Before leaving for South Africa, to attend the 5th BRICS Summit on the 26th and 27th of March 2013, President Vladimir Putin gave an interview to the media. He defined Russia's role in BRICS, sharing some valuable insight into the plans of the Russian Government regarding Russian relations with the BRICS countries of Brazil, China, India and South Africa.
by Olivia Kroth
President Vladimir Putin is very optimistic about BRICS' success in the 21st century, "There are a number of long term factors working on BRICS' success. For the last two decades, the economies of Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa have been in the lead of global economic growth."
He pointed out that "in 2012, the average GDP growth rate in the group amounted to four percent, while the G7 index was only 0.7 percent. In addition, the GDP of the BRICS countries, derived from the national currency purchasing power parity, is currently over 27 percent of the global GDP and its share continues to increase."
President Vladimir Putin sees BRICS as a future world leader, not only in the field of the economy, but also in geopolitics, promoting justice and peace. "BRICS is a key element of the emerging multi-polar world, affirming its commitment to the fundamental principles of international law."
He emphasized that "BRICS members advocate the creation of a more balanced and just system of global relations. Our countries do not accept power politics, violating other countries' sovereignty."
Russia initiated the formation of BRICS and chaired the first Summit in Yekaterinburg, in 2009. In just four years, BRICS has developed very well in international affairs, capital exchange, trade and in the humanitarian sphere. BRICS is giving hope for a better world to come soon.
Regarding short term plans, the Russian President explained the 17 areas of cooperation, as fixed in the 2012 Delhi Action Plan, when India hosted the 4th BRICS Summit. He expressed his wish that Russia would be able to increase its trade and investment development with BRICS partners, launching new multilateral business projects.
"In Durban, we intend to announce the formal establishment of the BRICS Business Council. In the BRICS Business Forum, we will bring together more than 900 community business representatives from our countries," he revealed.
Highlighting the Russian Federation's relations with the People's Republic of China, Vladimir Putin said, "Russia and China are important strategic and historic partners, two influential members of the international community. They are permanent members of the UN Security Council and they are among the world's largest economies. Today, Russian-Chinese relations are on the rise."
Commenting on President Xi Jinping's recent visit to Moscow, he noted, "The fact that the new Chinese leader makes his first foreign trip to our country confirms the special nature of strategic partnership between Russia and China."
President Vladimir Putin emphasized the importance of Russian-Chinese trade. "In the last five years, the volume of bilateral trade has more than doubled. In 2012, Russian-Chinese trade turnover increased by 5.2 percent to constitute 87.5 billion USD."
Regarding the geopolitical importance of Russia and China, the Russian President thinks that both countries "show an example of a balanced and pragmatic approach to solving the most critical issues. The common approach to fundamental issues of world order and key international problems has become an important stabilising factor in world politics."
President Vladimir Putin furthermore described Russia's ties to South Africa. "We have old ties of friendship and mutual respect. During the visit to South Africa, we certainly hope to give new impetus to our bilateral relations with the Declaration on Strategic Partnership between Russia and South Africa."
This Declaration will determine key areas of joint work in the future, for example on cooperation in the fields of agriculture, culture, education, energy, mining, nuclear power, military, technology and space.
The Russian President said he was looking forward to discussing practical steps with his South African colleague, Jacob Zuma. "Trade and economic cooperation will be the focus of our attention. In 2012, the volume of trade between Russia and South Africa grew by 65 percent and reached 964 million USD," he explained.
"Big Russian businesses, such as Renova, Norilsk Nickel, Evraz Group, Basic Element, Severstal, Renaissance Capital and Vnesheconombank, are actively entering the South African market. They are interested in further expanding their presence in South Africa," President Putin remarked.
Of course, the other BRICS member countries have their specific aims, goals and hopes in connection with the upcoming 5th BRICS Summit in Durban, too. The Chinese President, Xi Jinping, also gave an interview in conjunction with the Summit. He stressed that "the system of global economic administration should demonstrate deep changes in the world's economic structure, increase the representation and voices of emerging market countries, as well as those of developing states."
Regarding the BRICS Summit in South Africa, the Chinese leader commented that "China provides support for South Africa in creating the Development Bank, the Foreign Exchange Fund, the Commerce and Industry Council and the BRICS Think Tanks Council. China calls for strengthening the dialogue and contacts between BRICS and African states."
Being part of BRICS has helped Brazil immensely as well. The Latin American giant is emerging as another global player, with sustained economic growth and important socio-economic transformation underway. The number of Brazilians living in extreme poverty has been halved between 2002 and 2012, while the mobile middle class is on the rise.
BRICS, but also the Latin American alliances of UNASUR, MERCOSUR and CELAC, have helped Brazil to implement its regional and international priorities. Brazil hopes at the 5th BRICS Summit in Durban, to negotiate and successfully reach trade agreements that will be in favour of its national interests.
In addition, BRICS gives Brazil leeway to introduce its specific agendas of innovation, green growth, protection of biodiversity, etc. Thus, Brazil sees multiple opportunities in the BRICS Summit.
At the 4th BRICS Summit in New Delhi, in 2012, the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, set the tone for BRICS to focus on job creation, energy, food and water security, urbanization and sustainable growth.
In Durban, the African Union has been invited for the first time to take part in a BRICS Summit. The theme of this year is "BRICS and Africa - Partnerships for Integration and Industrialization."
Collins Chabane, South Africa's Minister for Performance Monitoring, Evaluation and Administration, said, "The participation of the African Union will not only herald a new chapter in BRICS-Africa relations, but will also foster economic integration of Africa with the rising powers."
South Africa wants to integrate the African Union into BRICS. "We wish to align BRICS' interests with the integration agenda in Africa, and not just focusing on access to our resources," Collins Chabane noted.
He furthermore reminded BRICS members that "Africa is the fastest growing power after Asia, and offers the highest return on investments of any region. The African Continent constitutes 60 percent of the world's unused agricultural land. Africa is also very rich in energy resources and minerals."
The African Union hopes to initiate infrastructure projects for Africa during the 5th BRICS Summit in Durban, with good opportunities for all parties involved.
Thus, Durban will surely provide a platform for the rising powers to include Africa in a pact of friendship and mutual benefit.
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