The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa met on June 23 in the context of the BRICS Summit amid major shifts in the geopolitical and economic order following the Russian military operation in Ukraine and the consequential sanctions from the West. The summit was held in a virtual format for the third consecutive year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions that require leaders to be close to home.
As BRICS nations have a combined population of 3.23 billion and a combined GDP of more than $23 trillion, it offers the most powerful bloc to rival and/or challenge the West’s global domination. Such a challenge is of course not in the military field as BRICS is an economic bloc, meaning that the discussions surrounding the war in Ukraine were not about a unified front in support of Moscow, but rather how Western sanctions against Russia necessitate the immediate need to establish an alternative global economic model and order.
“We have discussed the situation in Ukraine and recall our national positions as expressed at the appropriate fora, namely the UNSC [U.N. Security Council] and UNGA [U.N. General Assembly]. We support talks between Russia and Ukraine,” the joint BRICS leaders statement said. “We agree to continue to deepen cooperation on competition amongst BRICS countries and create a fair competition market environment for international economic and trade cooperation.”
Addressing the issue of the UN Security Council, the need for “comprehensive reform […] with a view to making it more representative, effective and efficient, and to increase the representation of the developing countries so that it can adequately respond to global challenges,” was reaffirmed.
The permanent members of the UNSC are China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States, and thus excludes any country from Latin America or Africa, as well as India despite being the world’s second most populous country, a bigger economy than France, and a military ranked more powerful than France and the UK. In this way, the UNSC is unbalanced, making reformation all the more important.
The implementation of a sustainable development agenda by 2030 is also present in thetext of the final declaration of the XIV BRICS Summit. Leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa emphasized that the international community must attach greater importance to development issues and intensify global partnerships.
The joint statement encourages “financial support and technology transfer to developing countries,” adding that “the breakthroughs in the applications of digital technologies, such as Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) may play an important role towards sustainable development.” To do so, it is necessary to strengthen the participation of the poorest countries and emerging markets “in global decision-making processes and structures and make it better attuned to contemporary realities.”
Particularly highlighted in this proposed process is Africa as it has some of the fastest growing populations and markets in the world. The UN estimates that over half of the world’s population growth in the next thirty years will be in Africa, followed by Asia with an expected addition of approximately one billion people by 2050. In contrast, fertility rates are currently below the population replacement level in Europe, a fact for several decades now.
The statement also stressed the importance of conventions against biochemical and chemical terrorism. While it does not directly mention US biological laboratories in Ukraine, the document calls for an “expeditious finalization and adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism within the UN framework and for launching multilateral negotiations on an international convention for the suppression of acts of chemical and biological terrorism.”
“We call for strengthening the system of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, including the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BTWC) and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (CWC), and for preserving their integrity and effectiveness to maintain global stability and international peace and security,” the statement adds.
In addition to this, BRICS leaders expressed again their commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons. In this way, there is a geopolitical element as it also signals to the nuclear armed US, UK and France that BRICS has no intentions of a nuclear war or arms race.
Prevention of an arms race in outer space was also mentioned by BRICS leaders, who stressed “support for ensuring the long-term sustainability of outer space activities and prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS) and of its weaponization, including through negotiations to adopt a relevant legally binding multilateral instrument.”
By emphasizing on points of cooperation, greater representation at the most senior level of global governance, and stressing a nuclear-free world and a weapon-free outer space, the 2022 BRICS Summit was more important than ever considering the context of the Ukraine War. With the geopolitical and economic order rapidly changing, by emphasizing greater global balance, developing countries will be more inclined to a change in the global system if they are better represented and developed compared to the current situation. In this way, the results of this BRICS Summit are perhaps the most important in its history.
The Heads of the BRICS Countries Passed the Final Declaration
The participants of the XIV BRICS Summit adopted a final declaration recording the key agreements reached during the discussions. This is reported on the official website of the Russian president.
The document records the intention to strengthen and reform the multilateral system, which includes the use of innovative and inclusive solutions, capacity building for both states themselves and international organisations, using inclusive consultation and cooperation for the benefit of all while respecting sovereign independence.
Leaders of the association states have pledged to promote international and regional peace and security, social and economic development as well as the preservation of the natural balance.
In addition, participating countries advocated promoting greater participation of developing countries in global processes. Heads of the BRICS states stressed the need to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
BRICS Partnership Stands Strong Amid Global Challenges
The 14th summit of BRICS, an emerging-market group that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, will be held this week in virtual format under the theme of “Foster High-quality BRICS Partnership, Usher in a New Era for Global Development” under China’s chairmanship.
Over the past 16 years since its establishment, BRICS has become an all-round and multi-level framework, with practical cooperation carried out in dozens of areas, upholding the spirit of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation. As the world is faced with numerous uncertainties, including a pandemic unseen in a century, the five major developing countries are expected to contribute their wisdom and efforts to promoting global development.
PROMOTING COMMON DEVELOPMENT
BRICS countries are an important driving force for regional and global economic and trade growth. Despite the prolonged impact of COVID-19, the total volume of trade in goods of BRICS countries reached nearly 8.55 trillion U.S. dollars in 2021, a year-on-year increase of 33.4 percent, official data shows. Meanwhile, China’s bilateral trade with other BRICS countries totaled 490.42 billion U.S. dollars, up 39.2 percent year on year and higher than the overall growth of China’s foreign trade in the same period.
Worldwide, BRICS countries account for 18 percent of trade in goods and 25 percent of foreign investment, statistics show.
Prinx Chengshan (Shandong) Tire Co., Ltd, a tire producer based in east China’s Shandong Province, has been engaged in the Brazilian market for over a decade and has been popular with local distributors and customers.
According to the company, the mutual recognition agreement of authorized economic operator (AEO) status between China and Brazil, which officially came into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, has boosted the company’s product exports.
Such stories have become quite common in BRICS countries, and the coverage of their economic and trade cooperation will only expand. During the 12th meeting of BRICS economic and trade ministers held earlier this month, the participants pledged to deepen cooperation in such fields as the digital economy, trade investment and sustainable development, supply chain and multilateral trade mechanisms.
To tackle infrastructure and development challenges faced by emerging economies, the New Development Bank (NDB), with its headquarters in Shanghai, was founded by BRICS countries and formally opened in July 2015. From renewable energy projects in Brazil to railway network upgrade programs in India and new toll roads in Russia, the NDB had approved more than 80 projects in member countries by May 2021, with a total portfolio of some 30 billion U.S. dollars.
According to the bank, from 2022 to 2026, it will provide 30 billion U.S. dollars of financial support for member countries, with 40 percent of the funds to be used for mitigating global warming.
Functioning as a new and strong impetus for development, the BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution (PartNIR) Innovation Center was launched in Xiamen, east China’s Fujian Province in December 2020 to provide a foothold for BRICS countries to make use of technological innovation and digital transformation.
Earlier in June, the center signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the NDB to facilitate bilateral cooperation and promote the common development of BRICS countries, stating that the two sides will give priority to cooperation in such fields as artificial intelligence, the industrial Internet, energy conservation and environmental protection through joint research, personnel training and information sharing on infrastructure and sustainable programs.
Marcos Troyjo, president of the NDB, said that besides the NDB, the BRICS PartNIR Innovation Center is another concrete mechanism to foster cooperation between BRICS countries. They both aim to promote the sustainable development agenda, including the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in BRICS as well as other emerging markets and developing countries.
TACKLING HEALTH CHALLENGES
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, BRICS countries have supported one another with medical supplies and carried out extensive cooperation on infection prevention and control, diagnosis and treatment protocols, and vaccines and drug research and development.
In March, the Butantan Institute of Brazil inaugurated a factory in Sao Paulo for the production of the China-developed CoronaVac vaccine starting from 2023. Also in March, a launch ceremony for the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Center was held online. The five BRICS countries jointly proposed an initiative to strengthen vaccine cooperation to ensure the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in developing countries through their equitable distribution as global public goods.
The initiative is also aimed at enhancing BRICS countries’ capability to control infectious diseases and respond to public health events. It places special emphasis on openness and welcomes more partners to join.
The 12th meeting of BRICS health ministers held in May via videolink agreed that BRICS countries will launch an early-warning system for large-scale pandemic outbreaks. Attendees had in-depth discussions on a range of topics, such as COVID-19 pandemic prevention and control, the development of new health systems and digital health.
The achievement of BRICS cooperation has not only enhanced the say of emerging markets and developing countries in the world, but also made BRICS an important platform for promoting South-South cooperation.
In 2017, China proposed the “BRICS Plus” cooperation model, which aims to strengthen the unity and coordination among BRICS members for greater cohesion and, at the same time, to keep broadening the BRICS “circle of friends” in a joint pursuit of shared development and prosperity for all emerging markets and developing countries.
After chairing a video dialogue of foreign ministers between BRICS and emerging markets and developing countries in May, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi noted that all foreign ministers who attended the dialogue supported and agreed with the “BRICS Plus” cooperation model. Speaking highly of the “BRICS Plus” cooperation, foreign participants of the dialogue expressed the willingness to enhance strategic communication and coordination between BRICS countries and emerging markets and promote the development of global governance system that is more fair and equitable, and more inclusive and democratic.
Wang Youming, director of the Department for Developing Countries Studies of China Institute of International Studies, pointed out that BRICS cooperation on poverty reduction, food security, green development, industrialization, digital economy and connectivity, among others, have met the needs and aspirations of many developing countries, and therefore the BRICS cooperation mechanism will play an important role in helping developing countries cope with the impact of COVID-19 and other development challenges.
Gu Qingyang, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore, told Xinhua that in the future, BRICS countries can further strengthen their current cooperation mechanism and gradually expand it, and deeply integrate it with programs under the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Belt and Road Initiative to gain greater space for cooperation and development.
During a recent media briefing in Cape Town, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said that his country wants to see a “greater and deeper partnership” with other members of BRICS, an “attractive” group that many other countries have confidence in.