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WorldVoices: Building BRICS

[Editor’s Note: WorldVoices—a recurring feature of the WorldPolicy blog—links to opinion and analysis of current events from English-language news sources around the globe.]

By David Black

At Sanya, a city on the southern Chinese island of Hainan, representatives of the BRICS (the ‘S’ standing for newly-accepted South Africa) adopted a series of resolutions on April 14 aiming to advance and better integrate the economic and security policies of the five member states.  As usual, the meeting centered on ways to move away from the U.S. dollar as reserve currency, foremost among them possibility of an increased role for Special Drawing Rights (SDR), an artificial currency-replacement issued by the IMF that reflects the weighted values of the dollar, euro, yen, and pound that is recalculated every five years (most recently at the start of the year).  The group also announced its support for India’s accession to permanent membership on the UN Security Council and Russian membership in the WTO.

The official document produced by the meetings, called the Sanya Declaration, announced that “the governing structure of the international financial institutions should reflect the changes in the world economy, increasing the voice and representation of emerging economies and developing countries.”  It focused on mutual interests and how the countries can best assist one another to achieve goals that do not hamper the aspirations of other members.  An Indian official called the meeting a step forward from the last meeting of the group’s leaders in Brasilia in April 2010.

Despite hopes preceding the meeting, proposals for the induction of Indonesia were not considered.

Jim O’Neill, who coined the BRIC acronym, explains in analysis by the BBC:

[I]t was a mystery as to why South Africa had been invited to participate in their meeting: "South Africa is small compared to these countries. South Africa is about half a per cent of global GDP.  And there are other economies which have much more justification if they were to really look at similar potential to the Brics. Turkey, Indonesia, Mexico, Korea, even Saudi Arabia, Poland. I don't really understand why the Chinese and the others agreed to it."

A review in India’s Business Standard covers areas of reform to international economic policies discussed and claiming the gathering…

…has stepped up the pressure on the developed world to expedite necessary reforms in the international financial and monetary system, so that they can remove the inadequacies and deficiencies brought to light by the financial crisis in 2008. The leaders of BRICS have reiterated the need for a broad-based international reserve currency system and welcomed the discussion about the role of special drawing rights or SDRs in the existing international monetary system, including the composition of SDR’s basket of currencies … [but remained] strangely silent on the need for an open and merit-based selection method, irrespective of nationality, for heading positions of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, although the Brasilia Declaration did refer to such concerns.

An Indian Express editorial praising Hu Jintao…

…for addressing two important issues that India had raised in recent months — the question of stapled visas to Indian citizens living and working in Jammu and Kashmir and the mounting bilateral trade deficit in favour of Beijing … [and indicating] that the Chinese leadership is committed to arresting the recent political slide in bilateral ties with India.

A Deccan Herald opinion welcoming a reinvigorated security dialogue with China to…

…resume senior level defence exchanges between the two countries and to set up a mechanism for co-ordination and consultation on border affairs. The defence exchanges were stopped by India last year after China denied visa to an Indian army  officer who commanded the Kashmir region… it should be assumed that the stapled visa issue may have been sorted out. But there is no official announcement yet on the matter. The consultation mechanism on border issues is welcome because there is an increasing number of violations of the disputed border in recent months.

Analysis in China Daily of the growing importance of the economic-based relationships among the five economies:

[The BRICS] combined GDP accounted for 18 percent of the global total in 2010.  But, according to research by the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, this figure will grow to a staggering 47 percent by 2030 … [prompting them to] enhance coordination on topics such as reform of the international monetary system, halting commodity price fluctuation, combating climate change and promoting sustainable development.

RIA Novosti’s coverage mentioned that the Russians use their own acronym for the group:

The Russian delegation at the BRICS countries summit has dubbed the group BRYUKI (slacks) by joining together the first letters in Russian of the words Brazil, Russia, South Africa, China and India, President Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday.

"To be honest, I cannot recall who thought up the BRICS abbreviation. But we have invented our own," Medevedev told journalists at the summit.

Russian for South Africa is "Yuzhnaya Africa" and for China "Kitai." Brazil, India and Russia have the same first letters in both English and Russian, when transcribed. So – BRYUKI – or "slacks" in English.

Hence this cartoon that RIA Novosti ran:


David Black is an editorial assistant at World Policy Journal.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Blog do Planalto.

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