By Diego Azzi |CUT International Relations Advisor and member of REBRIP
Analysis of the results of Ufa indicates important movements in the block.
In sports jargon, the expression “run a good race” applies to those competitors who, although not among the favorites, discretely do a good job and end up achieving surprising success. Applied to the international political arena, this expression could well be used to analyze the BRICS.
If, on one hand, these countries cannot be considered exactly “underdogs” of international politics – due to the scope of their economies, populations, territories, productive capacities, etc. –, neither do they rank among those traditionally identified as favorites before the start of the race. What is clear is that the BRICS have been operating – discretely – in a way to achieve success that may surprise many skeptics. Their latest summit – held this month in Russia with the theme “The BRICS Partnership – a Powerful Factor for Global Development” – produced some important results that more clearly show the dimension of the advances underway.
In addition to the political declaration and action plan, it is important to highlight the fact that for the first time the BRICS adopted the “Strategy for a BRICS Economic Partnership,” or simply “The BRICS Strategy,” a medium term economic strategy (2015-2020) that translates the contents of the political statement into various concrete actions. In addition to delineating the principles of the strategic partnership between the BRICS, the document establishes 8 priority areas for cooperation: a) Trade and Investments; b) Manufacturing and Mineral Processing; c) Energy; d) Agriculture; e) Science, Technology & Innovation; f) Finance; g) Connectivity; h) Institutional Connectivity; i) Physical Connectivity; j) Connectivity between Peoples; k) Information and Communication Technologies.
The last three sessions of the strategy support the intention of the BRICS to lead in their respective regions, strengthen the international WTO regime against treaties made outside it, and act jointly within the G20. The importance of the role of the private sector, in general, and the Business Council of the BRICS, in particular, stands out in implementing the strategy proposed by the governments.
The main themes addressed in the Final Declaration of the BRICS are summarized below.
– The BRICS and multilateralism: Right from the start the declaration states that there should be greater coordination among the BRICS countries in the various multilateral forums and more joint positioning.
– New institutions: Next, it mentions the fact that the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingency Reserve Arrangement (CRA), approved in 2014 in Fortaleza, now actually begin operation. Within the framework of the Ufa action plan, the BRICS Financial Forum and the meeting of central bank presidents also took place.
– Regional influence: The BRICS continued the tradition and also held a number of parallel meetings with the Eurasian Economic Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. There were various bilateral meetings with governments, primarily from the Euro-Asian region, but also from other regions, such as Iran, for example.
– UN: Mention of the 70 years of the United Nations and emphasis on the importance of respect for international law as an essential element for promotion of peace and security. The long session of the Final Declaration dedicated to the United Nations contains a reaffirmation of its importance for peace and security in the world and the commitment of the BRICS to this multilateral space, but also criticized, in particular, the lack of democratization of spaces such as the Security Council, in which India, Brazil and South Africa have requested permanent seats, now with the support of Russia and China.
– Global economy: The BRICS governments warn of the fact that the recovery of the global economy remains quite slow and the risks of a new crisis continue to exist. Disagreements in relation to non-conventional monetary practices on the part of the advanced economies should be expressed during the next G20 meeting to be presided over by China after the 2015 summit in Turkey. The BRICS again express their deep disappointment with the lack of implementation of the IMF reform package approved in 2010. Although the current problems in restructuring sovereign debt are referenced, there is no specific mention of the case of Greece or negotiations with the Troika. The BRICS decided to continue discussing and expanding the option to use national currencies in intra-BRIC transactions.
– Global trade: The governments defend the WTO as the multinational forum to regulate global trade, which should provide the legal framework of reference for any bilateral, regional or international accords. There are advances in implementation of a reference framework for promoting intra-BRICS e-commerce. It was decided to hold an annual meeting of the export credit agencies of the five countries.
– Taxation: Taxes should be charged where economic activities take place and where value is created. Concern with the impact of tax evasion on the tax base of the countries and, consequently, on their ability to provide public services.
– Terrorism: Reaffirmation of their condemnation of all forms of terrorism. Defense of the UN as the main mechanism to fight and prevent terrorism in the world and a commitment to continue contributing financially to the UN task force to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
– Drugs: In 2015, the BRICS held two meetings of high authorities in the fight against drugs. The block states that it will seek convergence for operation in the special session of the UN General Assembly on the global drug problem in 2016.
– Corruption: Decision to create a working group among the BRICS for anti-corruption cooperation and defense of the operation of the UN Conference on States Parties on Corruption, November 2-6, in Saint Petersburg.
– Organized crime and maritime piracy: Organized crime should become a long term priority on the United Nations agenda. Maritime piracy represents a threat to security and development.
– Space exploration: Reaffirmation that space exploration should be promoted only for peaceful purposes. The BRICS should expand their coordination and cooperation in the development and application of space technologies; navigation satellites (including GLONASS and Beidou); and space science in general.
– The Internet and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT): Creation of a working group on Information and Communication Technologies. Support for inclusion of themes related to ICTs in the Post-2015 Agenda negotiating process and defense of greater access to ICTs to empower women and more vulnerable groups to achieve the objectives of the Post-2015 Agenda. Defense of the role of the United Nations in regulating the Internet, to ensure that it is secure, open, non-fragmented and inclusive.
– Natural and social disasters: The first meeting of heads of agencies responsible for managing disasters will take place in 2016 in Saint Petersburg.
– Political conflicts in the world: The declaration took a position on various current conflicts (the majority in Africa), such as the crisis in Syria, chronic instability in Iraq, the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Middle East as a nuclear-free zone (Israel has nuclear weapons). It further mentions Iran, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Mali, Congo, Burundi, the Central African Republic and the actions of the Boko Haram extremist group, mainly in Nigeria. There is no mention of conflict occurring in the Americas.
– Industrialization and strengthening of the real economy: The governments argued that development of the real sector of the economy becomes a particularly significant factor at times when the financial system is unstable and prices of the main commodities are volatile. Measures are being taken to increase production and export of high value-added consumer goods in the BRICS. The countries agreed that they will establish greater cooperation to promote investment in railways, roads, ports and airports.
– Agriculture: Coordinated action of the BRICS should also take place with more intensity with regard to the FAO, through the informal advisory group of the BRICS in Rome. The governments stated that they will intensify their cooperation in agriculture, with emphasis on agricultural technologies, innovation and adaptation of agriculture to climate change. No mention is made of the use of agricultural chemicals or transgenic seeds.
– Energy: The security of industrial and energy installations should be the theme of a meeting of heads of BRICS industrial and energy security regulatory agencies, to be held in Russia. In May 2015, the first official meeting on energy efficiency was held and the first meeting of BRICS energy ministers is planned for the end of 2015. The governments appealed to the business sector of the five countries to study the possibility of cooperating in this field.
– Production of statistical data: The statistical bodies of the BRICS will establish cooperation in order to support the United Nations in creating and monitoring Post-2015 Agenda indicators.
– Increased Tourism: The governments committed to working to build a long-term strategy to increase intra-BRICS tourism.
– Work: It was decided to hold the first Summit of Labor Ministers, planned for January-February 2016 in Russia. The focus should be on creating decent jobs and exchanging information on the labor market. For the first time, the Union Forum (currently in its 4thedition) is mentioned in the Final Declaration and the BRICS Action Plan. The union confederations were invited to participate in the Ministers Summit next year.
– Population and demographics: Population challenges and their relation to the economic development of the BRICS should continue to be addressed in a meeting in Russia in November 2015. The countries reiterated their commitments to the BRICS Agenda for Cooperation on Population Matters for 2015-2020, agreed to in Brasilia in February 2015.
– Migrations: The governments recognize the transnational nature of the migratory phenomenon and agree that during the Russian presidency the first BRICS ministerial meeting on migration will take place.
– Health: The document restates recognition of the right of all persons to access to health services of the highest possible standard, without distinction of any nature, for themselves and for their families. The countries commit to deepening intra-BRICS cooperation and cooperation of the BRICS with the United Nations in the sense of preventing and fighting transmissible diseases, such as the Ebola virus.
– Science and technology: After holding the second ministerial meeting on science, technology and innovation in March 2015, in Brasilia, the BRICS signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Science, Technology and Innovation. The governments reaffirmed their intention to promote the BRICS initiative on research and technology.
– Education: In the field of education, the countries recognize the importance of vocational education and training programs to help young people enter the job market. Student mobility in the BRICS will be stimulated and there will be an effort to exchange experience on ways to validate university diplomas between the countries. The governments welcome independent initiatives to create a BRICS university network.
– Culture: The cultural dimension should be addressed with more emphasis in the BRICS after signing of the Accord on Cooperation in the Field of Culture, aimed at expansion of cooperation in the fields of culture and the arts, promotion of intercultural dialogue and approximation of peoples and cultures.
– Post-2015 Agenda: The BRICS restated their commitment to an ambitious agenda to be adopted by the UN in September 2015. Explicit defense of the principle of common, but differentiated responsibilities. With respect to negotiations on financing for development, the declaration charges the developed countries with fulfilling their commitment to official development assistance.
– Cooperation: There are plans to hold a high level meeting of those responsible in each country for cooperation for development. The BRICS will continue supporting South-South cooperation, emphasizing, however, that this is not a substitute for North-South cooperation.
– Climate: The BRICS emphasize the issue of technology and knowledge transfer as one of the main results expected of the climate negotiations of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The environmental ministers of the BRICS met for the first time this year, in April 2015. The BRICS support the development of public-private partnerships (PPPs) that help fight the environmental challenges of each country.
– Parliaments: Members of parliament of the BRICS met in Moscow in June 2015 and should work to harmonize legislation that facilitates the commercial exchange and movement of people between the countries.
– The business community: The BRICS Business Forum has been working to remove excess existing barriers and obstacles to intra-BRICS trade. In the same sense, they demand simplification of business visas between the countries of the block.
– Think-tanks: The 7th Academic Forum of the BRICS took place in Moscow this year, promoted by the Think Tanks Council, whose main production has been the BRICS Long-Term Strategy for Reports document.
– Other forums: The countries welcomed the initiative of the Russian presidency to hold a BRICS Civil Forum (Civil BRICS), as well as a Union Forum and a Youth Forum held in Kazan.
– BRICS website: A common BRICS website will be created that can be converted into the website of a future block secretariat.
Next presidential meetings: The next meeting of BRICS heads of state will take place simultaneously with the G20 summit in Turkey, in November 2015. The next summit will be in India.
As can be easily seen, cooperation between the BRICS goes far beyond the New Development Bank and the Contingency Reserve Arrangement, its two most commented on initiatives. From political coordination at the multilateral level, to issues such as energy, technology, health, education, work, parliaments, development and culture… the BRICS are running a good race.