BRICS summit in South Africa shows high level of mutual understanding between leaders
9 August 2018. PenzaNews. The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa took part in the 10th BRICS summit, which was held in Johannesburg on July 25–27. The main theme of the international forum was BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution.
During the three-day summit, the leaders discussed their cooperation in trade and the economy, coordination of their activities in politics, and resistance to unilateral approaches in global affairs. Furthermore, the participants spoke out against protectionism and changing the rules of world trade.
During the summit, the BRICS leaders signed inter-governmental memorandums on cooperation in regional aviation and environmental protection, memorandum of understanding on joint research in distributed ledger and blockchain technology in the context of developing the digital economy, and an agreement on establishing a new Development Bank office in Brazil. Moreover, the leaders held bilateral meetings and a separate outreach meeting with invited representatives of several African countries and the current chairs of a number of international associations.
After an expanded BRICS summit meeting, the leaders signed the Johannesburg Declaration, summarizing the joint activities of the international group not only over the past year, but also over the past decade.
Commenting on the summit in South Africa, Lak Chansok, Researcher at Cambodia Maritime Silk Road Research Center (CMSRRC), the Royal University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia and at Democracy Promotion Center, Research Center for Asia Pacific Studies (RCAPS), Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan, stressed that the BRICS leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of mutual respect and sovereign equality.
“The declaration states the iterated political commitments of five leaders to the principles of democracy and inclusiveness, international peace and stability, as well as multilateralism and ruse-based world order. […] The leaders also discussed the conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, supported the Iran’s JCPOA deal and North Korea’s peaceful denuclearization and stability in Northeast Asia,” the expert told PenzaNews.
He also reminded that since 2009, BRICS has enhanced economic cooperation of its members as the largest emerging markets.
“BRICS’ 41% of global population and 23.6% of contribution to global economy have been significant as one of the best alternatives to the existing West-dominated global institutions: World Bank and IMF,” Lak Chansok said.
In his opinion, BRICS members, especially China, aimed to have a strong statement against the US due to Trump’s unilateral trade approach.
“Thus, for China, this summit particularly responded to the US-China trade conflict, which can undermine ‘Made in China 2025’ strategy in this new wave of industrial revolution. […] The growing level of tariffs on especially China’s technological products also negatively affects China’s efforts to achieve its military modernization by 2035. For Russia, India and Brazil, Trump’s unilateralism and ultra-nationalism are very unpredictable for their further economic and security interests,” the analyst said and added that BRICS serves as another platform for comprehensive multilateral collaboration among five countries.
In turn, Nobuhide Hatasa, Professor, Nagoya University of Economics, expressed confidence that this year's BRICS summit attracted the attention of the whole world.
“It was the first big even that China participated since the trade war between the US and China has just began to escalate into the most critical risk for global economy. How the leaders of five member countries react to this economic conflict and what kinds of messages are delivered as to international trade issues during this summit were major concerns among economists as well as the media,” the expert explained.
However, in his opinion, the outcome of the meeting was “somewhat modest.”
“While the 10th BRICS summit Johannesburg Declaration clearly and repeatedly emphasized the importance of multilateralism and the open trade system within the WTO, it avoided using the word of ‘protectionism’ and denouncing a specific country. The main messages were rather focused on the upholding of the existing international rules and regimes in particular under the United Nations, in which China and Russia, two major BRICS members, have institutionally dominant power,” Nobuhide Hatasa said.
According to him, this moderate outcome implies the complicated political and economic relations between the US and other four BRICS countries besides China.
“In terms of security issues, India is very much worried about the China’ maritime expansion, and is trying to strengthen the military cooperation with the US. Russian President Vladimir Putin is more in favor of Donald Trump, […] and is seeking a chance to build friendly ties with him. Brazil and South Africa never want to be involved in the struggle for supremacy between the US and China since the both Chin and the US are equally the most significant economic partners for them,” the Japanese analyst said.
Meanwhile, Harun Ozturkler, economy researcher, associate professor of Economic and Administrative Sciences at the Kirikkale University, pointed out that during the summit there were taken no concrete countermeasures against Trump led international trade wars.
“While US is producing about one fourth of the world GDP, from a worldwide economic power dominance perspective, it is understandable why BRICS failed to produce expected economic results. An important shortcoming of BRICS is that as a group it is not energy self-sufficient. Russian energy surplus is by itself not enough to meet energy demand by China and India,” the economist explained.
Furthermore, BRICS countries need US and EU markets, he said.
“The purchasing power of consumers in BRICS countries is not enough for a sustainable economic growth in those countries. If Iran included in this block, then it can become a real energy power. However, for it to become a real economic power, it should expand its market base by inviting other countries with a growth potential, such as Turkey,” Harun Ozturkler said.
Moreover, according to him, BRICS should construct its own institutional bases to come up with a way to coordinate the countries’ economic policies.
“A common market or a free trade zone between those countries can turn this block into an important economic power,” the analyst stressed.
In his opinion, the trade between Turkey and BRICS countries, especially Turkey and Russia, in local currencies is important for Turkey in the long run.
“Turkey's participation as NATO member is important for BRICS as group form an economy-political perspective. However, BRICS is not the answer for the economic problems Turkey faces today. Turkey does one half of its international trade with EU and more importantly Turkey's economy is structurally dependent on EU,” Harun Ozturkler said.
In turn, Varaprasad Dolla, Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, called the 10th BRICS summit a major milestone in its brief history.
“The summit focused on collaboration for inclusive and shared prosperity. This is quite relevant particularly at a time when science, technology and innovation are emerging as the driving forces of development. The challenge is to harness them for sustainable development,” the expert said.
In his opinion, a key takeaway from the summit is the establishment of BRICS Partnership in New Industrial Revolution.
“While the initiative is laudable, the challenge is to make it eco-friendly Partnership on New Industrial Revolution (PartNIR) given the role of industrialization in precipitating global pollution,” Varaprasad Dolla added.
He also reminded that the main political trend of the summit was associated with the birth centenary of Nelson Mandela, who stood for some of the most cherished values of equality, dignity and justice for the oppressed and marginalized.
“This underscores the imperative of BRICS countries to factor these central ideas into their own national and international political and development trajectories. BRICS Networks of Science Parks, Technology Business Incubators and SMEs is another initiative that needs considerable support […] for inclusive and shared prosperity,” the analyst said.
Meanwhile, Brig Vinod Anand, senior fellow of Vivekananda International Foundation and author of a series of articles on geopolitics in Asia, drew attention to the fact that the atmosphere in the world economy is becoming increasingly unpredictable.
“This state of affairs was driven by Donald Trump’s unilateralism, […] which negatively impacted only the BRICS nations but also the European Union,” the expert said.
However, from his point of view, the BRICS countries are distinguished by their cohesion and ability to cooperate.
“The images and bytes coming out of G7 group summit reflected the disunity in the group while images coming out of the SCO summit held around the same time period showed a cohesive group of leaders notwithstanding many differences in their policies and outlooks. India, China and Russia are the major powers not only in the SCO but also in BRICS. Looking back, […]
BRICS has come a long way. It needs to be remembered that the Western nations had been somewhat dismissive of BRICS as an international grouping that aimed to challenge the western domination of institutions of global governance including those of finance and economy. But the new Development Bank or the BRICS Bank has been functioning well and has advanced funds for development projects,” Brig Vinod Anand said.
He also added that countries still have work to do.
“On the current state of BRICS’ economies, both India and China are growing at a good pace, there has been some growth in Russia’s GDP, but the economies of both Brazil and South Africa have contracted. Mutual cooperation in the areas trade, commerce and technology needs to be enhanced as it is much below the potential,” the expert of Vivekananda International Foundation explained.
“Additionally, at the next G20 meeting BRICS nations need to come together along with others to rally against the unilateral and protectionist policies. G20 is much more representative of the world economies and therefore, an appropriate platform for aligning their policies and rejecting protectionism,” the analyst concluded.