BRICS countries to unite against protectionism

By Wang Cong Source:Global Times Published: 2019/11/13 21:18:40 Last Updated: 2019/11/14 11:02:11

People wait for the entourage of Chinese President Xi Jinping at a hotel in Brasilia, where the leader is due to arrive to attend the 11th edition of the BRICS Summit, on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

The world's largest emerging economies will strike a unified tone against trade unilateralism and protectionism when leaders of the countries that make up BRICS meet in Brazil for a summit, at a time of great uncertainties for the global economy and for the developing economies, Chinese officials and analysts said.

At the summit held in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia from Wednesday to Thursday, the BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - will also put aside differences in their political and economic systems and focus on strengthening pragmatic cooperation in areas such as investment, trade and technology, offering a rare example of global collaboration in an otherwise unstable world plagued by economic wars and political instability.

The BRICS leaders' summit will provide a chance for the leaders of the five emerging economies to discuss a wide range of topics from intra-bloc cooperation to global governance. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the summit and hold bilateral talks with leaders of the BRICS countries, including Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, according to the Xinhua News Agency. This also marks Xi's fifth trip to Latin America since 2013, underscoring China's rising engagement with the region.

While intra-bloc cooperation remains high on the agenda, the five emerging economies are likely to speak out against protectionism and discuss ways to promote economic globalization and the interests of developing countries in global governance, according to analysts.

Aerial photo taken on Nov. 10, 2019 shows the National Congress of Brazil in Brasilia. The 11th BRICS summit will be held in Brasilia on Nov. 13-14. (Xinhua/Xin Yuewei)

United voice 

"As the five economies are all directly impacted by rising protectionism, safeguarding multilateralism has become not only a crucial task [to protect] their own interests but a responsibility to speak for all developing countries," Wang Lei, director of the Center for Cooperation Among BRICS Members at Beijing Normal University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

In the wake of US' unilateral and protectionist trade policies, the five emerging economies have all been impacted to an extent. For example, growth in China slowed to 6 percent year-on-year - the slowest pace in decades, while India's growth also cooled to 5 percent in the latest quarter and is expected to slow further.

Such difficult times call for stronger cooperation both within the BRICS bloc and on the global level to boost trade and investment, Wang said, noting that there is still huge potential for cooperation within BRICS, especially if other developing economies join hands.

The BRICS countries account for 42 percent of the world's population, 23 percent of global GDP and 18 percent of global trade, according to official data. The five are also among the fastest-growing emerging markets in the world, which was what led to the US investment bank Goldman Sachs' to coin the acronym BRIC in the first place. 

"This does not only give the countries huge potential for cooperation but an influential voice in global governance that has been dominated by developed economies," Su Xiaohui, deputy director of the Department of International and Strategic Studies at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The BRICS summit gained more attention since the APEC summit of other world leaders, which was scheduled to take place after the BRICS summit, was called off by the host country Chile due to riots in its capital Santiago.

Cooperation wins

Apart from uniting against protectionism, this year's BRICS summit, under Brazil's presidency, will also focus on promoting cooperation in science, technology and innovation and the digital economy, according to a Brazilian official statement for the summit. 

The countries have already moved to strengthen cooperation in the development of key areas such as 5G, artificial intelligence and information security, as they set up the BRICS Institute of Future Networks in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province in August.

In particular the countries are strengthening cooperation in 5G technology, despite ill-intentioned attempt by US officials to smear Chinese technologies and companies. Defying earlier speculation, India and Brazil have recently allowed Chinese telecom giant Huawei to participate in the rollout of their 5G networks.

The BRICS summit will also offer an important occasion for leaders of the five countries to discuss issues related to their bilateral relations in order to build mutual trust, analysts said.

Xi's scheduled meetings with Bolsonaro ahead and on the sidelines of the BRICS summit will help further strengthen the China-Brazil relationship, building on meetings in Beijing during Brazilian president's visit less than a month ago.

Xi will also meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the first time since India decided to back out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership earlier this month. The two leaders will likely discuss India's concerns over the trade pact said to be the world's largest. 

"It is an opportunity to build trust and eliminate doubts [about each other]," Su said. "Ultimately, pragmatic cooperation will overshadow differences between member countries," she said.


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