawrence Tax, said Russia has a long history of bilateral engagements with the Southern African countries.

"The official visit of the Russian Foreign Minister H.E. Sergey Lavrov to the Republics of Angola, Ethiopia, Namibia and Zimbabwe, (as we understand it) was largely focused on signing of economic cooperation agreements to attract Russian investments in key areas such as mining, aviation and energy sectors, as well as fostering military technical cooperation."

Like most of the developing countries, Southern African countries have, over the years, largely relied on multilateral and regional development financial institutions to fund their development projects.

In this regard, SADC welcomes investors from all over the world, she said, and added "In reality, Russia has not been that visible in the region as compared to China, India or Brazil. But, it is encouraging that, of recent, Russia has positioned itself to be a major partner with Southern Africa and being part of the BRICS promotes her engagement with the region, particularly in investment in minerals, aviation, defense and energy sectors."

According to many experts, most often talked about economic diplomacy. What is abundantly clear is how to stimulate African governments into exploring investment opportunities in Russia and Russian investors into Africa within some framework of mutual-cooperation.

Professor Vladimir Shubin, the Deputy Director of the Institute for African Studies, told me in an interview that "African leaders also have to pay high attention to and take significant steps in promoting their achievements and highlighting their main developmental needs."

In an acknowledgement, he said Africa has great potential for bilateral relationships with Russia. But, the relations in many spheres, especially in economic cooperation, are lagging behind.

Shubin, however, pointed to the truth that "Africans have to acknowledge the fact that the world has progressively changed, and they must be seen changing with a similar positive pace. It's about time Africans take development issues seriously and work progressively towards establishing good governance and drastically seek improvement in the welfare for its large impoverished population."

Zimbabwe's Ambassador to Russia, Major General (rtd) Nicholas Mike Sango, told me in an interview discussion that, "For a long time, Russia's foreign policy on Africa has failed to pronounce itself in practical terms as evidenced by the countable forays into Africa by Russian officials. The Russian Federation has the capacity and ability to assist Africa overcome these challenges leveraging on Africa's vast resources."

Sango further expressed his views as follows: "Africa's expectation is that Russia, while largely in the extractive industry, will steadily transfer technologies for local processing of raw materials as a catalyst for Africa's development."

Professor Gerrit Olivier at the Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria, and former South African Ambassador to the Russian Federation, said Soviet influence in Africa disappeared almost like a mirage with the collapse of the Soviet system in 1991.

And today, Russia's influence in Africa, despite efforts towards resuscitation, remains marginal. Many foreign players are involved in building infrastructure, have engaged in agriculture and industry, and Russians only noted for their diplomacy characterized by "frequent official visits" to and from Africa.

Dr. Ojijo Al Pascal, Ugandan lawyer and business consultant based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in East Africa, wrote an email and suggested that "Russia needs to have its own mega or corporate projects. And it should have them in strategic economic areas."

Ojijo underlined the fact that Russia, in essence, could use its history of electrifying the Soviet rural areas to help Africa. It could promote the establishment of manufacturing hubs and mega projects, promote its technologies in mutually beneficial spheres while cooperating with individual countries in Africa.

Russia could target priority development projects in Africa. "There are so many investment areas", says Dr. ShaabaniNzori, a Moscow-based Oil and Gas specialist and Foreign Policy Expert, "What is important is to identify investment sectors and here Russia has the chance to transfer its technology to agriculture and industry in Africa."

Rex Essenowo, Member of the Board of Trustees of Nigerians in Diaspora Europe and Senior Executive of Asian Africa Trade, a Moscow based business lobbying NGO, said African leaders also have to treat Russia with some kind of objective understanding.

"Apart from sanctions, Russia is struggling with the challenges after the breakdown of Soviet Union and economic meltdown of the 90's in the country. Russia, as it seeks to restore and strengthen its position, has very limited human resources specially trained to implement policies in Africa," he added.

"Nevertheless, diving into muddy waters could be very risky and dangerous for Russia. On the other hand, Russian authorities are studying what the Chinese and other foreign players are doing very closely before even thinking about going into the first five or ten preferred destinations within the next five years in Africa. Watch out my words!"

There has been, for a long time, interest from Russia to revive its old economic ties with Africa. Russia and Russian enterprises are in a much stronger position today to capitalize on this opportunity than a few decades ago.

At the same time, not ignoring the fact that the continued economic sanctions imposed by the West, has made Russia to reinforce its strategic partnerships with other regions, and currently on the move towards Africa where it has had good historical ties from the Soviet era.

VyacheslavVolodin, the Chairman of the State Duma, told an instant meeting held with the Ambassadors of African ambassadors in the Russian Federation that Russia would take adequate steps to deliver on pledges and promises with Africa countries. "We propose to move from intentions to concrete steps," he said.

In an official report posted it's the ministry's website, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said: "We have been consistently advocating the strengthening of the legal and democratic principles of the international life, respect for all people's identity and their right to independently choose ways of their political and socioeconomic development."

The first Russia-Africa summit scheduled to take place in Sochi on October 24 and will be co-chaired by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who currently chairs the African Union.

*KesterKennKlomegah writes frequently about Russia-Africa and the BRICS.*

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, July 17, 2019 (Брифинг официального представителя МИД России М. Захаровой, Москва, 17 июля 2019 г.) / Russia, July, 2019
Keywords: mofa, sergey_lavrov, top_level_meeting

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's visit to Latin America

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's tour of Latin America is scheduled for July 23 through July 27. The minister will pay official visits to Cuba on July 23-24 and Suriname on July 26-27 and will also attend a BRICS Foreign Ministers Meeting in Brazil on July 25-26.

On July 24, Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla in Havana. The ministers are expected to discuss the most important issues on the bilateral, international and regional agendas. Lavrov also plans to have several meetings with other Cuban leaders.

On July 25-26, Sergey Lavrov will be in Brazil to attend a BRICS Foreign Ministers Meeting.

At their meeting in Rio de Janeiro, the foreign ministers will look into issues on the international and regional agendas, such as efforts to maintain peace and security and resolve violent international conflicts. They will focus on ways to coordinate the approaches of the BRICS countries in key multilateral forums, step up joint work to counter terrorism and transnational organised crime and ensure international information security.

The ministers will review strategic cooperation between the BRICS countries in three key areas – political, economic and cultural – and also discuss progress in preparations for the 11th BRICS Summit scheduled to take place in Brasilia on November 13-14.

On July 26, Sergey Lavrov will meet with Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo on the sidelines of the meeting of the BRICS Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Rio de Janeiro. The ministers will thoroughly discuss cooperation between Russia and Brazil as part of a strategic partnership, in particular, in trade, the economy, investment activities, science and engineering. Regional affairs and prospects for cooperation in key multilateral formats, such as the UN, BRICS and the G20, will be given priority.

Sergey Lavrov will meet with Suriname's Foreign Minister Yldiz Deborah Pollack-Beighle in Paramaribo on July 27 to see if it is possible to further expand relations between Russia and Suriname in various areas. The programme also includes a ceremonial meeting with President of the Republic of Suriname Desi Bouterse.

The forthcoming meetings show that cooperation between Russia and its partners in Latin America and the Caribbean region is steadily gaining momentum.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
BRICS Current Account Surpluses: It's Russia And China Story (Профициты счета текущих операций БРИКС: история России и Китая) / Canada, July, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion, economic_challenges

China and Russia dominate BRICS' current account dynamics and this is not about to change.

The two economies clearly dominate the emerging markets' current account dynamics in terms of both the sign of the balances (surpluses) and their magnitudes.

The caveat for Russia is that its current account gains are coming in at the time of relative weakness in its exports and net capital outflows.

China and Russia dominate BRICS' current account dynamics and this is not about to change.

Both China and Russia have been posting strong current account figures in recent years, and this is not changing with the onset of the Russia sanctions in 2014 and the Trump Trade Wars in 2018. The two economies clearly dominate the emerging markets' current account dynamics in terms of both the sign of the balances (surpluses) and their magnitudes.

The caveat for Russia is that its current account gains are coming in at the time of relative weakness in its exports and net capital outflows:

Meanwhile, per latest data, U.S. trade deficit with China has widened once again as Chinese exports to the U.S. contracted by circa 7.8 percent y/y, while U.S. exports to China fell 31.4 percent. Which means the U.S. trade deficit with China is up 3 percent compared to June 2018.

It is a classic textbook example on how to lose 'bigly' from a trade war.

Editor's Note: The summary bullets for this article were chosen by Seeking Alpha editors.
Global Regionalisation and Integration in Eurasia (Глобальная регионализация и интеграция в Евразии) / Russia, July, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion, ndb
Author: Anton Bespalov

Over the past several years, there has been much talk about the crisis affecting the Western-centric models of globalisation that have developed since the end of the Cold War. Towards the middle of the 2010s, the US, which had once provided the impetus for globalisation, had come to the realisation that its main beneficiary was its ideologically alien and increasingly ambitious trading partner China. The result was a rise in protectionist sentiment in the Washington establishment, as reflected in the policies of the Donald Trump administration. But at the same time, global institutions such as the WTO and the IMF are experiencing a crisis of their own; the regional trade agreements and development banks are playing an increasing role.

According to the latest WTO data (January 2019), there were 291 regional trade agreements in the world and their number is constantly growing. There is every reason to say that a new era of regionalism is coming – a process which has not bypassed Eurasia.

The processes of regionalisation in Eurasia, which directly affect Russia, differ in their nature. There is the EAEU, a classic integration association; the SCO, a forum on cooperation with a particular emphasis on security; the CSTO, a military-political bloc; the Belt and Road, a large-scale initiative to improve connectivity infrastructure; and the ABII, a regional development bank.

"Different integration projects in Eurasia are focusing on different vectors and areas of cooperation," says Yaroslav Lisovolik, programme director of the Valdai Club. "The EAEU integration agenda goes far beyond transport connectivity and includes trade and financial integration. The Belt and Road Initiative largely concentrates on transport and infrastructure development and integration, while the Indo-Pacific Community is likely to pool various integration formats orientated toward rebalancing the alignment of forces in the Eurasian space. This integration triangle has elements of both cooperation (primarily between the EAEU and Belt and Road) and rivalry (between Belt and Road and the Indo-Pacific)."

For Russia, the most high-priority vector for regional cooperation is the alliance being forged between its integration project, the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), and the Silk Road Economic Belt (part of China's Belt and Road initiative). In 2016, Moscow proposed a broader umbrella initiative. "Now we propose considering the prospects for more extensive Eurasian partnership involving the EAEU and countries with which we already have close partnership – China, India, Pakistan and Iran," President Putin said at a plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. This idea was supported by China. According to a joint statement made by the two countries dated June 5, 2019, the BRI and the idea of the Greater Eurasian Partnership "can develop in parallel and in coordination, will contribute to the development of regional associations, and bilateral and multilateral integration processes for the benefit of the peoples of the Eurasian continent."

Economic cooperation in Greater Eurasia opens new horizons and opportunities for Russia, which eventually will allow it to develop a more balanced strategy of participation in the world economy.

Evgeny Vinokurov, Eurasian Development Bank

For Russia, transport contingencies play a special role in the integration agenda. This is not surprising; a unique feature of Russia's geographical position in northern Eurasia is that its internal regions are located at a great distance from the seacoast and, consequently, from world markets. The same can be said about its partners in the EAEU, all of which are landlocked. "It is owing to regional economic integration that Eurasia's landlocked developing countries, including Russia's hinterland, may turn these geographical factors from obstacles to advantages," says Yaroslav Lisovolik. "Deeper integration makes it possible for Eurasian countries to increase their competitiveness by redistributing investment and commodity flows between East and West within such projects as Belt and Road and EAEU. For the Russian hinterland, geographical remoteness gives way to the possibility for mediating the growing trade and financial flows between Eurasia's West and East."

It is important that the EAEU and the Silk Road Economic Belt are complementary, says Valdai Club expert Evgeny Vinokurov, director of the Centre for Integration Research at the Eurasian Development Bank. "In the alignment of the EAEU and the Silk Road Economic Belt, Russia has two tasks," he notes. "The first is to develop the transport and logistics infrastructure in order to encourage the transfer of goods by land instead of by sea, so sending goods from China to Europe (or vice versa) can travel via Russia. This is a good business niche for logistics companies and railways. The second (and main) task is to develop logistics and improve economic conditions. This is especially important for landlocked regions like Kazakhstan and Russia's Urals and Siberia. The Belt's transport corridors make it possible to sew our region together by ensuring links between resources, production lines and markets. The development of transport corridors and infrastructure is essential not only and not so much for transit as for the consolidation of socio-economic links with cross-border areas and better use of industrialized centres."

Eurasia will definitely need common rules to ensure stability and prosperity. To get there, a big obstacle must be overcome—the current drift towards great power rivalry and fears of regional hegemony by one power or another.

C Raja Mohan, National University of Singapore

The expanded Eurasian partnership is being built to unite countries with different cultures and civilizations within its framework. Therefore, it is unlikely that economic processes here can be regulated by a single set of measures and rules, Valdai Club experts believe. "For now, it is necessary to create a kind of mosaic of various concepts and decisions," says Timofei Bordachev, programme director of the Valdai Club. According to Yaroslav Lisovolik, the development of common rules and principles should not become an end in itself. "In the final analysis, when we take into consideration the differences between the economic systems and cultures in Eurasia, common integration rules are likely to apply to a rather limited number of factors. The process of unifying the rules of operation for regional development banks, which often have their own standards and rules for working with projects, will also be difficult, the expert emphasises. "Aa successful integration model must not be aimed at standardising all rules on a grand scale, leaving enough room for socioeconomic and political distinctions in the context of integration."

According to Valdai Club experts, the regionalisation processes in Greater Eurasia have been characterized by a high degree of pragmatism, in part because of the heterogeneity of the participants in these processes. The initiatives which have been launched primarily serve the goals of economic development; political goal-setting is a background element. If we're talking about the EAEU, the long-term goal includes "the creation of a favourable environment for using the potential of economic ties within the region, upgrading national economies and enhancing global competitiveness," emphasizes Yevgeny Vinokurov. According to him, the core of the Eurasian integration process is the single markets for goods, services, capital and labour. Similarly, the Belt and Road initiative has been implemented through the application of economic mechanisms; these include direct investment, portfolio investment, trade loans, infrastructure projects and transportation subsidies.

However, both the EAEU and, to an even greater degree, the Belt and Road initiative are suspected of having a political agenda. Indeed, both projects in one degree or another serve to expand the sphere of political influence, respectively, of Russia and China, but membership in an integration bloc with Russia does not in itself indicate an expansion of the Russian presence. As Piotr Dutkiewicz, Director of the Center for Governance and Public Policy at Carleton University, reminds, the members of the EAEU "calculate their benefits not only in economic terms, but also on their own 'sovereign scale of independence' from Russian influence". Under these conditions, the expert believes, the step towards closer partnership with China and the expansion of key regional organisations (SCO and CSTO) is for Russia the most pragmatic and, quite possibly, expedient (although not entirely risk-free) strategy.

It is a pragmatic approach, in which integration is not an end in itself, but a means by which participating states may modernise their economies and gain a more lucrative place in the international division of labor, and will ensure that the regionalisation processes maximize their effect, experts are convinced. Yevgeny Vinokurov and Piotr Dutkiewicz have proposed the term "pragmatic Eurasianism", which includes the following elements:

  • Attitude towards integration as a means, not a goal;

  • Emphasis on "integration from below";

  • The multiplicity of states as the locomotives of integration;

  • The primacy of economic integration;

  • Principle of subsidiarity;

  • Socio-cultural integration;

  • Open regionalism.

The latter implies an openness towards regional groupings and the development of institutions, both within developed and developing countries. Numerous benefits can be derived from deeper economic integration with the West (European Union) the East (China, South Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia) and with southern Asia (India, Iran, Turkey), Vinokurov notes. According to Dutkevich, Russia sees great potential in establishing interaction between the Eurasian structures and the EU.

"The geo-strategic and geo-economic gamble is that economic and diplomatic gains from this shift will enable – in time – a strengthened Russia to return in its new incarnation as a 'Eurasian power house', to new bargaining processes with the EU as an indispensable partner in an even Greater- Greater Eurasia (including the EU)", the expert says.

Given the interest in developing economic relations with China, the EAEU could serve as the main line of communication between Europe and Asia, but at present the EU prefers "not to notice" the Eurasian initiatives of Russia. However, it cannot be excluded that this situation will not change in the future.

The year 2018 was marked by escalation in trade tensions among the world's largest economies, mostly via bilateral trade restrictions. This was partly compensated by the advances in regional economic integration, particularly among the countries of the Global South, with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) being one of the most important advances in this direction.
Yaroslav Lissovolik, Zhang Henglong

Russia had to leave the comfort zone of having – usually – an upper hand as a dominant partner and face a new configuration of sovereign states or economic giants like China.

Piotr Dutkiewicz, Carleton University

As for the regional institutions, experts believe that development banks such as AIIB and, in part, the BRICS' New Development Bank (which is not a purely Eurasian project) are of the greatest interest. This is logical: after all, the tasks associated with establishing transport contingencies are very costly, which in turn necessitates the unification of regional development banks and other development institutions. As Yaroslav Lisovolik explained, these institutions are just beginning to reach their "design capacity". On the other hand, he notes, they have the advantage of using the accumulated experience of the established, highly efficient development institutions used by developed countries, such as the European Investment Bank, the EBRD and a number of other organizations.

"As a rule there are fewer geopolitical obstacles to joint initiatives and projects at the level of development institutions," he explained. "Interactions between 'new' development institutions and development institutions involving developed countries can be based on joint participation in regional projects as well as on coordination of efforts to promote global initiatives, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals."

At the same time, it is possible to propose not only common rules, but also a single platform for implementing large-scale infrastructure projects in Eurasia, says Lisovolik. A reference point for Eurasia can be the "syndicated regionalism" formula, within which the interaction between regional integration groupings of Eurasia, as well as between development banks and regional financial organizations, is built.

When speaking of regional institutions in Eurasia, one cannot avoid mentioning the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which, after India and Pakistan joined in 2017, became the most important security forum capable of effectively settling disputes between its member states. Today it is one of the most attractive integration platforms for the developing countries of Eurasia.

Regional integration projects which involve developing countries are a sign of our time. In Eurasia, in addition to the regional associations mentioned above, there are a number of other blocks, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Gulf Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Persian Gulf (GCC), the free trade zone in South and Southeast Asia, the South-East Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or the Gulf of Bengal Initiative on Multidisciplinary Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). There are also plans to create a General Regional Economic Partnership (EPEA) with the participation of China, Japan and South Korea.

However, it is worth remembering that the weakening of global institutions does not lead to a guaranteed strengthening of regional ones. An increasing role is played by bilateral agreements between major powers, particularly if one of them is the United States. "Trump is compelling all of America's major trading partners to negotiate bilaterallywith the United States, although most of them, including China, the EU, Japan and India, prefer multilateral agreements," says Valdai Club expert C Raja Mohan, director of the South Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore. "Nevertheless, taking into account the size of the US economy and the scale of interdependence with the US, they have all agreed to engage bilaterally with Washington.

Nevertheless, the significance of regional agreements continues to grow. Amid these conditions, attention is drawn to the lack of horizontal interaction between regional blocks (and development banks and financial associations) and vertically, between them and the institutions of global governance, such as the WTO or the IMF. Perhaps the next stage in the development of regionalism will be the establishment of such interactions. It is difficult to say in what format, but the G20 seems to be the logical platform for this as the most representative forum for dialogue between the developed economies of the Global North and the developing countries of the Global South.
Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Zuma at Zondo: Odds shorten on another BRICs president behind bars (Зума на слушании Зондо: Растут шансы увидеть следующего президента БРИКС за решеткой) / South Africa, July, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues, jacob_zuma
South Africa
Author: Alec Hogg

Whomever advised Zuma on how to handle himself when providing testimony to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture needs their head read. The first rule when you're on the record, is to stick to a script: keep it short and clear. Zuma's testimony was the precise opposite. Another critical rule, especially when you're appearing on live television, is to pay close attention to your body language. Nowadays a few minutes on YouTube turns anyone into an expert on "exposing" liars. Zuma's testimony was classic deception down to the fake cough, mouth cover and nose touch. In this episode of the Rational Perspective podcast, we draw on Anthony Butler's excellent Ramaphosa biography to provide context to an incoherent couple of hours when SA's fuzzy minded former president increased his prospect of incarceration. – Alec Hogg

This is The Rational Perspective. I'm Alec Hogg.

In this episode Jacob Zuma at the Zondo Commission. Like thousands of other South Africans I watched our former President Jacob Zuma rambling, often incoherent testimony to the Zondo Commission today with a mixture of horror and amusement. Horror that my nation had allowed itself to be led for nine years by this fuzzy mind; amusement at the way the deeply implicated politician dug himself ever deeper into a hole.

Whomever advised Zuma on how to handle himself at the inquiry needs their head read. The first rule when you're on the record is to stick to some kind of a script. Keep it short and clear. Zuma's testimony was the precise opposite.

Another critical rule especially when you're on live television for a couple of hours is to pay close attention to your body language. Nowadays a few minutes on YouTube turns anyone into an expert on exposing liars by the way that the body involuntarily behaves. Zuma's testimony was classic deception down to the fake cough, mouth cover and nose touch.

At the height of his power. Zuma enjoyed a reputation as having dirt on his enemies – an asset he apparently built up during the struggle years. He wielded that apparently fearsome weapon at the commission. But it turned out to be a cardboard assegai.

Zuma claimed Ngoako Ramatlhodi, his former mining minister, was an apartheid spy and accused another enemy, former justice minister Penuell Maduna, of a similarly dastardly act. The irony that Zuma himself had appointed Ramatlhodi to high office was somehow lost on this embattled 77 year old.

They were quick to deny the allegations, even offering to take lie detector tests to prove their innocence.

So who is telling the truth? How good is Zuma's intelligence?

There's a clue in Anthony Butler's excellent biography on Cyril Ramaphosa. Here's a telling passage from Chapter 15. It involves the now South African president's application to become a member of the South African Communist Party.

Click here for more details on how to acquire your personal copy of the audiobook on the Ramaphosa biography by Anthony Butler (read by Alec Hogg)

"While Ramaphosa's application was in process, Maharaj insisted that he should meanwhile be treated as if he was already a member of the party. In Maharaj's view, Cyril was comfortable with the positions of the party and the Vula commander had interacted with him repeatedly without a single breach of security occurring.

The application was however never to result in membership. Fate intervened in the unlikely manifestation of Jacob Zuma who had just been appointed to the Politburo. Zuma was a counter-intelligence specialist and he was tasked with performing a background check on Ramaphosa to ensure he was not an infiltrator.

This was the proper course of action. All the same, Zuma was already sympathetic to the theory – a precursor to the later culture of mediocrity in the ANC – that any accomplished young member of the liberation movement was quite likely a spy. If such a youngster was not in the employ of foreign powers or the state, how else could he have acquired his exceptional skills.

Zuma took a very long while to report back. When he did so, he claimed that there was security question marks around Ramaphosa's past. Maharaj was outraged, given his complete confidence in Cyril and the indisputable fact that Maharaj himself had not been arrested despite associating with him. The regime, he observed, would have been thrilled to have secured his scalp.

Eventually the Vula boss met with Zuma to hear his 'evidence' for himself. It transpired that Zuma's doubts rested on the already well-known fact that Cyril, like so many others, had once been imprisoned and released without being charged. Maharaj told Zuma he was not satisfied with the report and sent him away to investigate. Further events were soon to overtake these lumbering inquiries and the opportunity to join the party was lost."

That was from the audio book which I voiced on Ramaphosa's biography. It is worth repeating a key sentence: "Zuma was already sympathetic to a theory that any accomplished young member of the liberation movement was quite likely a spy."

Hmmm. Further context on Zuma's unrepentant attitude displayed so obviously in his testimony today comes in Chapter 26 of Butler's biography.

Let's have a listen:

"Zuma was becoming increasingly erratic as his second term staggered from crisis to crisis. Towards the end of 2015 there were rumours that he might be considering a third term for himself as ANC president. From his Luthuli House redoubt, he would then apparently become the power behind the throne of his successor as state president, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. This was not an original proposition: Zuma's predecessor as ANC president, Thabo Mbeki, had likewise been 'persuaded' in 2007 to seek a third ANC presidential term at Polokwane.

Mbeki likewise made plans to shift government officials to Luthuli House and to run the country from ANC headquarters. He too chose Dlamini-Zuma as his Union Buildings puppet, also claiming that a woman president was an idea whose time had arrived.

A Zuma third term bid therefore lacked originality. But it also lacked credibility for another reason. Zuma would be seeking a third term in his mid 70s rather than in his mid 60s as was the case with the Mbeki. The fact that some Zuma supporters were willing to contemplate such a course of action indicated their deep concern with a candidate Zuma himself had imposed on them.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had become the Zuma faction's front runner largely because the president insisted that she must be. Stage managed endorsements from the ANC's youth and women's leagues were quickly followed by the belated conversion of patriarchs from the most corrupt ANC provinces to the cause of women's advancement. Dlamini-Zuma's ministerial failures were airbrushed out of history and her good works at Home Affairs was presented as little short of miraculous.

In truth many of her faction's supporters remained skeptical about her suitability for the ANC or state presidency's."

Lest we forget, almost Putin like, Zuma had no qualms about changing his Cabinet by ousting those who displeased him. We hear this a little later in chapter 25 of Butler's biography.

"During Zuma's second term when Ramaphosa was silent about these abuses of power, Zuma rotated his ministers mercilessly, regardless of the cost to coherent government. He had no qualms about removing one incumbent after another from portfolios such as Energy, if they failed to realise his personal agenda in Zuma's long march across state institutions. Moreover, he penetrated the machinery for intelligence gathering and the state's investigations and prosecutions machinery, each of which could be used to harass opponents and to protect allies from legitimate legal action.

This destruction of public institutions, of course, was only possible because it also served wider ANC interests.

The South African Revenue Service source and the National Treasury had been on Zuma's radar during his first term as sites of resistance to his various enrichment and patronage projects. SARS was an unusually effective institution that had mostly managed to stay outside partisan and factional politics in the Mbeki era. Nevertheless it had the capacity to collect wide ranging intelligence about the personal and commercial activities of business people and politicians. Zuma tried to put an end to this threat by appointing an old crony Tom Moyane as SARS commissioner in September 2014. Moyane arrived with a prearranged plan to destroy much of the institutional capacity of the Revenue Service and to render it no longer a threat to Zuma's political and business allies.

On the 9th of December 2015, Zuma took a step further, firing finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and replacing him with a virtual unknown David "Des" van Rooyen. Van Rooyen came to Treasury with a plan he did not understand, with special advisers he did not seem to know and with an agenda to remove established public servants who had frustrated corruption in the parastatals and in power procurement. This resulted in an unprecedentedly negative reaction in the financial markets, something Zuma had apparently not anticipated. The currency plummeted and ANC aligned business people inundated the movement's leadership with demands that the decision be reversed.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Zuma was not just poorly informed but duped into taking an unsustainable decision. He was obliged to remove Van Rooyen within days and, bounced by the ANC top leadership including presidential contenders Ramaphosa and Mkhize, into accepting the reappointment of Pravin Gordhan to the position. Gordhan would prove to be a thorn in Zuma side and a rallying point for an anti-Zuma coalition in the ANC and the state as well as in wider civil society."

Appropriate context as South Africa awaits the cross-examination of a man under whose watch the country lost a staggering R1.5trn. That's the number quantified by Hermione Cronje, the recently appointed deputy director of the National Prosecuting Authority.

In Brazil former president Lula da Silva, who presided over plunder of their public purse, is serving a 12 year sentence with dozens of his political cohorts also behind bars. While he was being tried, Lula's supporters gathered in the streets to proclaim his innocence and sway the court. Much like the Zuma fan club did in Johannesburg today.

After Zuma's lengthy rambling, the prospect of a second BRICS president serving time came a whole lot closer.

This has been the rational perspective until the next time. Cheerio.

Summits of BRICS and SCO will be held in St. Petersburg — Putin (Саммиты БРИКС и ШОС пройдут в Петербурге - Путин) / Russia, July, 2019
Keywords: summit, vladimir_putin, chairmanship

MAGNITOGORSK, July 19. /TASS/. The summits of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) under Russia's chairmanship will be held in St. Petersburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday with Chelyabkinsk Region's acting governor Alexey Teksler.

The summits were earlier planned to be held in Chelyabinsk. Putin noted that other events in the framework of Russia's chairmanship in BRICS and SCO will be held in Chelyabinsk.

"We planned to hold two big international events in Chelyabinsk — the summits of SCO and BRICS. In one organization, we have already started our chairmanship, in the other — we will be chairs next year. Because the number of participants in these events is increasing, we will have to hold associated events in two cities. We will hold several events in Chelyabinsk, but the summits will be held in St. Petersburg," Putin said.

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