BRICS countries vow to work even closer together to increase already lucrative $102bn trade relations

27 July 2018 - 07:00 By Caiphus Kgosana
From left: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Brazilian President Michel Temer pose for a photograph during the 10th Brics leadership summit in Sandton, Johannesburg on July 26, 2018.
From left: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Brazilian President Michel Temer pose for a photograph during the 10th Brics leadership summit in Sandton, Johannesburg on July 26, 2018.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

Increased trade and advancements in new technology took centre stage as leaders of five countries –representing 40 percent of the world’s population - met in Johannesburg on Thursday.

Leaders of Brazil‚ Russia‚ India‚ China and South Africa meet at a time that the Trump administration in the United States has intensified its trade war with China‚ which has affected other developing countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called on the BRICS bloc to increase trade partnerships between their countries. Putin noted that intra-BRICS trade was already at $102-billion‚ but said there was room for more growth.

“A consolidation of trading partnerships within BRICS is of greater importance. It has grown 30% and is now at $102-billion. I support initiatives of the BRICS business council in areas of e-commerce and simplifying administrative barriers to stimulate trade between our countries‚” said Putin.

BRICS leaders also stressed the importance of cooperation in the field of the economy‚ people-to-people exchanges‚ cultural and sporting links within the powerful bloc. They have also undertaken to use the BRICS partnership to increase trade between each other as a bulwark against increasing trade protectionism.

In the final Johannesburg declaration at the close of the summit‚ the leaders said the World Trade Organisation (WTO) should be the final arbiter when it came to trade disputes.

“We recognise that the multilateral trading system is facing unprecedented challenges. We underscore the importance of an open world economy‚ enabling all countries and people to share the benefits of globalisation‚ which should be inclusive and support sustainable development and prosperity of all countries.

“We call on all WTO members to abide by WTO rules and honour their commitments in the multilateral trading system‚” the declaration reads.

South Africa has not been spared in the ensuing trade standoff.

The imposition of US import tariffs on steel and aluminium exports is threatening up to 7‚500 jobs in these industries locally. BusinessLIVE reported in May that major companies affected by Trump’s tariffs included diversified metals and mining group South32‚ premier steel maker ArcelorMittal SA and aluminium products fabricator Hulamin.

Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the leaders to use the technological revolution to unlock the potential of trade‚ investment and economic cooperation.

“We must work together at the UN‚ the G20 and WTO to safeguard a rule-based multilateral trading regime and reject protectionism outright‚” Xi said.

He also stressed the need for BRICS nations to be at the forefront of safeguarding global peace and security.

“We must stay committed to multilateralism and call on all parties to abide by international law and basic norms of international dialogue.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa‚ who welcomed the leaders and took over chairmanship of BRICS‚ said emerging countries needed to ensure that their people were not left behind and could take full advantage of the fourth industrial revolution.

“There’s an urgent need in developing and emerging economies to re-skill a significant portion of current workforce. Governments must come up with policies supportive of these processes‚ provide favourable environment for foreign investment and a supply of skills‚” he said.

Ramaphosa added that the leaders had resolved to establish a BRICS partnership on the new industrial revolution to exploit the advantages presented by the age of technology.

Brazil President Michel Temer said BRICS countries could only be competitive if they were open to new advances in technology and accepted that their means of production would have to be greatly redesigned.

“We must be ready and prepared for a world where a country’s biggest asset is its citizens’ ability to assimilate knowledge. This can bring competitive advantages in science‚ technology and knowledge‚” the Brazilian leader said.

The five countries have also agreed to expand cultural‚ sporting and arts links. Ramaphosa said Putin had made a proposal to encourage people to people linkages in areas of sports‚ film‚ cinematography and other art forms.

BRICS members also signed memorandums of understanding focusing on environmental cooperation and aviation partnerships‚ among others.

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