Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 7.2020
2020.02.10 — 2020.02.16
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Russian BRICS Chairmanship Statement on the Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia Epidemic Outbreak in China, issued on February 11, 2020 at the 1st Meeting of BRICS Sherpas/Sous-Sherpas in St.Petersburg (Заявление российского председательства в БРИКС о вспышке пневмонии, вызываемой новым типом коронавируса в Китае, опубликованное 11 февраля 2020 года в ходе первого заседания шерп/су-шерп стран БРИКС в г.Санкт-Петербурге) / Russia, February, 2020
Keywords: Chairmanship, concluded_agreements, top_level_meeting

The BRICS countries support the firm commitment and decisive efforts of the Chinese Government to combat the Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia Epidemic. They express deep sympathy and support for all whose families are in mourning and wish a speedy recovery to those who are ill.

The BRICS countries are ready to cooperate closely with China and calls for the international community to strengthen cooperation within the WHO framework, in order to prevent, protect and control regional and global public health safety, providing a coordinated public health response to the epidemic outbreak.

The BRICS countries commit to work together in a spirit of responsibility, solidarity and cooperation to bring this outbreak under control as fast as possible. They underline the importance of avoiding discrimination, stigma and overreaction while responding to the outbreak.

They support strengthening of scientific research cooperation on infectious diseases that pose threat to public health, as well as of joint efforts to detect, prevent and control pandemic infections using modern methods and technologies, including test systems, developed in BRICS countries.

The BRICS Chairmanship acknowledges that China expressed its appreciation for the friendly support of the BRICS partners and constructive cooperation on this matter to ward off this shared threat as soon as possible.

Press release on Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov's participation in the 1st Meeting of BRICS Sherpas/Sous-Sherpas as part of the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020 (Об участии заместителя Министра иностранных дел России С.А.Рябкова в первой встрече шерп/су-шерп стран БРИКС в рамках председательства России в объединении в 2020 году) / Russia, February, 2020
Keywords: chairmanship, top_level_meeting

On February 11, the 1st Meeting of BRICS Sherpas/Sous-Sherpas during the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020 presided by Deputy Foreign Minister, Russia's Sherpa for BRICS Sergey Ryabkov opened in St Petersburg.

Priorities of the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020 under the motto BRICS Strategic Partnership for Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth will be presented at the meeting. The participants will discuss topical issues related to the five-sided cooperation and further strengthening of the BRICS comprehensive cooperation mechanisms as well as the schedule of BRICS events in 2020.

Ahead of the event, Russia's Sherpa for BRICS had a traditional meeting with journalists and held a short briefing on the agenda of the BRICS countries' joint work in 2020. Sergey Ryabkov noted that the gathering was taking place during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China. All the BRICS countries expressed their solidarity and supported the Chinese government's consolidated efforts to fight the epidemic. President of Russia Vladimir Putin sent a message to President of China Xi Jinping conveying his condolences and words of support to everyone whose families are in mourning and wishing a speedy recovery to everyone who is ill. The BRICS countries are ready to closely cooperate with China.

Sergey Ryabkov will have bilateral contacts with the heads of the BRICS delegations on the sidelines of the Meeting of BRICS Sherpas/Sous-Sherpas.

BRICS expresses support for China in fight against novel coronavirus outbreak (БРИКС выражает поддержку Китаю в борьбе с новой вспышкой коронавируса) / China, February, 2020
Keywords: cooperation, social_issues

BEIJING, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- Russia on Tuesday issued a BRICS chairmanship statement to express support for China's efforts to fight against the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic on behalf of the BRICS countries.

"The BRICS countries support the firm commitment and decisive efforts of the Chinese Government to combat the Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia Epidemic," said the statement.

The BRICS countries are ready to cooperate closely with China and call for the international community to strengthen cooperation within the framework of the World Health Organization, in order to prevent, protect and control regional and global public health safety, providing a coordinated public health response to the epidemic outbreak, it said.

"The BRICS countries commit to work together in a spirit of responsibility, solidarity and cooperation to bring this outbreak under control as fast as possible. They underline the importance of avoiding discrimination, stigma and overreaction while responding to the outbreak," said the statement.

"They support strengthening of scientific research cooperation on infectious diseases that pose threat to public health," it added.

BRICS is an emerging-market bloc which groups Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Russia's BRICS Chairmanship Kicks off with Sherpas' Meeting in St. Petersburg (Председательство России в БРИКС началось со встречи шерпов в Санкт-Петербурге) / Russia, February, 2020
Keywords: chairmanship, top_level_meeting

Russia begins its chairmanship of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) with a three-day sherpas' meeting in the city of St. Petersburg.

In January, Moscow took over the chairmanship of the group from Brazil under the overarching theme of "BRICS Strategic Partnership for Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth."

The strategy for Russia's chairmanship was announced by President Vladimir Putin at the group's summit in Brazil last year. According to the president, Moscow will focus on improving foreign policy coordination between member states focusing on enhancing cooperation primarily within the United Nations. The key priorities of the Russian chairmanship include fighting terrorism, cutting off terrorism funding and combating money laundering.

As for the economy, Russia plans to suggest that the participating nations revisit the BRICS Strategy for Partnership in Trade and Investment that they adopted at the summit in the Russian city of Ufa.

Russia is planning to hold about 150 events throughout the year in 16 cities. In July, St. Petersburg will host the BRICS leaders' summit. Five heads of the governments and states will hold another meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the Saudi Arabia in November.

Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Samara, Sochi, Saransk, Ulyanovsk, Ufa, Khanty-Mansiysk, Yaroslavl and a number of other Russian cities will host BRICS events, such as meetings of ministers, business leaders and experts.

Russia last chaired BRICS in 2015, when the summit took place in Ufa. Russia also hosted the summit in back in 2009, before BRIC turned into BRICS following South Africa's accession.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
Candidate States for BRICS Development Bank May Be Announced Before July (Государства-кандидаты в Банк развития БРИКС могут быть объявлены до июля) / Russia, February, 2020
Keywords: ndb

Candidates for membership in the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) may be announced before the July BRICS summit, Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergey Storchak said.

"We hope that by the BRICS summit, which will be held in St. Petersburg in July, several potential member countries will be announced. It depends on the situation. The bank does not force the acceptance of new members. We believe that there are enough existing multilateral development banks. The new development bank, as its shareholders decided, will expand conservatively, not exponentially, as was the case with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank," Storchak told reporters.

The decision on creating the NDB was made by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa at the 2013 summit held in the South African coastal city of Durban. At the following summit in Brazil's Fortaleza in 2014, the bloc's leaders signed an agreement establishing the NDB to boost cooperation among the five-member states and invest in the countries' infrastructure and sustainable development projects.

The bank is open for membership to any UN country, but the cumulative share of BRICS nations can never be less than 55 percent of the voting potential.

New Development Bank Stands Ready to Provide Support to China and Join Hands with Partners in Addressing the Spread of Coronavirus (Новый Банк Развития готов оказать поддержку Китаю и объединить усилия с партнерами в борьбе с распространением коронавируса) / China, February, 2020
Keywords: ndb, investments, social_issues

On February 11, 2020, the New Development Bank (NDB) issued the following statement on the outbreak of novel coronavirus in China:

The New Development Bank highly appreciates China's great efforts and effective measures aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus. We are confident in China's epidemic prevention and control ability as well as measures taken by the Chinese Government so far to prevent the spread of infection, including the allocation of more than RMB 71 billion in funds (approx. USD 10 billion) to contain the coronavirus. At the same time, the NDB is ready to provide its contribution, in line with the Bank's mandate.

The NDB is fully committed to supporting China in the time of calamity. The Bank stands ready to provide its full support, including emergency financing, and now is in the process of consultations with the Chinese Government concerning specific actions. We also look forward to working together and joining hands with our partners, including other multilateral development banks, in supporting the capacity of our member countries to deal with public health emergencies.

At this difficult time for China, the management and staff of the New Development Bank would like to express sincere and profound feelings of sympathy over the coronavirus outbreak. Our thoughts are with those affected by and fighting this health challenge for China and the rest of the world.

BRICS Bank to Invest $2Bln in Russia in 2020 to Back Economic Stimulus Projects (Банк БРИКС инвестирует в Россию в 2020 году 2 млрд долларов для поддержки проектов по стимулированию экономики) / Russia, February, 2020
Keywords: ndb, investments

The New Development Bank (NDB), set up by BRICS nations, will invest $2 billion in Russia this year to support the new government in pursuing its economic stimulus projects, NDB President Kundapur Vaman Kamath told Sputnik.

In a bid to boost the economy and improve living standards, Russia is seeking to implement 12 national projects outlined by President Vladimir Putin in May 2018. From 2019-2024, the country is estimated to spend 25.7 trillion rubles ($402 billion) to this end. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin's government, which came to power in January when the cabinet of former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev resigned in a wake of an announcement of constitutional reform by Putin, has been focused on implementing the national projects. Moreover, Mishustin outlined further measures to boost the Russian economy.

"New Development Bank will actively support the Government of the Russian Federation in implementation of its economic development agenda and is committed to finance together with our Russian partners major infrastructure and sustainable development projects in the country.

NDB target business volume in Russia for 2020 is USD 2 billion which will bring cumulative NDB investments in Russian economy to USD 4.7 billion," Kamath said.

The president added that the bank was confident that the "major stimulus package" promoted by Mishustin's government would underpin the economic growth and attract foreign investments in the country.


Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Russia to host about 240 events during SCO (В России пройдет около 240 мероприятий в рамках ШОС) / Russia, February, 2020
Keywords: chairmanship, summit

BEIJING, February 10. /TASS/. Moscow will host about 240 events during its chairmanship of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), Russian Ambassador to China Andrei Denisov said at a press conference on Monday.

"The chairmanship means hard work throughout the year. As far as I know, 90 events are planned for the SCO and even more - 150 - for BRICS. The responsibility is on our shoulders as we are the chairing country," he pointed out.

SCO chairmanship

According to the Russian envoy, the SCO underwent a crucial change with the accession of India and Pakistan. "Work is underway in every field and our main goal is to continue efforts to consolidate the SCO so that it operates in the most effective way in all fields, while the regional security area is the most important of all," Denisov said. "We have the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group. Afghanistan, which is our dialogue partner, participates in the SCO's activities. Other areas particularly include the fight against terrorism. We seek to facilitate coordination efforts in terms of international agenda and foreign policy within both the SCO and BRICS," he added.

According to the ambassador, Russia will focus on facilitating infrastructure cooperation between the member states and ties between lawmakers, and promoting regional cooperation. "A regional forum of the SCO countries is expected to take place in May, which will be aimed at building practical cooperation," he specified.

BRICS priorities

The Russian envoy emphasized that an effective mechanism of investment - the New Development Bank - had been created by the BRICS countries. "We plan to give new impetus to this process. Perhaps, there will be no new members, but at least, conditions will be created for building close ties with countries that are inclined to cooperate with the bank," Denisov noted.

According to him, many countries have expressed plans to expand cooperation with the mechanism.

World of Work
BRICS Countries to Build Digital Sovereignty (Страны БРИКС будут строить цифровой суверенитет) / India, February, 2020
Keywords: digital, expert_opinion
Author: Luca Belli

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are home to 3.2 billion people, 42% of the world's population. In effect, these countries hold 42% of one of the most valuable resources on the planet: personal data. BRICS countries are not only increasingly aware that they are the main data producers, they also increasingly understand that free digital services offered by foreign corporations are not really free. They are paid with data and with sovereignty.

Over recent years, digital colonizers launched a true scramble for data, rushing to offer "free" services, designed to be as addictive as possible, to drill as much data as they can out of entire populations that are increasingly seen as potential data wells. The research my colleagues and I have been conducting at the CyberBRICS Project shows that BRICS countries are increasingly considering data privacy regulations and other digital policies as a tool to curb the power of foreign technology companies and reassert their sovereignty.

Digital sovereignty

The push towards digital sovereignty is frequently criticized as a Trojan horse for authoritarian measures. This is an explanation, but it would be tremendously naïve to think it is the only one.

The past years of scandals have tellingly demonstrated that total reliance on foreign technology can create substantial costs in terms of loss of control over personal data – opening the door to manipulation of people and democracies – and (cyber)security, while also potentially undermining fiscal systems.

The capacity to collect and analyse data massively is not only lucrative. It has become an incredibly strategic asset. The popularisation of "free" social networks, the automation of industry, the advent of the Internet of Things and Smart Cities sound like truly fantastic innovations. But only if smartphone, factories, and all objects and infrastructures do not become tools for hacking, spying, meddling, and draining data out of digitally colonised countries.

As the 2019 BRICS summit unfolded in Brasilia, digital economy, cybersecurity, and cooperation on science, technology and innovation emerged as key issues around which BRICS leaders are building further synergy.

Serious concerns

Half of these five countries' population is already online, contributing significantly to domestic and international economic activity. The countries are working to welcome digital innovation, while sounding an alarm about cybersecurity and personal control of personal data. The governments are also aware that as more of their people come online, developing countries' national security and even sovereign power may be at risk of hackers and foreign adversaries.

Only a few months ago, the New York Times reported the US Cyber Command was stepping up "digital incursions" into Russia's electric power grid, highlighting the fact that this Command enjoys powers to conduct clandestine military activity to deter, safeguard or defend against attacks.

As a result, many of the BRICS nations are massively investing in their digital capabilities while developing Internet sovereignty legislation, crafting new data protection frameworks and increasingly requiring tech companies to store data about a person in that person's home country.

Major potential

The five BRICS countries are not turning away from technology's potential to make businesses more efficient, governments more accountable and give citizens cheaper communications, smoother transportation, more reliable electricity and cleaner environments.

China has the most ambitious approach of the five, making major investments in 5G networks, artificial intelligence and high-tech manufacturing in a bid to be an even larger global technology power than it already is. Russia, close behind, is planning to serve 80% of its population with 5G wireless broadband Internet service by 2025.

Brazil's efforts are more recent, but it has begun to computerise its government operations and recently approved a plan aimed at boosting the adoption of the 'Internet of Things' to automate industry. After having approved the Internet Rights Framework (better known as Marco Civil da Internet) in 2014 and a new General Data Protection Law in 2018, the tropical giant is now aiming at new business opportunities and improvement of productivity.

Critically, without strong cybersecurity and modern data protections the rights of 3.2 billion individuals may be at risk, businesses would face juridical uncertainty, and the digital dreams of the five developing nations could turn into real nightmares.

Giant challenges for giant countries

The governments of the BRICS nations clearly understand that each of their citizens is a producer of immensely valuable personal data, and know that strong cybersecurity frameworks are key to protecting this economic resource. This is part of the reason India is so insistent on having data about Indian citizens stored on computers within India, rather than overseas. This also partly explains why Russia adopted Sovereign Internet Law, earlier this year.

The establishment of sound regulation to protect individual rights is an essential step to foster sustainable digital environments. The billions of people in the BRICS are also beginning to understand the potential value of their data, and are increasingly demanding high standards for data protection.

In China, a consumer rights protection organisation sued Baidu for collecting user data without consent. In South Africa, the Information Regulator has just cautioned that large scale CCTV surveillance can violate privacy and contravene the Protection of Personal Information Act. In addition to protecting their rights, people want to be sure that when digital technologies collect their personal data, they retain control on data that are not used against them.

Moreover, it is worth noting that BRICS countries are, simultaneously, amongst the most frequent targets of cyberattacks but also some of the countries from which most cyberattacks originate. This situation is bringing cybersecurity to the top of the BRICS governments' agendas and Brazil, for I stance, is now developing a cybersecurity strategy.

The early findings of the CyberBRICS Project's research show that BRICS countries face common challenges. BRICS can also collaborate to develop shared, or at least compatible solutions. The elaboration and implementation of sound cybersecurity frameworks is a clear example of a quintessentially common problem that would immensely benefit from compatible and convergent policies.

However, policy making is only part of the work lying ahead. A monumental effort still has to be done in terms of building digital capacities of BRICS nationals. People in the BRICS will only enjoy a strong and homogeneous level of protections and secure digital environment if their digital literacy is enhanced, while convergent digital policies are adopted by their leaders.

Enhanced cooperation for compatible digital policies

As the pioneering experience of the CyberBRICS project demonstrates, many digital policy elements are already spontaneously converging. This is the case, for instance, of data protection principles. Analyzing existing regulation is paramount if we want to understand what elements of digital policies are already compatible. It is even more relevant in identifying good practices and proposing sustainable and fair solutions.

In recent years, BRICS governments have consistently stressed the value of enhanced cooperation on research and technological development, and acknowledged the key role that research plays for their sustainable development and for their digital transformation.

To live up to their expectations, they should stimulate a virtuous circle of research and policy proposal, supporting the establishment of a BRICS cooperation mechanism aimed at fostering compatible digital policies.

Modern and compatible frameworks are needed to protect individual rights and provide legal certainty for businesses. Given the BRICS appetite for 5G and IoT and data-angry technologies, cybersecurity could be a suitable testbed to start enhancing digital policy cooperation.

In the absence of such cooperation, the reality of the policy elaboration may remain distant from the policy declarations.

Luca Belli is Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at FGV Law School, where he directs the CyberBRICS project. This article represents his personal views.

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