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World
Collaboration For the Future
BRICS nations showcase confidence to act together against challenges
By Bai Shi | NO.43 OCTOBER 27, 2016

Brazilian President Michel Temer, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma (left to right) pose for a group photo before the Eighth BRICS Summit in Goa, India, on October 16 (XINHUA)

Leaders of the world's top five emerging economies ambitiously pledged to deepen cooperation, promote world economic growth and improve the global governance architecture. The consensus was met at the eighth annual BRICS summit held in Goa, India, between October 15 and 16.

The heads of BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) held broad talks leading up to the Goa Declaration of the BRICS Leaders Meeting, issued on October 16.

The Indian Government's focus at the summit was to build institutions, implement commitments made at previous BRICS summits, and explore synergies among existing mechanisms.

Furthermore, a dialogue was also held in Goa on October 16 between leaders of BRICS countries and members of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) that comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

As Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the dialogue, "Both groups belong to the big family of developing countries."

The emerging-market bloc of BRICS and BIMSTEC "share common desires in safeguarding world peace and regional security, as well as the common needs for economic development and improving people's livelihood and benefits," Xi added.

Continuity of consensus

The Goa Declaration, on the whole, demonstrates the continuity of the consensus reached by the five BRICS leaders at their informal meeting in China's Hangzhou on the margins of the G20 Summit in September, according to Chen Xiaochen. Chen is chief researcher of international studies at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies under Renmin University of China.

"The reaching of the consensus will help implement commitments made by leaders of the world's major economies at the Hangzhou G20 Summit," Chen told Beijing-based news portal China.org.cn.

The BRICS' partnership, with its core of unity and cooperation, lays a solid foundation for the five countries to expand cooperation, according to Chen. "We can understand the partnership from two aspects. First, BRICS countries must maintain unity to cope with challenges facing the international community and improve global economic governance. Second, these countries will seek mutual cooperation in more fields and enhance institution building for the BRICS mechanism," he said.

As major developing countries, BRICS nations gave priority to development in the Goa Declaration in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at a historic UN Summit, which has officially come into force. Meanwhile, BRICS again called for the reform of global financial institutions in the statement. These common understandings are consistent with the concluding document reached at the Hangzhou G20 Summit, Chen pointed out.

Cementing confidence

Some Western analysts have expressed pessimistic views on the future of the BRICS group due to a plunge in commodity prices on the international market and a sluggish global economic recovery in recent years.

China has lowered its growth prospects for three consecutive years, adding fuel to speculation. Brazil and Russia even registered negative growth of over 3 percent last year.

Nonetheless, the economic growth rate of China and India in the year of 2015 was 6.9 percent and 7.6 percent respectively, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In contrast, the global average that year was 3.2 percent.

Su Xiaohui, Deputy Director of the Department for International and Strategic Studies under the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), said in a commentary for the PLA Daily that the Goa Summit showed the world the BRICS' strong confidence.

Undoubtedly, the BRICS have embraced their growing influence and status in global affairs over the past decade.

In the last 10 years, the BRICS' contribution to world GDP has soared from 12 percent to 23 percent. Their trade volume and investment have accounted for 16 and 12 percent of the global total respectively, compared to 11 and 7 percent a decade ago. The contribution of the BRICS to world economic growth is obvious to all, Su stressed.

While actively participating in global economic governance, the BRICS have significantly improved representativeness and increased the voice of developing countries in world affairs, Su claimed .

In spite of skepticism, BRICS leaders delivered important messages through the Goa Declaration. "Most importantly, BRICS leaders have told the world that their cooperation mechanism works well," Su said.

In an interview with CCTV, China's national broadcaster, Ruan Zongze, Executive Vice President of the CIIS, said that the BRICS' economic slide is temporary.

In his opinion, China and India can maintain the momentum of growth, while Brazil and Russia meet economic difficulties due to their resource-dependent economic structures. But BRICS states have the potential to reverse the trend. The China-proposed Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road (Belt and Road) will deliver opportunities for BRICS states to carry out economic collaboration, Ruan said.

The Belt and Road Initiative was proposed by Xi in 2013. It aims to bring developing countries opportunities to improve infrastructure conditions, drive economic growth and increase employment in participating countries through bilateral or multilateral economic cooperation. So far, the other four BRICS states have actively responded to the initiative.

In the Goa Declaration, leaders vowed to make concerted efforts to facilitate free trade and investment beyond borders and open markets to each other.

"Both the Chinese and Indian markets are huge. If the BRICS can fully tap market potential, it will help promote the group's growth and world economic recovery," Ruan said.

Apart from the Belt and Road Initiative, Ruan believes the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) will facilitate the growth of BRICS members and other developing countries .

The NDB, established by the BRICS in 2014, is designed to offer loans and financial services to support infrastructure connectivity and sustainable development in BRICS members and developing countries at large. The new lender has set up its headquarters in China's Shanghai and became operational in July 2015. "The NDB has become an important platform for BRICS states to maintain unity and carry out cooperation," said Liu Jian, Director of the Department for International Economic Relations at the Ministry of Finance of China.

In an interview with Chinese media on October 15, Liu said that the NDB has finished the examination and approval work for financing the first five projects, which amount to $911 million in total. All five projects are in the renewable energy sector. The first loan will go to a water dam project in Russia.

Furthermore, the NDB kicked off its first issuance of 3 billion yuan ($445 million) worth of bonds in China in July. The first annual meeting of the board of directors of the bank was held in Shanghai on July 20.

Despite the economic achievements made over the past decades, the growing status of developing countries, including emerging economies, has not been well reflected on international financial institutions, such as the IMF and World Bank, according to Ruan. The establishment of the NDB breaks Western countries' monopoly of the international financial sector and offers a paradigm for developing countries to build their own financing platforms and improve global financial governance, he said.

"The NDB, embracing its own advantages in business policy and operation, will play an alternative role to existing international financial institutions," Liu said. "It will serve not only the BRICS but other developing countries to meet their needs for development in the near future."

Some Western analysts have also questioned BRICS' cooperation due to the fact that they are composed of different political systems, development patterns and cultures. Many western media outlets usually assert that the BRICS could hardly take concerted actions because of their different interests. For example, some argue that China and India are divided on issues such as the reform of the UN Security Council.

In response, the Chongyang Institute's Chen said that China and Russia reiterated in the Goa Declaration that they attach importance to the status and role of Brazil, India and South Africa in international affairs and support their aspiration to play a greater role in the UN.

President of the BRICS New Development Bank K.V. Kamath (left) and President of World Bank GroupJim Yong Kim sign a memorandum of understanding to strengthen cooperation on infrastructure investment in Washington, D.C., the United States, on September 9 (XINHUA)

A decade of cooperation

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the BRICS cooperation mechanism.

The acronym BRIC was coined by Goldman Sachs analyst Jim O'Neill in 2001. The grouping was formalized during the first foreign ministerial meeting of BRIC countries in New York City in September 2006. The first BRIC Summit was held in Russia in 2009. South Africa officially joined the mechanism in 2010, adding the "S" to the original grouping.

"After 10 years of fast development, the bloc has expanded cooperation and played an active role in promoting global economic growth and improving global governance," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Chinese press after the Goa Summit.

"The implementation of past summits' commitments is the key to carry on BRICS cooperation in the next decade," Ruan said.

The IMF predicts that by 2018, the BRICS will account for more than 33 percent of world GDP and developing countries will account for 52 percent.

However, developed countries still dominate global economic governance. As emerging economies, the BRICS should make efforts to advance the reform of current institutions to benefit developing countries, Ruan said.

In an interview with CCTV, Teng Jianqun, a senior research fellow of the CIIS, suggested the BRICS be aware of the challenges that would affect the bloc's development in the next 10 years. "Isolationism and trade protectionism are spreading around the world, which will undermine the progress of globalization and regional integration," Teng said. "At the Goa Summit, leaders focused on not only their own development but also major international and regional affairs. This implied that the BRICS are seeking to deepen cooperation on more issues, which will have a positive influence on the international community in future."

"Maintaining unity is vital for BRICS cooperation," said Li Wei, a researcher of international strategy at Renmin University of China.

Over the past years, the BRICS have played an important role in improving the global economic governance, Li told Xinhua News Agency. He said he believes the BRICS can work as a collective to rebalance the West and push the world order in a more fair and reasonable direction.

However, Jiang Jingkui, Director of the South Asia Research Center under Peking University, stressed that the BRICS represent the call for reforms to existing international institutions and should not be considered as opposed to the West.

For instance, Jiang said, the current international economic rating system is not fair and BRICS leaders have expressed their willingness to cooperate on the reform of the system in the Goa Declaration.

"The next year will be critical for the development of the BRICS mechanism," Jiang asserted.

China will take over the rotating presidency of the BRICS in 2017 and host next year's BRICS summit in Xiamen, a coastal city in Fujian Province, in September.

"The bloc must fulfill the commitments that were made in the past and outline the scheme for the next decade. China, as the host of the next summit, is expected to play a constructive role in promoting cooperation between the BRICS and other international mechanisms, Jiang said.

Copyedited by Bryan Michael Galvan

Comments to baishi@bjreview.com

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