Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 10.2020
2020.03.02 — 2020.03.08
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
BRICS in Russian foreign policy (БРИКС в российской внешней политике) / India, March, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, chairmanship
Author: Nivedita Kapoor

Since the 2014 breakdown of relations with the West, Russia has re-oriented its focus towards non-western institutions, further cementing its move away from post- 'Cold War', western-dominated order. This move has also been prompted by economic compulsions and a need to fulfil its own 'national development goals.'

This has resulted in Russia initiating the Eastern Economic Forum (2015), expanding trade agreements of Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and introducing the 'Greater Eurasia' project (2016). The expansion of SCO, annual BRICS meetings, informal BRICS leaders' summit, and revival of RIC leaders' meeting on the sidelines of G20 (2018) – all are indicative of Russia's continued involvement in policies designed to position itself as an important power in the creation of a multipolar world order.

Thus, despite no major announcement coming out of 2019 BRICS summit, the grouping remains of continued relevance to Russia. Even though Russia's desire to focus more on political issues within BRICS has not materialized with economic issues dominating the discussions, the importance to the former superpower of belonging to a club of 'influential,' 'non-western powers' cannot be understated. In this context, Russia – which took over the chairmanship of the grouping for 2020 – has declared its intention to pursue 'expanding foreign policy coordination' among members on key international platforms particularly the UN during its presidency.

BRICS is an integral part of Russian attempts to pursue a multi-vector policy that is not reliant solely on western dominated institutions. This was reflected in the 2013 approval by President Vladimir Putin of the Concept of Participation of the Russian Federation in BRICS. Identifying the organization as a 'key long-term foreign policy vector' for Russian policy, it listed the strategic objectives of the country in BRICS as follows:

  • Reform of international monetary and financial system to facilitate economic growth of Russia.
  • To progressively expand the foreign policy cooperation with BRICS partners.
  • Use BRICS participation to enhance the multi-vector character of Russian foreign policy and strengthen international positions of the country.
  • Through BRICS, promote bilateral relations with member states.
  • To widen the Russian cultural presence in the world.
The BRICS members have taken a united position on reform of the international monetary system and the process is ongoing. The involvement in BRICS has helped Russia to initiate regular contact – especially in the case of Brazil and South Africa. While Indian and Chinese leaders already meet regularly with Russian leadership, the annual summits become yet another location to touch base – further helping in discussing bilateral issues face-to-face.

A new regional office of the New Development Bank (NDB) was opened in Sao Paulo and Moscow is next in line to get one in 2020. Russia has steadily maintained its involvement in NDB, with loans worth $840 million being approved in 2018 for Russia. These include the sectors of environmental protection, urban infrastructure and water, sanitation and flood protection. Four other projects are also ongoing in the areas of energy, transportation, social infrastructure and clean energy. In fact, Russia has been an enthusiastic participant in the activities of NDB, with its cumulative borrowings only behind India and China.

Source: NDB annual report, 2018 The 2019 Brasilia declaration also noted a BRICS survey on an International Payments System, which currently largely takes place through SWIFT. Russia has taken the lead in developing an alternative to it in the aftermath of western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis in 2014, when there was a threat of it being cut off from SWIFT. This resulted in formation of System for the Transfer of Financial Messages (SFPS) for carrying out bank-to-bank transfers that came into force in 2017. It is unclear as of now what form the BRICS mechanism will take.

The BRICS Local Currency Bond Fund, which will facilitate use of national currencies in intra-BRICS trade saw no concrete announcement. The members only noted the progress made during the year, as was the case in 2018 declaration. Russia again has been a leading proponent of the trade in national currencies, as seen at the bilateral level, and has been even reducing its reserves from US dollars to the Chinese RMB. Having assumed the chairmanship of BRICS for 2020, Putin has announced the intention to carry forward the work on these economic issues and further expand cooperation, including updating the Strategy for BRICS Partnership in Trade and Investment approved at the 2015 summit.

As 2019 BRICS summit focused on economic growth, the Russian president noted that Russia's trade with BRICS countries reached $125 billion in 2018. However, out of this, $108 billion consists of trade with China who has emerged as Russia's closest partner in recent years. The benefits of intra-BRICS trade, which the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for increasing to $500 billion by 2020, have been less than apparent in the case of Russia's economic ties with other countries.

Source: UN Comtrade Yet, at $5 billion, Brazil represents one of the closest trade relationships Russia has in Latin America – alongside Mexico. Seven per cent of Brazilian arms sales between 2008 and 2018 came from Russia putting it behind Germany, the US, France, UK, Israel and Italy. India continues to be an old, close strategic partner with a deep defense relationship that has resulted in mutual arms deals to the tune of $14.5 billion in 2018-19. Both the sides are also attempting to improve the economic partnership.

South Africa currently is not a major arms importer for Russia, having placed only a $50 million order in 2014 in the past decade. This puts Russia behind Sweden, Germany, UK and the US with a share of $684, $258, $92 and $58 million respectively in the list of arms exporters to South Africa. For the first time, the two countries and China will hold a naval exercise in November 2019. This is in line with Russia's renewal of interest in Africa beyond arms sales, which was evident in its hosting of the first Russia-Africa summit in October 2019.

Overall, forums like BRICS/SCO/RIC are important for Russia, where without being 'a dominant player' - has been able to 'maintain balance with more powerful or advanced countries.' In the light of western sanctions, the relevance of the BRICS grouping for Russia has been enhanced further. It must be noted that BRICS as a grouping has refrained from positioning itself as an anti-west alliance and the member-states have instead pursued their respective foreign policies, which in most cases includes close cooperation with the west. They, however, agree to coordinate with each other on issues of common concern.

Possible areas of contestation

Given that BRICS as a group consists of countries with widely diverging foreign policy goals, its impact as a collective has been less than apparent, especially in the political domain. Thus, the lack of a common vision for BRICS would also be a challenge that member states would have to resolve in the coming years.

This is particularly in view of rise of China with its vision of Belt and Road Initiative, India's interest in the Indo-Pacific and Russia promoting its own idea of Greater Eurasia. As the member states begin focusing on other initiatives in a response to the geo-political situation around them, BRICS would have to focus on 'developing its institutional capacity' to maintain its continued relevance and strengthen the intra-BRICS economic engagement.


In a nutshell, the working of BRICS has been characterized by a flexibility of approaches on issues of common concern. Having established a regular summit meeting as well as ministerial level mechanisms in different areas has led to a framework for continued cooperation. The setting up of business forum and business council of BRICS is also an encouraging development to promote trade and investment. With the successful establishment of NDB and now even its regional offices (with plans to expand the membership), it is likely that economic cooperation will remain a central goal for BRICS alongside focus on science and technology, innovation, trade, agriculture and energy.

For Russia, this 'free and informal nature' of BRICS has not been a disadvantage and has been used to reiterate its position as an important player in emergence of a non-western global governance structure. Much of Russia's own geostrategic gains over the past years have come due to a pragmatic policy to advance Russian interests, despite it not being 'backed by commensurate economic might' and impacted by the absence of a 'grand design.

Therefore, for Russia, BRICS continues to be important in terms of 'reasserting its global aspirations' in a 'non-confrontational' manner with the West as the global order realigns itself. Also, at a time when the future contours of the emerging world order are unclear, the alignment of BRICS is 'worth maintaining' for Russia. But given the limitations discussed above, the Russian strategic objective for transforming 'the association from a dialogue forum and a tool to coordinate positions on a limited range of issues into a full-fledged mechanism of strategic and ongoing cooperation on key international political and economic issues' might be a little too far-fetched.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
Trade relation between India and other BRICS countries: A multidimensional approach using Gravity Model and Granger Causality (Торговые отношения между Индией и другими странами БРИКС: многомерный подход с использованием модели гравитации и причинности Грейнджера) / India, March, 2020
Keywords: trade_relations, research

Abstract. The aim of the study is to explore trade relation between India and other BRICS nations in the short-run as well as in the long-run. For empirical analysis, the study first checks stationary conditions using ADF- Fisher unit root test. To estimate the association between the selected variables, this study has applied Pedroni's cointegration test. After fulfilling the two conditions (Stationary & cointegration), this study employed Granger Causality Test for short-run impact and Gravity Model using Dynamic Ordinary Least Square (DOLS) and Fully Modified Ordinary Least Square (FMOLS) for long-run impact. Granger Causality test results strongly support India's trade with other BRICS nations. The study found Bi-Directional Causality between India's Exports & other BRICS Imports and No causality between India's Imports with other BRICS Exports. Also, the study found favorable unidirectional causality between India's GDP and other BRICS nation's volume of trade. Long-run results from Gravity model using DOLS and FMOLS found highly significant for the selected variables (GDP, PCGDP, PCGDPD, Exchange Rate, Trade-GDP ratio and Distance) other than inflation and trade agreement. Except inflation, per capita GDP differential and distance, all the other variables (GDP, PCGDP, Exchange Rate, Trade-GDP ratio and Trade Agreement)has positive coefficient to the volume of trade of BRICS nations. Majority of the selected variables possesses significant and positive relations with the independent variables clearly indicate that there is a favorable impact on the Indian economy. Finally, the test results validated the appropriateness of Gravity model for trade. So this study strongly recommended that India needs to strengthen its trade relation with other BRICS nations by promoting make in India, SEZs, EOUs and aggravating second generation reforms to reap the potential benefits from the global economy.
The BRICS's Bank, Institutional Framework, and Other Current Limitations (Банк БРИКС, институциональная структура и другие текущие ограничения) / Mexico, March, 2020
Keywords: research, economic_challenges
Source: link

Based on Polanyi's concepts of embeddedness, disembeddedness, and the double movement, the aim of this article is to show that the new development bank (NDB) established by Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (grouped as BRICS) lacks an institutional context to spur growth and development, similar to the growth that occurred during the Bretton Woods era. First, I examine some of the BRICS's strengths, such as growth rates, share of world GDP (gross domestic product), and the level international reserves as a percent of the world total. Second, I outline the BRICS's and other Third World countries' need for financing. I maintain that the main flaw in the BRICS's bank is that it follows market rationality in obtaining and granting resources, and that China (the most important member of the BRICS) is still dependent on the G7's economies. Finally, I remark that as long as the NDB follows market fundamentals, it will be less likely to achieve growth.

Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
State Duma's members took part in the Young Parliamentarians Forum of the BRICS (Депутаты Госдумы приняли участие в Форуме молодых парламентариев стран БРИКС) / Russia, March, 2020
Keywords: top_level_meeting, social_issues

The topic of the plenary session was the view of young parliamentarians on global security and breakthrough development in the digital era. The event takes place in St. Petersburg

After the plenary session, the Forum participants continued their work in the framework of sections and round tables.

Young parliamentarians discussed issues of strengthening international security, regulating the digital economy and ensuring digital sovereignty, the task of harmonizing the BRICS educational sphere, and ways to stimulate youth entrepreneurship.

State Duma's members Natlia Kuvshinova, Boris Chernyshov, Denis Parfenov, and Dmitrii Ionin took part in the Forum.
World of Work
Examining the role of BRICS countries at the global economic and environmental resources nexus (Изучение роли стран БРИКС в глобальной взаимосвязи экономических и экологических ресурсов) / China, March, 2020
Keywords: economic_challenges, research


  • Environmental and resources footprints in BRICS countries are examined by using an MRIO model.
  • Time series trends of BRICS countries' environmental emissions and resources usage are uncovered
  • The role of BRICS countries at global economic and environmental resource nexus is revealed
  • A consumption-based perspective is considered for the period 1995 to 2015.


The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are central to future global economic development. However, they are facing both environmental and natural resource stresses due to their rapid economic growth. This study examines the balance between economic benefits and cost of environmental emissions and resource usage in BRICS countries so that future sustainable development insights can be provided. The historical trends of carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), water, land, energy and material footprints of these countries from 1995 to 2015 are evaluated with a multi-regional input-output model. Also, whether a decoupling relationship exists between economic development, environmental emissions and resources consumption, is examined. In addition, whether environmental emissions and resource usage costs to obtain identical economic gains of these countries in global trade are explored. The major results show that in congruence with economic development, the average annual growth rates of footprint indicators ranged from 0.2% in 1995 to 9.8% in 2015. A decoupling effect did not occur for CO2 emissions or water consumption but did exist for other indicators. Global trade across the supply chain shows to achieve a unit of USD economic benefit from trade, BRICS countries tend to use relatively greater environmental emissions and resource consumption to high income countries, when compared to other income level countries. These emergent economies did receive relatively greater benefits per environmental emissions and resource usage cost from lower-middle and low-income countries.

    Students from Different Countries Participate in BRICS Educational Program (Студенты из разных стран участвуют в образовательной программе БРИКС) / Russia, March, 2020
    Keywords: social_issues

    A new international educational program at the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) brought together students from BRICS countries, TASS reports.

    The students from each country will spend a semester at FEFU, studying together in areas of interest to each of the five countries and at the same time key to the university. It includes the study of the oceans, medicine, cybersecurity, business and project management, as well as international relations. Russian teachers as well as prominent professors from other countries are involved in the project.

    Almost forty participants in the FEFU Academic Excellence and Honors Education program joined the students.

    Before the start of the program, the foreign students went on tour across Vladivostok and the university. A mobile app was developed for them - it contains the class schedule and the campus map.

    Students will take part in lectures, research seminars, engage in project work, and also get the opportunity to discuss the current global agenda and study Russia's foreign policy and its role in BRICS. At the same time, the program participants will be offered open lessons of their native language in a conversation club, master classes on the cultural traditions of their country, and informal communication.

    In total, more than three and a half thousand foreign students from 74 countries study at FEFU.
    Three 'BRICS representatives' held for fraud (Три «представителя БРИКС» задержаны за мошенничество) / China, March, 2020
    Keywords: social_issues

    Three people who claimed to be working for a non-governmental organization related to BRICS countries have been caught for alleged fraud, Shanghai police said on Monday.

    The suspects were said to have defrauded 10 companies and about 60 people out of 13 million yuan (US$1.9 million) for supplies of facial masks and handheld thermometers.

    They also falsely advertised and sold normal disinfection products as having special coronavirus-killing properties, police said.

    One of the suspects, a man surnamed Zhao, claimed that he was the president for China and the rotating president of a five-person organization called the "BRICS Biomedical Organization" based in Russia. He allegedly recently hired a man surnamed Pan and another man surnamed Liu, his fellow suspects, to act as secretary general and office director of the organization's China branch.

    Police said the organization has never been legally registered in China, and it has yet to be determined whether there exists such an organization in Russia.

    Police caught the suspects on February 25.

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