BRICS Leaders Stress Economic, Development Cooperation at Xiamen Summit
Leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa concluded their ninth “BRICS” Summit last week, signing off on a declaration which covered topics such as economic cooperation and development, trade and investment, and other international concerns.
“BRICS cooperation has now reached a crucial stage of development,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony of the BRICS Business Forum, which was held on the first day of the 3-5 September BRICS Leaders’ Summit in Xiamen, China.
“Despite different national conditions, we BRICS countries are at a similar development stage and share the same development goals,” he added.
Addressing the plenary session participants, Xi also talked about the increasing role of developing countries in international governance and cooperation.
“We need to advance the reform of global economic governance, increase the representation and voice of emerging market and developing countries, and inject new impetus into the efforts to address the development gap between the North and South and boost global growth,” Xi remarked.
BRICS is an acronym for five countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. This bloc of major emerging economies originally included four members, with South Africa joining in 2010. Since 2009, leaders from the BRICS nations have met annually for summits, with the group also holding a comprehensive array of ministerial and other meetings throughout the year.
With the tenth anniversary of BRICS summits next year, the group is weighing how to use the forum in the coming years. Despite their large size and notable economic similarities, some analysts say that the BRICS structure has yet to tap its full potential. For example, currently only 5.7 percent of the bloc’s outbound investment and less than five percent of total trade takes place among the five partners.
“We must redouble our efforts to comprehensively deepen BRICS partnership and usher in the second ‘Golden Decade’ of BRICS cooperation,” commented Xi on the future of the bloc.
At the meeting’s close, leaders signed off on the Xiamen Declaration, containing joint language on issues of practical economic cooperation, global economic governance, international peace and stability, and people-to-people exchanges.
“We need to stay focused on promoting results-oriented economic cooperation, and expand converging interests in trade and investment, currency and finance, connectivity, sustainable development, innovation, and industrial cooperation,” Xi said in relation to future work.
Regarding trade, the Xiamen Declaration has a paragraph dedicated specifically to supporting the multilateral trading system, along with language on addressing protectionism.
“We remain firmly committed to a rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system as embodied in the WTO,” the declaration reads.
Xi also addressed the issue of the multilateral trading system in one of his high-level speeches delivered during the three-day event.
“We need to strengthen coordination on positions, work toward a positive outcome at the upcoming Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference, make progress on the remaining items of the Doha Development Round, and provide direction to the multilateral trading regime,” he said.
The WTO ministerial meet is scheduled for December in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with members working to determine which areas may see outcomes at the high-level event.
In addition, the BRICS leaders’ document mentions countries’ “firm” opposition to protectionism, affirming that the group “recommit[s] to our existing pledge for both standstill and rollback of protectionist measures” and encouraging others to do the same.
Aside from trade, the Xiamen declaration also touches on a host of other issues, including climate change, sustainable development, lower-carbon economic pathways, industrial cooperation, and more.
For example, the Xiamen declaration includes a commitment to enhance BRICS countries’ climate action efforts, and calls upon the countries to fully implement the UN’s Paris Agreement on climate change. After the US’ withdrawal from the climate accord, countries from across the development spectrum have continued to provide their support to the agreement, as have many sub-national actors. (See Bridges Weekly, 8 June 2017)
New Development Bank
In his speech to fellow BRICS leaders, Xi also highlighted recent advances in areas such as the New Development Bank and Contingent Reserve Arrangement, as well as in e-commerce, trade and investment facilitation, trade in services, scientific and technological innovation, industrial cooperation, and public-private partnerships.
The New Development Bank was launched by the BRICS countries in 2014, with a focus on infrastructure projects. It has also has recently outlined its objectives to accelerate “green” growth and finance projects for environmental protection and renewable energy sources.
The multilateral development has agreed to “support public or private projects through loans, guarantees, equity participation and other financial instruments,” according to its articles of agreement. (See Bridges Weekly, 17 July 2014)
The Contingent Reserve Arrangement is a framework meant to protect against liquidity pressures and other financial difficulties.
Leaders last week welcomed the launch of the African Regional Centre of the New Development Bank, and the progress made on the Contingent Reserve Arrangements, noting that these mechanisms are designed to support infrastructure building and sustainable development.
Working with additional partners
In his speech to business leaders on 3 September, Xi also referred to the importance of branching out BRICS’ work to include other partners on the international stage.
“We should promote the ‘BRICS Plus’ cooperation approach and build an open and diversified network of development partnerships to get more emerging market and developing countries involved in our concerted endeavours for cooperation and mutual benefits,” said Xi.
In this vein, the bloc’s leaders also met on 5 September with those of Egypt, Guinea, Mexico, Tajikistan, and Thailand within the context of the “BRICS Dialogue of Emerging Market and Developing Countries.”
The event reportedly touched upon issues of South-South cooperation, implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Belt and Road Initiative, and global governance.
“Leaders of all countries exchanged in-depth views on implementing the Agenda for Sustainable Development and building extensive development partnerships, and jointly discussed the major plans for international development cooperation and South-South cooperation, reaching important consensus,” says the official press release.
ICTSD reporting. This article first appeared in Bridges Weekly, 14 September 2017.