Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 49.2019
2019.12.02 — 2019.12.08
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Russian Foreign Policy Moving into 2020: Today's Achievements and Tomorrow's Challenges (Внешняя политика России на пороге 2020 года: сегодняшние достижения и вызовы завтрашнего дня) / Russia, December, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion, global_governance

It has become a trend in recent times for politicians, experts and journalists alike to sum up the outgoing year in international relations by noting the decrease in global governance and the growing instability of world politics. And 2019 is no exception. We have witnessed a number of surprises and unexpected events across the globe this year — from the landslide victory of Volodymyr Zelensky in the Ukrainian elections and the launch of impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump in the United States, to a series of political upheavals in Latin America and the never-ending political crisis in the United Kingdom, as well as numerous armed attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and wild oscillations in U.S.–China relations.

Russia's foreign policy has been an utter success compared to the chronic instability and volatility that has become characteristic of the international situation. Even Moscow's most ardent critics cannot deny that Russia has pursued a consistent foreign policy over the past calendar year. While many on the international stage may not see Russia as a convenient partner, it certainly cannot be accused of being unreliable or inconsistent in this capacity. This is an indisputable advantage that Russia enjoys over some of the other great powers and, as such, it is respected not only by the country's friends and allies, but also by its enemies and opponents.

All things considered, we can expect the global system to become even more unstable in 2020. I would, of course, like to be wrong here, but the energy produced by the collapse of the old system of international relations has not yet entirely dissipated. The chain reaction of disintegration that it has caused is unlikely to be arrested any time soon. We are not talking about a year or two of diligent work here, but rather about a long-term historical undertaking — a challenge that needs to be met not by a single state or group of leading powers, but by the entire international community, which for various reasons is still poorly equipped to deal with the problem.

Under these conditions, the temptation may naturally arise for Russia to minimize its participation in international affairs, isolate itself from the unpredictable and dangerous outside world and focus on solving problems at home. The reluctance to "import this instability" and become involuntary hostages to those negative processes and trends in world politics that neither we nor anyone else can control is quite understandable. Also understandable is the public's demand that the authorities focus on problems at home — and, sad as it may be, we have more than enough of these.

However, the strategy of self-isolation, even if only temporary and partial, is dangerous in at least two ways. First, consistent self-isolation is virtually impossible in the modern, interconnected world (North Korea is a very rare exception here). Russia is deeply integrated into global political, economic and social processes, and any attempts to isolate itself will inevitably mean abandoning many of the country's most significant foreign political achievements over the past 30 years. Moreover, isolation would considerably slow down the process of solving those domestic problems that require the most attention.

Second, the strategy of self-isolation would effectively involve Russia withdrawing from active participation in the creation of a new system of international relations and the construction of the new world order. And a new world order will be created regardless. The only question is the price that humanity will have to pay for it. When the era of instability is over and a form of global governance has been restored, Russia will have to play by rules that have been developed by somebody else — rules that ignore Russia's interests and serve those of other participants in global politics.

Ivan Timofeev:
Russia: The Dilemmas of an Underachiever?
For this reason, Russia's foreign policy in the coming year should not be directed exclusively at resolving immediate tasks in various regions of the world, although these tasks certainly are important. Equally important is the development of new principles, models and mechanisms of international cooperation for the future. Figuratively speaking, while it may still be too early right now to start the construction of the building that will house the new world order, it is both possible and necessary to start picking out individual "bricks" and even entire building blocks of this future building today. This is a difficult task, but Russian foreign policy has already made some inroads in this respect.

For example, Russia has gained unparalleled experience in multilateral diplomacy in Syria that has enabled the country to align the positions of the most bitter of adversaries and reduce the intensity of armed hostilities. In Syria, Russia has managed to achieve what many people until recently believed was simply unachievable. It is clearly worth trying to expand this practice to the Middle East as a whole in the coming year. The region sorely needs a collective security system, and a concept developed and fleshed out by the Russian side could be just the ticket.

In Asia, Russia and its partners have taken serious steps towards the construction of a fundamentally new, democratic and transparent system of international institutions. Recent achievements include the expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the promotion of the BRICS+ concept, the advancement of the RIC (Russia, India and China) format, and the progress made in work to combine the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. It is particularly relevant here to fill new institutional formats with real content. Russia will have the chance to solidify its leading role in expanding the "project portfolios" of BRICS and the SCO when it hosts their annual summits in 2020.

Russia–China relations are steadily becoming a driving force in the system of international relations. The further coordination of their actions on the international stage, including the security domain, will continue to strengthen their authority and influence in world affairs.

As for Moscow's policies on the European front, while 2019 was not a breakthrough year in terms of improving relations with the EU, certain positives can be gleaned. Russia was welcomed back to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Russia and the West managed to agree on a common strategy to regulate the political crisis in Moldova. The Normandy contact group on the resolution of the situation in Donbass resumed its work after a long break. And trilateral talks between Russia, Ukraine and the European Union on energy issues started to move forward.

Europe has started to re-examine its model of regional integration fundamentally, and not only because of the United Kingdom's impending withdrawal from the European Union. The continent also has deep-seated problems related to socioeconomic development, regionalization, security, etc. In this context, serious political dialogue on the future of relations between Russia and Europe is an absolute necessity. And this dialogue needs to be started now, without delay.

The 2020 election campaign in the United States is in full swing, so now is not the best time to try to start fixing relations. However, those who insist that Moscow should take a break in these relations until after the election, hoping that the United States will somehow emerge from the deep political crisis that split the nation three years ago, are simply wrong. History has taught us that we can spend our entire lives waiting for the "right moment," and there will always be plenty of excuses to extend this break. Contacts with the Executive Branch of the United States are indeed objectively difficult at the moment, which means that Russia needs to step up its activities along other lines, including in terms of its Track II diplomacy.

A breakthrough was made in relations with Africa in 2019. The Russia–Africa Summit in Sochi demonstrated that there is interest on both sides in developing cooperation and that this cooperation holds great potential. The main thing now is to ensure that this momentum is not lost, which means that practical steps must be taken in 2020.

These are just some of the problems that Russian foreign policy will come up against in 2020. Russia has already demonstrated effective crisis management skills and has proven that it can cope with the most serious challenges of regional and global security today. Now it has the opportunity to show that it is also an experienced design engineer who is ready, alongside its partners, to develop individual components and entire nodes of the mechanism of the new world order that is still under construction.

Next year will mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Looking back, it is essential to note that those who emerged victorious in 1945 were, despite their deep-seated dissent on the most fundamental issues of global development, nevertheless able to agree not only on the rules of the game on the world stage, but also on the creation of an entire system of international institutions to guarantee global and regional stability. And, despite its many shortcomings and imperfections, this system has served humanity for decades.

Today, the international community faces challenges that are comparable in scale to those it faced in the middle of the 20th century. I would like to hope that, like their great predecessors, the politicians of today will realize their historical responsibility and demonstrate political savvy to resolve the most pressing issues of our time.

BRICS Summit Results Indicate Increase In Union's Potential In World Politics – Analysis (Итоги саммита БРИКС свидетельствуют о повышении потенциала Союза в мировой политике - анализ) / Russia, December, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion, summit

27 November 2019. PenzaNews. The 11th BRICS Summit attended by the heads of state and heads of government of the five member states was held in the capital of Brazil on November 13–14 under the motto Economic Growth for an Innovative Future and ended with the adoption of a joint declaration in which they reaffirmed their "fundamental commitment to the principle of sovereignty, mutual respect and equality and to the shared goal of building a peaceful, stable and prosperous world."

The document contains the BRICS leaders' common vision on security, fight against corruption, reforming the system of international relations, strengthening the financial and economic architecture, and future cooperation between the five countries. In addition, it emphasizes the need to resolve regional crises and conflicts through dialogue and diplomacy.

During the summit in Brazil, there was also signed statement following the results of the third full-format meeting of the BRICS foreign ministers, a communiqué following the meeting of the ministers of health, a calendar of events and a work plan on science, technology and innovation, a regulation on energy research platform, a memorandum of understanding between national trade and investment promotion agencies and other documents.

Speaking at the meeting with members of the BRICS Business Council and the management of the New Development Bank, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that the investment project portfolio of the NDB continues to grow and has already exceeded 12 billion dollars, with seven of 44 approved projects being implemented in Russia.

"I would like to propose increasing the share of BRICS national currencies in project financing as my recommendation for the bank's further work. This would not only add weight to our currencies as an alternative for international payments in the global economy, but also help to avoid additional risks and expenses in mutual payments," he said.

Vladimir Putin also welcomed the plans of the New Development Bank to attract ruble loans on the Russian financial market and called it useful to increase the number of its regional branches.

It is expected that the NBR office in Moscow will open in the first half of 2020 – in anticipation of the next BRICS summit, which will be held in St. Petersburg in July, as the chairmanship of the association passes to Russia.

It is planned to invite the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the CIS to participate in a major international event with an extensive business program. A similar practice has existed since 2013. Leaders of neighboring developing countries are traditionally invited to the BRICS summits to discuss contemporary challenges and prospects for expanding cooperation.

Commenting on the results of the summit in Brazil, Varaprasad Dolla, Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, drew special attention to the main theme of the event connected with the ties between economy and innovation.

"It is a reflection of the increasing global recognition of the role of innovation in economic growth. […] Another major outcome of the summit is the establishment of Innovation Network (iBRICS), which will have an enduring impact on the five countries in the years to come. The challenge for the leaders is to take this initiative to its logical conclusion in making innovation making a difference in the growth of their economies," the analyst told PenzaNews.

He shared the opinion that BRICS provides a platform to strengthen the economic relations among the member states. However, the multilateral economic ties are structured and impacted by the bilateral dynamics.

Moreover, the expert stressed that the organisation plays an important role in global politics.

"From the vantage point of political relations, BRICS […] provides a platform for the five countries to represent their national interests as well as the interests of the other developing countries. BRICS leaders are also concerned not only about global issues such as UN reform, global terrorism but also regional issues of war in Syria and Yemen," Varaprasad Dolla explained.

In his opinion, the BRICS countries also should promote cooperation in the field of education and evolve mechanisms to facilitate cooperation in this sphere.

In turn, Vasuki Shastry, Associate Fellow at Chatham House, who previously worked in the IMF and the Singapore central bank, noted that the leaders of five countries discussed a wide range of issues.

"The Brasilia Declaration issued after last week's BRICS summit covers wide-ranging topics from the health of the global economy, sustainable development, trade tensions, the conflict in Syria, and the need for better governance of multilateral institutions," he reminded.

The ability of BRICS nations to be a powerful voice on behalf of developing nations on these issues will be tested in the period ahead, he said.

"The critical test is how committed the BRICS are on following up on the declaration and acting as a united, cohesive grouping representing a significant portion of humanity," Vasuki Shastry said and added that the theme of the summit should be seen in the context of slowing growth and rapid structural changes to the global economy.

Meanwhile, Brig Vinod Anand, senior fellow of Vivekananda International Foundation and author of a series of articles on geopolitics in Asia, called BRICS a useful platform for the member countries to exchange views on global politics, governance and economic environment.

"The effectiveness of BRICS as an alternative to the Western inspired groupings and institutions has always been under scrutiny. While it can be said that BRICS has made a steady advance in its objectives yet it has a long way to go before it can play a leading role for the developing world or otherwise," the analyst suggested.

In his opinion, the events leading to Brasilia Summit had indicated that Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro might be somewhat cool to imparting momentum to BRICS activities due to his previously articulated difference with China, however, it did not happen – later he took a number of initiatives to make the Summit successful.

According to the expert, only China's and India's economies have been growing fast and despite the fact that BRICS countries contribute 31% of world's GDP, China's contribution to this percentage is more than 50% and thus this enables it to dominate the political discourse.

At the same time, Brig Vinod Anand stressed that BRICS supports multilateralism and is against protectionism.

"The countries are also in favour of reforming the UN system, the World Trade Organization and institutions like IMF. China and Russia, both permanent members of UN Security Council reiterated in Brasilia Declaration that they support the aspiration of Brazil, India and South Africa to play a greater role in the UN. This is, of course, much short of what these three members would like. […] Lack of an institutional mechanism to take forward the agenda of the grouping continues to pose a challenge. BRICS still does not have a permanent secretariat and if it has to mature as an institution with some heft this deficiency needs to be removed," he said.

"From Indian perspective, a much greater attention and prioritization of counter-terrorism in Brasilia Summit outcome document is a positive development. Formation five sub groups on counter terrorism will help focus BRICS members' energies in dealing with this scourge," the analyst added.

Harun Ozturkler, economy researcher, associate professor of Economic and Administrative Sciences at the Kirikkale University, expressed confidence that BRICS Summit Brasilia was the most effective one of all 11 summits in terms of both issues and challenges covered and leaders' resolution in putting forward solutions.

"During the summit we have witnessed that US President Donald Trump's policy have united BRICS and brought them closer in economic and political relations. Although I wished to see Turkey as an integral part of BRICS, as BRICS and T, it was clear that BRICS leaders aspire to expand the domain of the economic and political relations to cover not only other emerging countries but also developing countries," the expert said.

From his point of view, BRICS countries' share as a block in world GDP will continue to grow. Although Trump-led trade war between the US and China, and sanctions on Russia and Iran hurt economic growth potential not only in BRICS but also other countries with close economic relations, BRICS countries show a better potential for a higher economic growth in the short and medium term.

"Close relationships and joint works in the areas of finance, trade, labor, technology, energy, agriculture, and environment can be expected to create a synergy and a synchronized economic upturn in the BRICS. Steps towards the establishment of BRICS Trade and Investment Promotion agencies are very important for policy and action coordination among BRICS. But the most outstanding aspect of 11th summit was the urgent call for reforms in the multilateral system, including the UN, the WTO, and the IMF," Harun Ozturkler concluded.

What the 11th BRICS Summit Foretells of the Future of BRICS (Что 11-й Саммит БРИКС предвещает в будущем БРИКС) / Russia, December, 2019
Keywords: summit, expert_opinion

Badar Alam Iqbal, G. Fulufhelo Netswera, G. Fulufhelo Netswera - specially for InfoBRICS

The BRICS grouping is relatively a new "should be" global economic hegemony of the Global South. Over the past few years however there has been economic and political upheavals within the grouping and within its member states that the future of BRICS comes into question. This paper reviews the position of the 10th BRICS Summit and the foundation that it lays for the future position of BRICS.

Section 1: Introduction

Since the inception of the idea of BRICS in 2001 (O'Neil, 2001) and the first BRICS summit held on 2002, the world has always seen BRICS countries as countries of opportunities with significant structural problems. The economies of BRICS countries have outperformed the global average growth rate (in GDP rate terms). New initiatives such as New Development Bank (NDB) and Multilateral Trade Facilitation agreements have bolstered the relevance of this grouping such that the economic hegemony of the Bretton Woods institutions, i.e., IMF and World Bank have started withering resulting in the recognition of the influence that BRICS has on global economy.

There has always been a general level of scepticism that BRICS could become an important global economic hegemonic power starting at least with the Global South. Now however it seems plausible considering that in the last few years in the backdrop of world geopolitical crisis and certain domestic economic uncertainty in most BRICS countries, the future of BRICS may be at stake.

Another very similar grouping (IBSA) that included only India, Brazil and South Africa though it started with a lot of momentum seem to be mooted or fading away from public consciousness. A pertinent question in this direction is at what age of such type of multilateral organizations can we be comfortable that they are sustainable? The question of typology of BRICS has not yet settled, what is settled is that it is neither a bloc nor a formal group. If this is appropriate, and it is by most researchers, then BRICS can collapse anytime because for its potential collapse you need few reasons in a situation of world economic and political crisis. We are not of the view that there is a pessimistic world order but pessimism about the current bilateral issues is certainly true as evidenced in numerous writings. We are therefore going to study the 10th BRICS summit in this light of what the future holds for BRICS and what BRICS can give to the world.

Section 2: BRICS Political Framework and Theory of Multilateral Cooperation

The political framework of BRICS is that of reformation and cooperation in the existing international economics order. The testimony of the same is the use of such political and economic tools that can promote cooperation and collaboration among BRICS nations. On the context of Multilateral Cooperation, BRICS nations have always promoted this ideal but not on the cost of BRICS nations that are developing countries. Since its inception BRICS has been focused on reforming the international political economic environment that is largely influenced by the Bretton Woods institutions and by interpretation – western and developed countries.

The assumption with the establishment of Bretton Woods institutions, IMF, World Bank and even the United Nations was that the say and perspective of all nations including the developing countries is really important. But somewhere that reality remained short-circuited and these institutions consequently are perceived to be exploitative of the third world countries and promotional of developed countries as did colonialism to large degree. BRICS has taken this task together and other developing countries see BRICS as reforming the system. The testimony of the same is the creation of New Development Bank.

Within the BRICS there are several anomalies regarding economic and political variables. In order for a group of countries like BRICS to reach to new heights, it is imperative to identify a leader in BRICS countries. Even if no leader is required, then also it is argued that a natural outcome of economic integration is emergence of a natural leader. Who that leader will be remains the question. The economic domination of China over BRICS however has become one of the most important talking points by proponents and dissenters alike. Lately BRICS itself seem to be vocal on geopolitical economic turf wards including anti-protectionism of the United States of America – something historically unheard. A more profound and plausible question can be which country's potential suggest that it can be a leader.

Section 3: The BRICS Economic Review

There are large implications of the rise of the BRICS for the world economy even if reality differs from projections conducted by the analysis at Goldman Sachs. BRIC countries are strategically connected to the world in terms of international trade, capital flows and market interdependence. The BRICS share in global Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) has substantially increased and have historically accounted for more than 10 % of their annual fixed capital formation.

Despite the rapid economic growth in BRICS in the past decade and estimated positive economic outlook the respective economies are still specialised in relatively lower value added fragments of the value chain. Thus, in the long run BRICS may not sustain its economic growth. Domestic contents of China's exports of technology intensive products are quite limited compared to the four newly industrialised economies. BRIC countries tend to become the hub of the regional economy and as a result more economic activities may agglomerate in the BRICS markets.

All BRIC countries have gradually increased their level of globalisation whereas Brazil and China have raised their globalisation in the last 40 years, Russia and India has joined this race of increase in globalisation since the 1990s, that is, less than 40 years. If the BRICS maintain their globalisation advantage over their neighbours or even increase it, obviously they will strengthen their hubness in the regions and thus showing stronger technological positions and more asymmetric trade relations with their neighbours. The BRICS clearly dominate extra-regional trade relations of their respective regions and their shares in extra-regional trade are overall still increasing. In one study, it was observed that overall centrality of the BRICS is rising over the period of observation, that is, 2000-2010.

Section 4: 10th BRICS Summit-What it holds?

Before the 10th summit, the ninth BRICS summit till date was wrapped 5thSeptember, 2017 amidst last moment probability of India not paying visit to the Xiamen City of China where the summit was decided to happen. Engulfed in a border stand-off at Dokalam tri junction which took a 2 month long time to settle, India's presence in the summit was highly doubtful. However, abiding by the BRICS goal of cooperating with each other in line with international law and rules, India cleared air by joining the summit after the border scuffle set.

The summit brought a strong commitment to broaden its cooperation framework in all its vigour. BRICS initiatives like New Development Bank, Contingent Reserve arrangement brought into reality in previous summits were hailed in driving BRICS to new avenues of development. Also, the summit reaffirmed its commitment toward industrial cooperation, research and development, innovation in ICT, 2030 agenda for sustainable development and supports the need to reform UN development system. Thus, through every consecutive summit, BRICS has stepped up its game of binding economies under its ambit to direct them into realising the set goals of cooperation. An even greater BRICS initiative is urged by China lately in the form of extending the grouping into BRICS plus.

The 10th BRICS summit was held in South Africa in July 2018. This was on the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela that gave a political message to the world that BRICS countries stand for freedom and values of the opperessed people and that BRICS countries will be more focused on developing countries. There were lots of agreements and cooperation issues ranging from economic to climate issues. At the outset South Africa was commended by BRICS for hosting the summit and giving a new direction to the BRICS cooperation.

The last ten years of the BRICS functioning was appreciated by all the countries and that they will works with more cooperation was extended. The issues that they agreed to focus in the coming years were related to economic cooperation, political reforms and climate change. Particularly focusing on green sources of energy was identified to be one of the most important issue. BRICS countries identified the principles of mutual respect, sovereign equality, democracy, inclusiveness and strengthened collaboration and promised to extend these issues to other countries as well. Sustainable Development Goals has been an important issue and the knowledge hub related to SDG has been at the forefront of the discussion.

So, it is a pertinent question to ask what 10th summit actually holds and the answer is in three parameters. On economic level, the 10th summit has been important because cooperation among BRICS will be extended in future on economic grounds. In terms of political issues, BRICS countries has agreed to uphold such principles that will create a stable political environment among BRICS countries.

The BRICS economies in the aftermath appear to reach its predicted point of equalling G-7 by 2032 and China becoming as great as the United States economy by 2027. In its demarcation of economies into three sets according to the order of actual outcomes, the report places China in the first group thus declaring China at the zenith of economies transcending calculations. Further, China's global position and inside BRICS is highlighted by its increased share in trade flows, elevated domestic demands, strong currency and enhanced net exports. China accounts for almost two-thirds of the BRICS trade shares. China tops among all four BRICs economies in both domestic demand and net exports in constituting the 2008-09 real GDP growth and also comes at the top in comparison with the United States and EU16. Thus, the report elaborates on the possibility of BRICS projections to materialise much earlier than they were stated to be.

In similitude with Goldman Sach's various reports regarding BRICS future success and China's expected win over other members, enormous literature exists on the belief of China garnering most from BRICS and BRICS stature building due to China's performance. Almeida suggests BRIC to be rather named as CIRB if real substance of each of the members of BRICS in the global pie is considered. Cui presents in his work the Chinese standpoint on the why and wherefore of BRICS.

Section 5: Future of BRICS and the current performance

In order to develop insight into the future of BRICS operation it is important to assess the current performance of the BRICS countries in terms of selected macroeconomic variables. We have identified three key economic variables to study the performance of BRICS. The first parameter is the Merchandise trade of BRICS countries. Merchandise trade is the backbone of BRICS countries as historically they have been manufacturing hubs, specially, India and China. There was a time before 1600, that 35% of the world trade was contributed together by China and India.

The average growth rate from 2004 to 2018 has been 7% while in the previous period it was less than 5%. This growth trend is promising and it is expected to continue keeping in mind the economic cooperation and collaboration that was targeted in the 10th BRICS summit.

The second important macroeconomic variable is Gross Domestic Product of BRICS countries. It is crystal clear that GDP of the BRICS countries has been increasing as it has been increasing for the world. However, the rate of increase in the BRICS countries is higher that the global rate of GDP growth. This increase in the growth rate is also witnessed in the years starting from 2002, which is an indication of BRICS collaboration and cooperation. The third macroeconomic variable for BRICS performance is Foreign Direct Investment Inflows. FDI Inflows is an important elements to study for BRICS, because in the third BRICS summit investment cooperation was highlighted with great vigour.

However, a separate calculation of growth rates of FDI is also very important. The growth rate shows that after 2009, there has been great improvement in the FDI Inflows, the theory suggest that FDI Inflows are attracted due to GDP, Stability of the economy, Business Confidence Index, Ease of doing business etc and all these issues has remained at he forefront of BRICS summit discussions. Therefore somewhere down the line, the reason for such increase in FDI flows in the existence of BRICS.

Section 6: Conclusion

BRICS in an important cooperation among countries that are developing and they are bound to influence in world in the future. The 10th BRICS summit was promising and all countries agreed to future cooperation having realised the power and progress achieved in the last 10 years. However, on the issue of who will lead the BRICS group, there is no clear evidence but surely China is an option. The selected macroeconomic indicators show that the performance of BRICS countries has been improved in the years of BRICS existence and cooperation. The future of BRICS is promising considering the SDGs taken up by the BRICS countries in 10th BRICS summit.

Dr. Badar Alam Iqbal - Adjunct Professor School of Economics and Finance Monarch University (Zug), Switzerland; Professor G. Fulufhelo Netswera - Director, North West University Business School, South Africa; Mohd Nayyer Rahman - Assistant Professor, Department of Commerce, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh.

Importance of BRICS in an Uncertain World (Значение БРИКС в неопределенном мире) / India, December, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion

By Dr. Ankit Srivastava

The 11th BRICS Summit, 2019, was held in Brasilia, Brazil for the third time on November 14, signifying the coming of age of an organization that brings together emerging economies playing a vital role in a globalized world. Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa and Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attended the Summit.

The year 2019 has been a bad year for the whole world with an ongoing US-China trade war. Some Western media outlets have cast doubt on the efficacy of BRICS cooperation, questioning whether BRICS cooperation is on the decline. But BRICS' ground-breaking cooperation provides a new hope for all the five members to re-recognize the world and themselves on their path of international cooperation. The developing countries need not go through the West to understand the world. BRICS has proven that there is a huge world outside the West which has a far-reaching significance.

BRICS countries are blamed for economic slowdown, so is most of the world. Which country or nation-group has not? The long-term factors driving economic growth, the emerging markets and the dynamic mechanisms of BRICS have remained unchanged. BRICS countries are still on the frontline of world development and their influence in regions and the world has not diminished.

BRICS members have different geographical features, size and social governance which appear divisive but internet and globalization are shaping the contours of their cooperation.

Undaunted by geopolitics and geopolitical goals of the West, BRICS is offering space for cooperation and development. In contrast, the US-proposed Indo-Pacific Strategy consisting of Japan, Australia and India for "free and open Indo-Pacific" got dwarfed by the US geopolitical needs and still searching for its mojo.

BRICS has taken good strides in development, cooperation, and forming new ideas. BRICS realised too early that establishing partnership institutions was central to the sustenance of its agenda. The BRICS Bank (New Development Bank, or NDB), operational since 2015, today boasts a portfolio of 30 projects worth $8 billion.

More cooperative institutions like the BRICS credit system, Academic Forum and University cooperation programs are either operational or in the pipeline.

These highly innovative and large scale developmental programs in the Global South focus on infrastructure and the green economy and comply with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda. Countries of the Global South should avail such alternative development-friendly loans. BRICS plays a crucial role that enhances its influence.

"We remain committed to multilateralism, cooperation of sovereign states to maintain peace and security, advance sustainable development and ensure the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all and build a brighter shared future for the international community," said summit's joint declaration.

Western media questioned the unity of the BRICS over differences between the members, such as India's stance on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). But differences won't subsume shared interests. The common ground that BRICS members share is real which can reform or promote the current international order dominated by the West.

The BRICS partnership on the new industrial revolution is vital to BRICS economic cooperation. The business sector should integrate business cooperation with the BRICS partnership, and yield better results in such areas as innovation, digital economy and green economy to promote the high-quality development of BRICS economies.

With just over 3 billion people, BRICS accounts for 40 percent of the global population. Other important indicators— life expectancy, trade balance, GDP per capita and foreign exchange reserve— also look positive.

BRICS has become too important to be ignored. The theme and focus of the 11th BRICS Summit, "Economic growth for an innovative future," is in keeping with the times. BRICS show common interests among major emerging market economies to leverage its strength.

New Delhi Times

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
BRICS Nations Discuss Shared Crypto to Break Away from USD and SWIFT (Страны БРИКС обсуждают возможность совместного использования криптозащиты от доллара США и SWIFT) / United Kingdom, December, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion, economic_challenges, digital
United Kingdom

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, or the BRICS economic bloc, are engaging in discussions to issue cross-national digital money in order to reduce the dependence of their economies on the United States. What will the new cryptocurrency look like, how does the BRICS group plan to use it and are there any existing projects underway that seek to achieve a similar goal of independence on such a high level?

BRICS and its problems

BRICS is the largest geopolitical block of countries, spanning three continents and wielding substantial economic power in global affairs. As of 2018, the five nations of the BRICS block had a combined nominal gross domestic product of $40 trillion, or about 23.2% of the gross world product.

However, such economic power does not come without competitive penchants from other nations that are vying for the markets that BRICS nations cater to. The greatest competition comes from the European Union and the U.S.

The political experience of recent years has shown that BRICS countries' diplomacy has arguably failed in alleviating international sanctions, especially in politically sensitive markets such as the arms and the energy carriers markets. However, advances in technology are here to help out where politics cannot, as blockchain and digital assets have the potential to open entirely new horizons for finance.

The idea of a single cryptocurrency as a means of payments and value transmission is not a new one, but it is one that is being actively purported not only in countries like Venezuelawith its Petro, but also among BRICS countries. The advantages of a single cryptocurrency as a universal means of settlements among BRICS nations would solve many of the problems they face on the global economic market.

A means of circumventing U.S. sanctions

The BRICS Business Council discussed creating a common cryptocurrency as a potential solution to these problems during the 11th BRICS summit that was held in Brazil on Nov. 13–14, according to reports that cite Kirill Dmitriev, a member of the council. Dmitriev, who is the director-general of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, went on to say that an efficient BRICS payment system could be used to stimulate settlements between the countries while reducing the use of the U.S. dollar for these purposes.

It was also reported that the new system may become an alternative to the international payment mechanism SWIFT to facilitate trade with countries under U.S. sanctions.

Dmitriev also noted that in recent years, the share of U.S. dollars payments made between the BRICS countries has significantly decreased. In Russia, for example, over the past five years, the share of USD in foreign trade transactions fell from 92% to 50%, while those made in the Russian ruble rose from 3% to 14%.

At the same time, the potential for reducing the U.S. dollar's dominance is still great, according to macroeconomic analyst Oleg Dushin, who told Russian media outlet BFM that such could be the case if Russia and India changed the currency they use to make payments between each other.

Dushin also said that Russia and China have already stopped using U.S. dollars in half of their mutual settlements and that there is currently a general trend of driving the dollar out of the international payments system. This, according to the expert, will help BRICS countries weaken the influence of the dollar in the global monetary system and reduce the risk of payments being frozen by Washington.

Denis Smirnov, a blockchain consultant from Russia, noted to BFM the convenience and reduction of transaction costs as some of the advantages of creating a single cryptocurrency system for the BRICS countries, calling it an alternative to bonds.

Commenting on the possibility of BRICS countries using a single cryptocurrency, Vladimir Rozhankovsky, an expert at the International Financial Center, told BFM: "If it is possible to reduce currency risks, then it is better to carry out trading payments directly, and not through the purchase of dollars — this is obvious. The vast majority of more or less large global economies are now working on this issue."

Peg to gold, not the U.S. dollar

While it is still unknown what the BRICS cryptocurrency will look like exactly, experts are discussing what it could potentially be tied to. Commenting on the possible options that the international cryptocurrency may be tied, Elina Sidorenko, the head of the Russian State Duma's working group on cryptocurrency issues, said that there are several options on the table.

For example, it could be tied to the value of another cryptocurrency, she told Russian media outlet Dp, "but in this case, it's impossible to avoid either the continuation of the U.S. dollar's monopoly," or it can be pegged to the price of a raw material or a good, but then the risk of market manipulation becomes a threat.

She concluded: "The thirasd option is a link to gold, and taking into account the latest Basel Accords, such a decision seems very convincing and timely."

Olinga Taeed, a council member and expert advisor at the China E-Commerce Blockchain Committee, told Cointelegraph that the Chinese have been researching the possibility of issuing a gold-backed token due to the country's access to natural mineral reserves in Africa through China's Belt and Road Initiative. He went on to add: "More recently frictionless international trade has come to the fore with DLT looked upon as a possible solution for Brexit for example, replacing the usual 5-10 year gestation period. So the thinking is well rehearsed but what is new here is the willingness to enact it and for evidence of this there is absolute clarity. Trump has made transparent the long established use of the financial instrument of the dollar to pressurise Iran, Russia, China, etc for non-financial gain."

Russia seeks an alternative to SWIFT

Russia has been the target of sanctions since 2014. As a result of multiple economic restrictions, Russian authorities have been considering the possibility of creating alternatives to SWIFT.

One of them — the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, or SFPS — is reportedly being used in 18% of money transfers in the country, and foreign financial organizations began to join SPFS in 2018. However, in April, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov noted that SPFS is not a full-fledged replacement for SWIFT and that it is unlikely to become one in the near future.

Now, the Russian government is considering another alternative: a national cryptocurrency secured by gold. Elvira Nabiullina, head of the Central Bank of Russia, said that such a currency could be used to carry out settlements with other countries for trade transactions. However, Nabiullina is also of the opinion that it is more important to develop international settlements facilitated by national currencies rather than crypto.

The sanctions had blocked at least 20% of Russia's defense transactions in 2018 due their tether to the U.S. dollar. Though Russian authorities are gradually moving toward settlements in national currencies with BRICS states, the idea of a unified cryptocurrency is being openly discussed as an effective, transparent, untraceable and stable instrument for circumventing U.S. sanctions and decreasing dependence on the U.S. dollar.

BRICS states would be able to disregard any exchange rate differences in settlements in a single cryptocurrency, and Russia would gain solid support for its national currency — the ruble — which suffered a twofold drop in value.

China considering a national crypto to bypass U.S. sanctions

China is the leading nation of the BRICS bloc in terms of GDP and the most open nation when it comes to discussions about blockchain implementation. China is intent on accelerating the development of its own central bank-backed digital currency and is working toward the integration of blockchain technologies into other important financial mainstays of the country, such as Alibaba, Tencent and various banking institutions.

Such hasty development could in part be the result of a heated debates about Facebook's Libra coin. Chinese analysts fear that the development of a global digital currency by a company, which is regarded to have strong affiliations with the U.S., would threaten the existence of national currencies and weaken their exchange rates. Such a stablecoin backed by the U.S. dollar may increase the power of its penetration into the global economy and thus solidify the political positions of Washington.

Chinese authorities are interested not only in the development of a unified cryptocurrency for settlements with BRICS countries but also in the launch of a national cryptocurrency that would serve as a shield against the economic adversary across the Pacific.

Brazil has a positive stance on using stablecoins

Brazil is demonstrating the highest rate of Bitcoin (BTC) trade in Latin America. Such broad penetration of digital assets in Brazil makes it both fertile ground for the development of a national cryptocurrency and firm ground to support for a unified BRICS cryptocurrency for settlements with member states.

Given the country's positive stance toward blockchain, Brazilian authorities seem to be open to discussions with stablecoin issuers. One recent example is that of the Mile Unity Foundation, whose representatives met with members of Brazil's Ministry of Industry, Foreign Trade and Services to discuss the use of the XDR stablecoin for international transfers of funds.

Given that Brazil had an export/import balance of $219 billion to $140 billion in 2017 alone, the potential for using a single cryptocurrency with BRICS member states for increasing such figures is immense.

Although Brazil does not suffer from sanctions, its main trade partners in technology, such as Russia, are subject to them. Using the U.S. dollar for mutual settlements between countries leaves little room to maneuver.

India is fighting with poverty and corruption

The Indian authorities are reportedly discussing the introduction of a national digital currency. There may be significant reasons for such a move, not the least of which being the alleviation of the poverty that many of the country's 1.3 billion are languishing in.

The Reserve Bank of India is pushing for such a digital currency backed and regulated by the central bank as legal tender. The RBI hopes that blockchain can alleviate the issue with corruption, which is rampant in India, and significantly reduce the dependence of millions of Indians working abroad on financial intermediaries in cross-border transfers.

The Indian authorities are also proponents of a national digital currency for reducing the population's reliance on other digital currencies. Given India's stance within BRICS as a major buyer of Russian arms and as one of the most important energy trade partners, having mutual settlements in a unified digital currency would open up entirely new prospects for trading.

South Africa is making money transfers accessible for citizens

The possibility of issuing a national digital currency has even been discussed by the South African Reserve Bank, which could allow for its citizens to freely transact without the need for banks.

Given the staggering number of unbanked individuals (estimated to be around 11 million people) and those without any form of official IDs in the country, the availability of a national digital currency would help millions of citizens gain access to financial services and boost economic development. South Africa is just as bound to the U.S. dollar as all the other BRICS members in its settlements with China and Russia, meaning that is also feels the impact of the sanctions regime.

Experts say

According to experts, the idea of creating a digital currency for BRICS may turn out to be highly viable, given the transition of the world from a monopolar political model to a multipolar one and the backdrop of a shift in the economy from traditional financial institutions to trading platforms.

And the main beneficiary so far could be China, which is interested in expanding its sales markets amid a trade war with the U.S. Smirnov told BFM that he believes that over time, such systems will become more widespread: "For example, for the past two or more years a consortium of several European banks has been testing its own mutual settlement solution that works outside the SWIFT system and allows for interbank settlements."

The individual national currencies of the BRICS countries have been dropping against the U.S. dollar over the past 10–20 years, but it is unclear whether a unified BRICS payment system would reverse this trend. However, it is possible that the U.S. dollar could be weakened if the share of settlements in dollars significantly decreases around the world.

Among other possible risks that may be associated with the idea of issuing a gold-pegged international digital currency, head of research at investment company Nord Capital Vladimir Rojankovsky noted the deregulation of the market and the possibility of manipulation. He told Russian media outlet Regnum, "Such an implementation of this project does not imply the involvement of any distinguished party, which is a living oversight body."

Speaking about the further development of the BRICS initiative, Teemo Puutio, an expert in compliance and an adjunct instructor at New York University School of Professional Services, told Cointelegraph: "Whether the BRICS backed currency would ultimately succeed in gaining traction would largely depend whether it actually facilitates trade instead of adding another layer of technological complexity for the end user. […] BRICS are not alone in this however and it remains unclear whether the dominant digital currency of the future will be public such as the e-Euro or digital yuan or private, like Libra."

Julia Magas is a researcher/journalist who covers the latest trends in finance and technology. Since 2013, she has been researching the cryptocurrency market and coordinating international conferences.

Blockchain News

NDB Board of Directors Meets in Shanghai, Approves Three Projects with Loans Aggregating to USD 937 Million (Совет директоров NDB встретился в Шанхае и утвердил три проекта на общую сумму 937 миллионов долларов США) / China, December, 2019
Keywords: ndb, investments, concluded_agreements

On December 2, 2019, the 22nd Meeting of the Board of Directors of the New Development Bank (NDB) was held in Shanghai, China.

The Board approved three projects with loans aggregating to approximately USD 937 million, bringing the NDB's portfolio to 49 projects with loans aggregating to USD 13.7 billion.

  • Hubei Huangshi Modern Tram Project
The NDB will provide a loan of RMB 2.76 billion (approx. USD 400 million) to the People's Republic of China for Huangshi Modern Tram Project. It will address urban transport connectivity problems in Huangshi, a municipality in the southeastern part of Hubei Province, through the construction of a modern tram network with a total length of 27.33 km. The components of the Project include: i) laying of tracks, construction of stations and installation of associated facilities for the tram network; ii) procurement of rolling stock; and (iii) consultancy support for commissioning, preparation of operations and maintenance plan, capacity building and project management.

  • Manipur Water Supply Project
The NDB will provide a loan of USD 312 million to the Republic of India for Manipur Water Supply Project. It will address serious challenges in clean drinking water supply in Manipur, a small mountainous state in the northeastern region of India, through construction and upgrade of drinking water supply infrastructure. The components of the Project include construction and upgrade of drinking water supply systems in: i) Imphal Planning Area, the capital city of Manipur; ii) additional 25 towns; and iii) 1,731 rural habitations.

  • Indore Metro Rail Project
The NDB will provide a loan of USD 225 million to the Republic of India for Indore Metro Rail Project. The Project is to implement a metro line of approximately 31 km in the city of Indore. The Project will provide mass rapid transit capacity for the city's major mobility corridors, thereby contributing to local economic development and an improved urban environment by reducing traffic congestion and pollution.

The Board also approved technical assistance totaling to USD 0.7 million for two projects from India and Russia:

  • Mizoram Tuirini Small Hydro Project
The NDB will provide technical assistance of USD 300,000 to the Republic of India for Mizoram Tuirini Small Hydro Project. The NDB's technical assistance will provide consulting services aimed at preparing the Mizoram Tuirini Small Hydro Project. The project envisages construction of a small hydropower plant with an installed capacity of 24 MW in the state of Mizoram, to increase installed power generation capacity of Mizoram.

  • Krasnodar Cable Car Project
The Bank will provide technical assistance of USD 400,000 to the Russian Federation for Krasnodar Cable Car Project. The NDB's technical assistance will provide consulting services aimed at preparing the Krasnodar Cable Car Project up to the stage when it can be considered by external financiers to seek approval for its financing. The project envisages the construction of a cable car network to be used as an alternative public transportation modality in Krasnodar city, Russia to relieve traffic congestion.

It is the first time that the NDB Board of Directors approved the provision of technical assistance through the Bank's Project Preparation Fund (PPF), a multi-donor fund open to contributions by all the Bank's members. The PPF's objective is to support preparation of bankable projects to facilitate borrowing member countries to raise funds for such projects from the NDB or other multilateral development banks.

During the Meeting, an update on the NDB project pipeline and status of approved projects was provided to the Board. The Board also discussed matters pertaining to equity investments, funding programme, treasury related matters, membership expansion, review of NDB's General Strategy: 2017-2021 and development impact of the Bank's operations.

On December 2, 2019, the 13th Meeting of the Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee (ARC) of the New Development Bank was held in Shanghai. The ARC reviewed Quarterly Audited Financial Statements for the New Development Bank and the Project Preparation Fund of the NDB for the period ended September 30, 2019. The ARC also discussed matters pertaining to risk, internal audit and compliance.

The 8th Meeting of the Budget, Human Resources and Compensation Committee (BHRC) of the New Development Bank was held on December 2, 2019. The Committee considered the Budget Utilisation Report for CY2019 and the Proposed budget for CY2020 as well as the three Year Budget for 2020-2022. The Committee also discussed matter pertaining to recruitment and diversity.

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. The NDB received AA+ long-term issuer credit ratings from S&P and Fitch and AAA foreign currency long-term issuer rating from Japan Credit Rating Agency (JCR).

Beware new scam, warns BRICS New Development Bank (Остерегайтесь новых мошенников, предупреждает НБР БРИКС) / China, December, 2019
Keywords: ndb, digital

The BRICS countries' New Development Bank (NDB) warns of an e-mail scam in which criminals, posing as bank employees, are trying to defraud the public.

The NDB finances infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries and other emerging economies and developing countries.

It is not a commercial bank and does not open accounts for individuals, provide them with loans or offer any form of financing. Nor does it ask for payments or any other "favours" from potential recipients of funding.

"The New Development Bank does not send unsolicited e-mails or any other communication asking people to open a personal bank account, transfer money, or provide personal information," says Monale Ratsoma, NDB director general for the Africa Regional Centre (ARC).

"Any such communication is fraudulent. Do not respond and report it immediately to the South African Police Service."

Scams should also be reported to the South African Fraud Prevention Services.

According to The South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC), fraudulent activity tends to increase over the festive season when year-end bonuses are paid and when consumers may not be as vigilant as usual.

A typical ploy is to send an e-mail or other communication that appears to come from a bank or other trustworthy source requesting personal information such as identity documents, driver's licences, passports, payslips, addresses and contact details.

Scam alert: Financial sector watchdog warns against WhatsApp forex con

Fraudsters then use this information to open bank or retail accounts or take out loans for which the victim is accountable. They can even try to impersonate people, and using social engineering, access bank accounts and do transactions.

Another version of the scam is to offer a very attractive loan or other financing at low interest rates. The recipient of the e-mail or message is then asked to pay an administration or other upfront free in order to qualify. The offer is often for a limited period to try and pressure people into responding.

The public should be very wary about responding to unsolicited messages. Scammers use a variety of channels including e-mail, mail, phone and social media. Verify all requests for personal information and only provide it when there is a legitimate reason to do so.

Be suspicious of e-mails or messages that contain spelling or grammatical errors or other inconsistencies such as Gmail addresses, rather than a company domain e-mail.

Be wary of requests for upfront payments or payment for goods or services you haven't or don't remember ordering, especially if you're asked to use an unusual payment method such as MoneyGram.

For more information about how to protect against scams, see here.

BRICS countries deem a single crypto currency (Страны БРИКС размышляют о единой криптовалюте) / Greece, December, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion, economic_challenges, digital

Speaking on the sidelines of the BRICS summit, which took place in Brazil in mid-November, President of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) Kirill Dmitriev came up with a proposal to create a common crypto currency for servicing a unified payment system of the member countries. According to RBC, the idea of a unified payment system has already received the backing of the BRICS Business Council. The parties concerned held a heated discussion on the possibility of using a single digital currency for conducting payments.

Virtual currencies or crypto currencies, and the blockchain technology that underlies them have been major trends in the information technology market since the early 2010s. Experts deem the blockchain technology as revolutionary: we are talking about a distributed electronic database (a register, ledger), in which each "cell" contains information about all others. Cryptographic methods are used to ensure the functioning and protection of the "register". Such characteristics of block chain technology as its distributed decentralized nature and the availability of information about all transactions make it useful in those areas of business where many participants are involved who are not able to verify the credibility of counterparties. Resources transferred via a blockchain cannot be blocked (or arrested), even temporarily, by anyone except their owner. Meanwhile, what remains a major problem of all private and corporate crypto currency projects is their credibility.

If a digital currency is issued by the state or a community of states, then most, if not all, problems private crypto currencies are faced with are solvable. In this case, the advantages of Bitcoin and the underlying block chain technology are preserved, while the risks, such as the anonymity and simplicity of uncontrolled cross-border operations, which evoke the anxiety of authorities around the world, are neutralized. The issue of crypto currency would make it possible for the authorities to assume control of the technology that can otherwise reinforce global speculators, and even, according to critics, undermine the very existence of states in their classical format.

Meanwhile, many capitals have been keeping a close eye on the growing concern of the US authorities over the prospect of a global spread of crypto currencies. Washington's major fears are that the "foes of America," be it states or non-state entities, will be able to create a financial network independent of the US dollar. In this case, the United States would lose the most important instrument of non-military pressure that it uses to influence its opponents.

At present, more than 85 percent of all currency exchange transactions are made in dollars. All Washington has to do to block unwanted financial transactions is just add suspicious individuals, organizations or states to the "black list" which is sent to all banks in the world. For fear of falling under sanctions or losing the ability to make payments in dollars, the overwhelming majority of financial institutions have until now been following the instructions of the American authorities. In May this year, Republican Brad Sherman submitted a bill which proposes to ban US citizens from buying or selling crypto currency. In July, a number of Congressmen from the Democratic Party drafted a bill that prohibits online platforms and social networks with an annual income of at least $ 25 billion from providing financial services and issuing crypto currencies. According to commentators, the authors of both bills make no secret of the fact that their initiatives are motivated by by geopolitical considerations. For one, Congressman Sherman argued during the hearings: "Crypto currencies must be nipped in the bud also because the lion's share of our international influence is based on the fact that the dollar is the standard of the international financial system. For oil and other transactions, it is vital that they be cleared by the federal reserve … Crypto currencies undermine our international policy … ".

According to RT columnist Max Keiser, an ever more number of countries are beginning to understand what influence the United States has on other states only because the dollar is the principal currency for commercial and intergovernmental settlements. In addition to gaining profit from the dominant role of the dollar in international trade, Washington possesses levers of influence that affect the policies of most countries through sanctions or threat of sanctions and are beyond the reach of anyone else. Keiser deems sanctions as an "act of aggression," because, in his opinion, the dollar has long turned into a weapon. Not surprisingly, countries that value their sovereignty are looking for ways to minimize or completely neutralize America's ability to exert pressure through denial of dollar transactions. Before the arrival of crypto currencies, gold was a major protective shield. Nowadays, national digital currencies are considered a new powerful tool, devoid of many shortcomings of gold in terms of everyday use.

Given the circumstances, as reported by one of the most authoritative Russian resources in the field of crypto currencies, DeCenter, all BRICS members are either on the point of issuing digital fiat money, "or are looking into such a possibility." The BRICS countries are thereby following the global trend as the prospect of issuing digital currencies by central banks, the Central bank digital currency (CBDC), has been attracting the attention of governments in an increasing number of countries. On November 26, Vice President of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis spoke about plans of the European Union to launch a EU digital currency by the end of 2021. One of the problems that could be solved with the help of such a system, according to ECB Board member Benoit Kere, is putting an end to Europe's dependence on US-based international payment services, such as MasterCard, Visa, Apple, PayPal and Amazon.

What could serve as an example for the rest of the BRICS members is the position of Beijing, which has changed its attitude to crypto currencies by "180 degrees" over the past few months. According to Leonid Kovachich of the Moscow-based Carnegie Center, "President Xi Jinping refers to blockchain as a breakthrough technology, while major Chinese media outlets are talking at length about the benefits of blockchain and urge the community not to miss the historic opportunity to challenge the global hegemony of the dollar."

This fall, representatives of the People's Bank of China said they were "considering the possibility of launching a digital yuan at an early date." President of the Digital Currency Development Center of the Central Bank of China Mu Changchun has identified the basic criteria for issuing the crypto currency of the PRC. "CryptoYuan will not function only on the basis of blockchain, the issue will proceed in two stages: from the Central Bank to commercial banks and then into further circulation." The digital yuan will replace the M0 aggregate, while the processing capacity of the payment system will be "up to 300 thousand transactions per second". As an official currency, the digital yuan will be issued on a centralized basis and regulated by the government. The digital yuan is set to incorporate the best characteristics of crypto currencies, including minimum transaction time, "reliability, invariability and irreversibility", and fiat money – its sovereignty and liquidity guarantees.

The fact that the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance are considering the possibility of introducing crypto currency in Russia was reported by Kommersant back in 2016. In June 2017, Deputy Chairperson of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation Olga Skorobogatova announced prospects for launching a national digital currency. Skorobogatova said Central Bank specialists had started work on a digital ruble project. Similarly to the digital yuan, it is assumed that the issue of the Russian virtual currency will be strictly regulated, its exchange for rubles and other currencies will be possible only on special electronic platforms and the identity of the crypto currency buyer will have to be established. According to DeCentre, the draft law on digital financial assets (DFA) was adopted by the State Duma in the first reading in 2018. However, amendments have been made and continue to be made since then, also regarding the very definition of crypto currency.

Russian experts view the digital ruble as one of the options to respond to the intensifying Western sanctions. As Iran's disconnection from the SWIFT banking system at the request of the United States demonstrated, the creation of an interbank payment system that can replace SWIFT is "of paramount importance for the BRICS countries". As an instrument for conducting mutual payments in such a system, the central banks could issue a limited volume of digital currency and all transactions in this currency will be registered in a single register and will be verified by agents appointed by the authorities of the BRICS countries. The use of a common crypto currency would make such a payment system universal and would safeguard payments against foreign sanctions.

In this respect, at the initial stage, the BRICS digital currency may not become a payment instrument in the full sense of the word. A couple of years ago, Russian venture investor Evgeny Gordeev called for launching a government program to attract investments and ensuring the safety of capital at the blockchain level. Technically, such an investment mechanism would enable Russia's foreign partners interested in investing in Russian assets to avoid the legal consequences of the sanctions that have been imposed on the Russian Federation in recent years. A member of the State Duma's expert panel, Nikita Kulikov, believes that a common crypto currency that is currently being considered by BRICS experts could become a means of "fixating obligations", a conversion tool, and an instrument to ensure the "autonomy of interstate remittances".

Thus, as experts continue to speculate about the extent to which crypto currencies are capable of revolutionizing the entire system of financial relations, the changes that have occurred in the economic and monetary policies of some of the world's leading states in recent years demonstrate that they are beginning to take crypto currencies more and more seriously regarding them as a useful tool to strengthen their national economic sovereignty.

Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
QUESTION NO.2671 BRICS SUMMIT (ВОПРОС № 2667 САММИТ БРИКС) / India, December, 2019
Keywords: summit, quotation



Will the Minister of EXTERNAL AFFAIRS be pleased to state:

(a) whether India has participated in the 11th BRICS Summit and if so, the details thereof and the details of the theme of the event;

(b) the details of issues discussed therein along with the outcome thereof;

(c) whether this Summit has given developing countries sufficient scope in the international fora with regard to finance and trade and if so, the details thereof;

(d) the benefits likely to accrue to developing countries in general and to India in particular in the field of finance and trade as a result of these Summits; and

(e) the mechanism put in place to safeguard the common interests of all the countries involved in BRICS particularly India?


(a) Brazil hosted the 11th BRICS Summit in Brasilia on 13-14 November, 2019 under the theme "BRICS: economic growth for an innovative future". In the 11th BRICS Summit, Indian delegation was led by Prime Minister.

(b) At the Summit, the Leaders discussed global financial and security situation, countering terrorism, climate change, sustainable development, reform of the multilateral system, reform of WTO and institutions of international governance, ways to promote Intra-BRICS cooperation including in science & technology, trade, health, information and communication technology, people-to-people exchanges. BRICS Business Council and the New Development Bank also presented their reports to the Leaders at the Summit. Leaders issued a Joint Declaration at the Summit.

The broad outcomes of Brazil's BRICS Chairship in 2019 have been the establishment of innovation BRICS Network (iBRICS) and BRICS Women Business Alliance (WBA), the adoption of the New Architecture on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), finalisation of Terms of Reference of the BRICS Energy Research Cooperation Platform. In addition, a seminar on BRICS Strategies for Countering Terrorism, a Workshop on Human Milk Banks, and BRICS Meeting on Asset Recovery was also organised. Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) among BRICS Trade and Investment Promotion Agencies (TIPAs) was also signed in 2019.

(c) The issues taken up at BRICS Summit are of importance to not only the BRICS countries but also to developing countries in general. The BRICS countries have been the engine of global growth during last few years. At the same time, BRICS has emerged as a major factor for a peaceful, prosperous and multi polar world. Leaders stressed on further promoting Intra BRICS trade, reducing cost of trade between BRICS countries, trade facilitation and cooperation in customs and banking processes.

From inception, finance and trade is a major area of Intra-BRICS Cooperation. The New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) are the major outcomes in this area. NDB has funded/decided to fund 44 projects worth more than USD 12 billion, within BRICS countries including 8 projects worth USD 3246 million in India.

(d) BRICS has become a platform for discussing and deliberating on the issues of common concern for all developing countries. BRICS countries have regularly called for reform of the multilateral system including United Nations, World Trade Organisation, International Monetary Fund, in order to make them more representative and inclusive. All members of BRICS grouping benefit from its collective strength by way of consultation and cooperation on economic issues of mutual interests, as well as topical global issues, such as, international terrorism, climate change, food and energy security, reforms of global governance institutions, etc.

(e) BRICS Chairship rotates among its members annually. Each year, issues of common interest to developing countries are discussed under BRICS such as global financial situation, countering terrorism, anti-corruption reform of the multilateral system, including United Nations, World Trade Organisation, International Monetary Fund.

Each Chair introduces its own priorities also during its Chairship. Throughout the year meetings of relevant experts, senior officials, working groups etc. take place to develop a common understanding among BRICS countries. Such meetings are then followed, in some cases, by Ministers' meeting. BRICS NSAs and Foreign Ministers also meet at regular intervals to discuss issues of mutual interest. The preparations culminate in BRICS Leaders' Summit wherein Leaders issue a Joint Declaration.

India has ensured that the issue of countering terrorism remains in the BRICS discussions. In past BRICS Leaders have listed the terrorist entities like LeT, JeM, TTP etc. as perpetrators of violence. In 2019, five subgroups have been set up under Counter Terrorism Working Group and will cover different aspects of countering terrorism.

Keywords: summit, quotation

TO BE ANSWERED ON 05.12.2019



Will the Minister of EXTERNAL AFFAIRS be pleased to state:

(a) whether India is not in active role for the acceleration of the role of Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) in international prospective;

(b) if so, the reasons for not taking an active role in BRICS at present; and

(c) the present outlook and international context of BRICS?


(a) to (c) India along with Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa actively engages on issues of global importance through BRICS. BRICS is an important Grouping bringing together the major emerging economies from the world, comprising 42% of the world population, having 23% of the world GDP and over 16% share in the world trade. BRICS countries have been the main engines of global economic growth over the years. At the same time, BRICS has emerged as a major factor in a peaceful, prosperous and multi polar world.

During Summit, BRICS Leaders discuss various issues of global importance including global financial and security situation, countering terrorism, climate change, sustainable development, reform of the multilateral system, reform of WTO and institutions of international governance, ways to promote Intra-BRICS cooperation including in science & technology, trade, health, information and communication technology, people-to-people exchanges. In all BRICS Leaders Summits, Indian delegations have been led by Prime Minister.

BRICS cooperation is broadly covered under Economic, political & security, and people-to-people exchanges. From inception, finance and trade is a major area of Intra-BRICS Cooperation. The New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) are the major outcomes in this area. NDB has funded/decided to fund 44 projects worth more than USD 12 billion, within BRICS countries including 8 projects worth USD 3246 million in India. Further, Contingent Reserve Arrangement to provide protection against global liquidity pressures has been set up in BRICS.

BRICS Leaders have been supporting India's stand on countering terrorism and that terrorism is not acceptable in any form and manifestation. BRICS Leaders also listed the terrorist entities like LeT, JeM, TTP etc. as perpetrators of violence. Counter Terrorism Working Group in BRICS has set up subgroups to cover various aspects of countering terrorism.


World of work
Social policy, trade unions, actions
International conference "Groups And Spaces In International Economic Law: Focus On The Brics" (St Petersburg) (Международная конференция «Группы и пространства в международном экономическом праве: фокус на БРИКС» (Санкт-Петербург)) / Russia, December, 2019
Keywords: research, social_issues


5-6 JUNE 2020

Interest Group on International Economic Law of the European Society of International Law and
St. Petersburg State University, Russia

Elisa Baroncini, Sergey Belov, Holger Hestermeyer, Elena Kilinkarova,
Peter-Tobias Stoll, Catharine Titi, Marina Trunk-Fedorova

Recent developments in international economic law demonstrate the appearance of new actors on the international scene. Some of them emerge as a result of regional economic integration, such as numerous free trade areas that have been established all over the world, and are extensively analyzed by international law scholars. Some of these new actors, however, cannot be classified under the traditional approach and are more appropriately described as groups of states with similar economic (and political) interests that do not possess a legal personality but coordinate their activities in certain areas of interest to them. An example of this is the group of countries that consists of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa and is known as "BRICS".

The BRICS is not an international organization, there is no founding document or Charter, and the character of the cooperation between the BRICS countries is rather informal. There are, however, numerous examples of joint projects and activities between these countries in different areas, which seem to be more aspiring than ordinary international cooperation.

In 2017, China announced the project "BRICS+", which can be seen as intensifying and deepening the BRICS framework. This new project includes the idea of "integration of integrations" that is reflected in the concept of BEAMS (BEAMS is the abbreviation for: BIMSTEC, EAEU, African Union, MERCOSUR, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization) whose goal is to coordinate different economic integration areas with the participation of BRICS states. With the BEAMS project, BRICS seems to open a new dimension and can be regarded as a structure aiming at creating a new mega-regional group in international economic law that could potentially change the current landscape of international economic relations and the main players in this field.

The purpose of the International Conference organized by the ESIL Interest Group on International Economic Law and St. Petersburg State University is to analyze the special features of cooperation between BRICS countries, as well as to discuss the new ambitious initiative of "integration of integrations" and its possible role in the future architecture of international economic relations within the context of growing uncertainty around the multilateral trading system and the ongoing reform of international investment law.


The Scientific Committee of the International Conference "Groups and Spaces in International Economic Law: Focus on the BRICS Countries" launches a call for papers.

The papers should be written in English, unpublished and in an advanced stage of completion.

The papers shall address the topics relevant to the phenomenon of economic cooperation of the BRICS countries, including the following themes:

- BRICS as a special group in international economic law

- Institutional nature of the BRICS framework and documents: soft law v. hard law and the issues of information, participation and democracy

- Areas and methods of cooperation between BRICS countries

- International cooperation in financial matters: the BRICS experience

- Organizations of regional economic integration with the participation of BRICS countries and their cooperation ("integration of integrations")

- China and the OBOR initiative: implications for other BRICS countries

- Dispute settlement issues in trade and investment matters relating to the BRICS countries (including the WTO, regional and bilateral relations).

All topics cover trade, investment and financial (including taxation) issues, and submissions on each of these areas of international economic law are welcome.

Paper Submission Procedure

Senior and junior scholars (including PhD students) are invited to participate to the call for papers of the International Conference. Only one abstract per author will be considered.

Abstracts must not exceed 600 words, and have to be submitted to the following mail addresses:;;;;

In addition to the abstract, each submission should contain a separate file with information on:

• The author's name and affiliation

• A short (one page) author's CV, including a list of relevant publications

• The author's contact details, including email address and phone number


• The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 20 January 2020

• Successful applicants will be informed by 15 February 2020

• The deadline for the submission of papers for the International Conference is 15 May 2020

We are pleased to announce that we would like to publish papers from the International Conference, subject to selection by the Scientific Committee. Further information about the publication process will be conveyed to authors of selected proposal in due course.

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