Op-Ed Contributors

Bright prospects for BRIC

By Wang Yusheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-04-15 08:20
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Gathering of leaders from major emerging economies will lead to closer cooperation and stronger economic recovery

Since leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) issued a 16-point joint statement at the first BRIC summit in Russia on June 16 last year, the grouping has drawn widespread public attention. As the second summit of the BRIC countries opens in Brazil on Friday, the public is set to pay more attention to it.

The outlook for the upcoming summit and the future of the grouping is bright.

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In the first BRIC summit, the leaders of the four countries spoke on several pressing issues related to the global economy and development. They also expressed the common wish to enhance cooperation among their countries. Some of the appeals in their joint statement were strategic, such as establishing a more democratic and just multi-polar world based on international law, equal cooperation, mutual respect and collective decision-making. They also pledged to promote the reform of international financial institutions. All these should be fulfilled in a gradual process and accepted by more countries.

Some of the appeals in the statement were realistic and concrete and have already yielded results.

First, the statement was straight to the point - that leaders in the G20 summit of developing nations "played a central role" in coping with the global financial crisis and were conducive to promoting cooperation and policy coordination as well as political dialogue among different countries in the international, economic and financial fields. The statement appealed to all countries and relevant international organizations to implement the consensus of the G20 London Summit. It also expressed the BRIC countries will cooperate with other partners to guarantee the collective action of the G20 Pittsburg Summit. It seems that this goal is being achieved.

Strictly speaking, the G20 bloc is more like an extension of the "8+5" platform of the G8 grouping rather than a replacement of the latter. The difference is the "8+5" platform is absolutely dominated by the eight developed countries, while the G20 is basically a dialogue platform for developed and developing countries. In the G20, the influence of developing countries has increased significantly and developed countries are unable to fully manipulate the bloc.

Before and during the process of their summit, the BRIC countries have produced their own voices, coordinated positions and enhanced cooperation. These moves have played a remarkable role in protecting the overall interests of developing countries. It is conceivable that the BRIC summit this time will have greater influence on the fourth summit of the G20 bloc scheduled in June.

Second, the BRIC statement indicated that the four countries will coordinate their standpoints, strengthen unity and face financial crisis together to take the lead in economic recovery. During the global recession last year, China and India both displayed good momentum in economic growth. Russia and Brazil also recovered fast.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said recently that the BRIC countries have been drawing international attention for their strong economic growth these past years. Since 2003, trade among these four countries has increased fivefold. This is the main reason why the four economies account for 65 percent of overall global economic growth, and why they are becoming the main hope for global economic recovery.

Third, BRIC countries are moving toward institutionalization. BRIC summits are expected to be held in the next two years in India and China. Financial ministers and bank governors of the four countries have also met frequently before the G20 summit and the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to coordinate their positions and set out common claims. Similarly, BRIC countries' agricultural ministers held a meeting recently to sign a treaty on strengthening cooperation in their field. All these show that the institutionalization of BRIC is ongoing and areas of cooperation among the four countries have been enlarged.

Fourth, the number of BRIC members may grow. It is generally accepted that BRIC represents the large-scale rise of developing countries in the new era. But it is also a pity the BRIC bloc does not include African members. Fortunately, the BASIC bloc members (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) were present in last year's climate change conference in Copenhagen. Objectively speaking, BRIC is a bloc of emerging powers without South Africa, while BASIC is a bloc of developing countries without rapidly rising Russia. If the two blocs can cooperate in some form, their representation and influence will be increasingly strengthened.

One day before the second BRIC summit, Brazil will hold a pre-summit meeting with India and South Africa. Brazil's president is expected to hold a state banquet to greet the leaders of the BRIC countries as well as the leader of South Africa. The move may indicate the possibility of greater cooperation for the regions.

Admittedly, the future of the BRIC bloc is closely connected with the changing situation of contemporary international forces, which may be a variable factor. Currently, the BRIC countries should be aware of hostile forces in developed countries that may employ ideological differences and historical problems to sow dissension and discord among the grouping. BRIC countries should also coordinate their positions to fight trade protectionism together and enhance unity to protect the overall interests of developing countries. Similarly, the four countries should stay focused and give top priority to the overall situation.

They should continue to promote dialogue and cooperation in a step-by-step, active, pragmatic, open and transparent manner. This will enable the BRIC bloc to hold more international influence and make great contributions to the establishment of a "more democratic and fair multi-polar world".

The author is a Beijing-based researcher on international studies and a former Chinese diplomat.

(China Daily 04/15/2010 page8)