Sensible move to engage more with BRICS

Sunday, July 29, 2018

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The nomenclature BRICS refers to Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, countries that are defined by what they are not. They do not fit neatly into any of the current categories of countries — developed, developing or least developed.

But they are five very important countries in the global economy and in international affairs, deriving their influence from their combined weight: representing 41 per cent of the world population, 23.3 per cent of the gross world product, and 16 per cent of the world's total trade.

In 2017 the BRICS countries experienced growth of 5.3 per cent, contributing to more than half of the world's economic growth. Three of the five have nuclear weapons and China and Russia are permanent veto-wielding members of the Security Council of the United Nations.

They were also brought together by their near exclusion by the Western powers from a commensurate share of power in the institutional arrangements for global governance. For example, the United States has veto power in the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and Russia is not a member of the G-8.

The BRICS nations decided to create alternative global institutions and arrangements, the most important of which is the New Development Bank that commenced operations in 2015 with eventual capitalisation of US$100 billion.

The new bloc in international affairs has held 10 summits since 2009. This year's in South Africa, attended by Jamaica and Caricom leader Mr Andrew Holness, was marked by an extension to the global outreach of the BRICS. For example, more than 1,000 delegates gathered at Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on Wednesday, July 25, 2018 for the BRICS Business Forum, which was part of the Summit.

The theme of the 10th BRICS Summit was 'Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in The Fourth Industrial Revolution'. The business forum attended by leaders of business and government, deliberated on the current global economy and its implications for BRICS countries, the implications of the fourth Industrial Revolution on inclusive growth and transformation, the facilitation of increased intra-BRICS trade, and fostering BRIC-Africa partnerships.

Prime Minister Holness, while in Africa, visited Namibia and met with the president who is the incoming chair of the Southern African Development Community. This is commendable as it signals a recognition that there is a world beyond the US and Europe.

China is the largest source of development lending and the second-largest source of foreign direct investment. Russian capitalists, through Rusal , own a piece of Jamaica's bauxite/alumina industry. Brazil and India constitute vast trade potential.

Engagement with the BRICS represents great economic opportunities and an important diversification of international relations. Jamaica might need to rationalise its deployment of foreign missions more strategically because, as it now stands, Jamaica does not have a resident ambassador to India or Russia, yet we have an embassy in Germany which could easily be served by our missions in London and Brussels, which cover the European Union.

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