To Bric or not to break?

Brics summit in New Delhi, March 2012

Today’s one-day annual summit of the so-called Brics countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – has received scant attention in the west. That may be because the grouping has achieved little in concrete terms since its inception in 2009. Critics deride it as a photo-op and talking shop.

But this neglect, or disdain, may also reflect the fact that the Brics, representing almost half the world’s population and about one-fifth of global economic output, pose an unwelcome challenge to the established world order as defined by the US-dominated UN security council, the IMF and the World Bank. The truth of the matter probably lies somewhere in-between. The five national leaders – presidents Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, Hu Jintao of China and Jacob Zuma of South Africa and their host in Delhi, India’s prime minister Manmohan Singh – are not noted for iconoclastic radicalism.

Rousseff has been the most outspoken, insisting that developing countries must be protected from the global “tsunami” of cheap money, unleashed by the US and the EU in the wake of the financial crisis, that was rendering their exports less competitive. “We will defend our industry and prevent the methods developed countries use to escape from crisis resulting in the cannibalisation of emerging markets,” she said this month.

With President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff.

With President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Brics boosters project a grandiose vision. India’s commerce secretary, Anand Sharma, said this week the group sought nothing less than “to create a new global architecture”. But commentators interpret such ambitions as essentially anti-American hot air. Pointing to a signal lack of substantive policy agreements, they suggest a desire to counter Washington’s global dominance is the Brics’ sole unifying objective.

“There are calls to establish a permanent secretariat and even a development bank in an effort to bolster the grouping’s political impact,”wrote Walter Ladwig of the Royal United Services Institute. “But this focus on institution-building is misplaced. It is the fundamental incompatibility of the Brics nations, not their lack of organisation, which prevents [them] acting as a meaningful force on the world stage”. Ladwig continued: “Beyond the issues of economic governance, in many key areas the Brics nations are actually in strategic competition. Within Asia, India and Russia are potential obstacles to China’s presumed regional dominance. At the international level, Russia, Brazil and India desire the emergence of a multipolar international system in which they are major actors, with the latter two seeking membership in an expanded UN security council.

“In contrast, China aims for a bipolar world in which it serves as the counterbalance to American power.” So far, Beijing has opposed India’s bid for a permanent security council seat.

A joint declaration issued at the close of the summit found common ground in strongly criticising western economic policy. “It is critical for advanced economies to adopt responsible macroeconomic and financial policies, avoid creating excessive global liquidity and undertake structural reforms to lift growth that create jobs,” it said. There was agreement, too, to press ahead with plans to create a “south-south” development fund that might one day rival the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

The Brics renewed their demand for expanded voting rights for developing countries in the IMF and challenged western policy on Iran, stressing that military action to curb Tehran’s suspect nuclear activities was unacceptable and suggesting the group was not bound by a looming ban on Iran’s oil exports. Both the Iran and Syria crises must be resolved diplomatically, it said.

“We must avoid political disruptions that create volatilities in global energy markets and affect trade flow… We must ensure policy coordination to revive economic growth,” the Indian leader, Manmohan Singh said. Brics countries would increase co-operation on terrorism and piracy, he added. On UN security council reform, he appealed for the group to speak with one voice.

The Brics countries’ ambition to change the world in their image raises questions of fundamental values as well as geopolitical influence. Key members China and Russia have a tenuous attachment, or none at all, to democratic principles such as free elections, free speech and free media. India, too, faces rising criticism about perceived attempts to muzzle open debate. Tibetan activists said about 250 people were jailed this week in an Indian government drive to pre-empt anti-China demonstrations. The approach to basic human rights taken by China and Russia, most recently in relation to the Syrian uprising, is not a paradigm that developing countries might happily adopt.

In similar vein, less powerful non-aligned states are wondering whether the rise of the Brics merely marks the emergence of another selfish global elite, which will pay no more attention to their interests than do the western powers. Sreeram Chaulia, an international affairs analyst in India, told the New York Times that many smaller, poorer developing countries, especially in Africa, were watching to see if the five nations can evolve into true advocates for non-western interests. Developing countries wanted a multipolar world, rather than one dominated by the United States “or, for that matter, by China,” he said.

Fuente: The Guardian

For Group of 5 Nations, Acronym Is Easy, but Common Ground Is Hard

The new BRIC era has yet to arrive.

When the group’s leaders meet in New Delhi on Thursday, their biggest achievement will have been adding an S: they took on South Africa last year. The five BRICS nations still rank among the fastest-growing economies in the world, and, even if growth has slowed, individually, their global influence continues to rise. But they have struggled to find the common ground necessary to act as a unified geopolitical alliance.

“The real issue for them is to come up with agreed objectives, and also agree on common actions,” saidBrahma Chellaney, a foreign affairs analyst with theCentre for Policy Research in New Delhi. “That is a tough nut.”

The BRICS are still a new group, and some analysts argue that with time they could become a more cohesive alliance. But for now, they are troubled by internal rivalries and contradictions that have stymied the group’s ability to take any significant action toward a primary goal: reforming Western-dominated international financial institutions.

Since its inception, the group has discussed creating a development bank to rival the World Bank, and on Wednesday a Chinese official expressed hope that a breakthrough might come this week. Yet to date the proposal has been stalled, partly over worries that China would dominate the new institution.

Last year, the five countries could not agree on a new leader for the International Monetary Fund. Nor have they endorsed a candidate to replace Robert B. Zoellick as head of the World Bank. (President Obama recently proposed Jim Yong Kim, president of Dartmouth College.)

In other spheres, the group has been splintered. National security and terrorism are common concerns, yet the members are not always in alignment, the most recent division being Iran’s nuclear ambitions. (Reports in the Indian news media this week indicated that the group might try to carve out a joint position on Syria.) India is actively lobbying for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, a move China has resisted endorsing.

“It’s not a policy bloc at all,” said Yasheng Huang, a professor of global economics and management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It’s really a photo op. It is really this idea that the West is no longer or should no longer be viewed as the only center of gravity.”

Deep internal political and economic differences complicate the prospects for unity. India, Brazil and South Africa are democracies and have already used their own separate trilateral group, IBSA, as a primary platform for coordinating positions on several major diplomatic issues.

Russia, however, has drifted away from democracy toward strongman rule under Vladimir V. Putin. China is the world’s largest authoritarian state and has by far the largest and most powerful economy in BRICS, which creates a complicated dynamic. China is the heavyweight, and thus the natural leader of the group, except that it is the political outlier.

As such, distrust is high between India and China, whose border dispute, which goes back decades, is fueling a quiet military buildup on both sides. The two countries differ sharply on Pakistan and the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. Trade is growing rapidly, but India complains that China has done too little to open its market to Indian firms. China, meanwhile, is suspicious that India is pursuing a containment policy, in league with the United States, through its diplomatic outreach to East Asian nations like South Korea, Japan, Australia and Indonesia.

“The real story is there is a contradiction between China and India,” said C. Raja Mohan, a leading strategic affairs analyst in New Delhi. “As long as you don’t solve that, what collective rhetoric you talk about will have limited value.”

The BRICS alliance has existed as a concept since 2001, when Jim O’Neill, a Goldman Sachs economist, identified Brazil, Russia, India and China as rising economic powers and argued that they should play larger roles in global economic policymaking, perhaps by joining the established Group of 7. Earlier, in the 1990s, Russia had already organized a triangular group with India and China — known as RIC — but the attention generated by Mr. O’Neill’s formulation apparently prompted these three to add Brazil and create a new political club.

The first BRIC summit meeting was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia, in 2009, amid the uncertainty of the global economic downturn, with subsequent meetings held in Brazil and China. Last November, Mr. O’Neill predicted that the group’s combined economies, now worth almost $13 trillion, would double in the coming decade, eventually surpassing the size of the economies of both the United States and the European Union.

A consistent theme has been to push for changes in the monetary system, including advocating an alternate global reserve currency to reduce the dominance of the dollar. China in particular has used the group as a platform to promote its currency, the renminbi, as an international currency.

After arriving on Wednesday, leaders of the five nations held bilateral talks before attending a state dinner. At Thursday’s summit meeting, they are expected to announce agreements that would enable the nations to extend each other credit in local currencies while conducting trade, sidestepping the dollar, a substantive move if not yet the kind of game-changing action once expected from BRICS.

Sreeram Chaulia, an international affairs analyst in India, said many smaller, poorer developing countries, especially in Africa, are watching to see if the five nations can evolve into true advocates for non-Western interests or if BRICS merely becomes a platform for the interests of a new elite.

“At the end of the day, they will have to get into coordinating their positions on international security and global political issues,” said Mr. Chaulia, who teaches at the Jindal School of International Affairs in Sonipat, India. He said many developing countries want a multipolar world, rather than one dominated by the United States “or, for that matter, by China.”

Indeed, some analysts see BRICS mostly as an annual meeting between China and its most important suppliers. Brazil, Russia and South Africa all sell rising amounts of commodities to China. China lobbied aggressively to include South Africa in the group at a time when state-owned Chinese firms were buying up raw materials across Africa.

“I see BRICS as more about China trying to have more ready access to commodities in Brazil and South Africa,” said Mr. Huang, the M.I.T. economist, adding that the other countries were then trying to use the group “to exercise influence on China.”

Finally, even though the group was conceived as an alternative to American power, none of the five member nations are eager for confrontation with the United States. As their leaders, including President Hu Jintao of China, gather in New Delhi, the United States is also quietly in town. Commerce Secretary John Bryson spoke at a business round table on Tuesday, bringing along an American trade group to visit the vast industrial corridor under construction between Mumbai and New Delhi.

“For all five of the BRICS countries,” said Mr. Chellaney, “their most important relationship is with the United States.”

FUENTE: The New York Times



Una respuesta a “To Bric or not to break?

  1. Pingback: Expansion of UNSC: an imperative – John Malcolm


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