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DEVELOPMENT: BRICS to Promote More Inclusive Global Partnership

Gordon Ross

BEIJING, Apr 8 2011 (IPS) - At the upcoming Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) summit, to be held on the tropical Chinese island of Hainan Apr. 14, discussion will focus not only on deepening economic ties among members, but will also likely touch on global political events, including the crisis in the Middle East and North Africa. But China insists the club has no political agenda.

Officials at the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), a think-tank under the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told reporters recently that BRICS’s aim is to broadly focus on larger issues related to international governance. It called the group an “ad-hoc political club” of developing nations and insisted that it was not an “anti-U.S. bloc.”

Qu Xing, CIIS’s president, pointed out that there were no consultations between BRICS countries in the lead-up to the U.N. Security Council vote that allowed international strikes to impose a no-fly zone on Libya. China, Russia and India abstained from voting, while South Africa voted in favour.

“I believe the timing is not right to have a common political agenda. The reason why the BRICS countries came together is because of the similar economic development stage they are in, and a similar foreign trade structure,” Liu Youfa, vice president of CIIS, told reporters. “The leaders, when they meet, may discuss some political issues. I do not think having a political agenda is a key concern for the BRICS mechanism at this point of time.”

BRICS member nations accounted for 18 percent of global GDP in 2010, and trade volume between the countries has soared, with an average growth rate of 28 percent from 2001 to 2010, according to figures from the Xinhua News Agency. Total trade volume among the BRICS countries reached 230 billion dollars in 2010.

In attendance at the upcoming meeting in Sanya, capital of Hainan Province, will be Chinese President Hu Jintao, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South African President Jacob Zuma. South Africa is the most recent country to join BRICS.

The leaders “will have an in-depth exchange of views on the international landscape, economy, finance, development and other issues, and map out further cooperation among the BRICS countries,” according to a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

At the end of March, Beijing hosted the BRICS Think Tanks Symposium, organised by the Research Centre of Contemporary World Economy and the China Foundation for Peace and Development.

During a speech at the symposium’s opening ceremony, Sun Jiazheng, vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress and the chairman of the China Foundation for Peace and Development, said BRICS must focus on major financial problems within the world economy and promote a more equitable and inclusive international economic order, according to the People’s Daily, an official government newspaper.

Last month, China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi hinted toward the club’s lack of a political agenda, saying that BRICS nations are committed to cooperation – not confrontation – with developed countries.

“Cooperation among the BRICS countries is open and inclusive. It is an important part of the South-South cooperation and an important bridge for North-South cooperation,” Yang told reporters here.

Yang lauded BRICS’ role in addressing the global financial crisis and climate change, as well as its help facilitating economic recovery. “I believe the BRICS nations will play a bigger role in those areas as a result of the meeting” in Sanya, he said.

Lin Yueqin, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and secretary general of the Chinese Association for Development Strategy, says BRICS nations should work together to address global trade issues, encourage and develop trade between member nations, and reduce the potential for trade tensions. Lin told IPS that BRICS should reduce tariffs and strengthen free trade agreements among member countries.

Challenges remain, however. Lin says BRICS will likely face tension from other existing international trade organisations, and because the organisation is new, growing pains will occur. “Since there is no acknowledged leader and [each country’s] goals differ, conflicts are unavoidable,” he says.

Lin says China should take a greater role in multilateral and bilateral economic organisations, including BRICS. “China is capable of playing a greater role and it should take advantage of it,” Lin said, adding that China must engage and cooperate with other developing nations, or else countries such as India and Russia will emerge as leaders of the developing world.

Jiang Shixue, deputy head of the Institute of Latin American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says BRICS needs to focus on addressing legitimate issues – including reforming international financial institutions, food security, energy safety and climate change – in order to avoid becoming solely a mouthpiece for member nations.

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richard l haight