BEIJING, Nov. 17 — As leaders of the BRICS members are convening an annual summit via video conference on Tuesday, they need to forge a stronger consensus on enhancing their cooperation and working more closely with other countries to weather the raging COVID-19 pandemic and global economic crisis.
The virtual summit of the five major emerging economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — comes at a time when the international community is confronting profound transformations and growing uncertainties, such as rising trade protectionism and unilateralism.
The coronavirus crisis is worsening the situation. And within their borders, all BRICS members are facing monumental work to boost domestic development.
Over the years since the inception of the mechanism, the BRICS countries have continuously elevated their global economic rankings and expanded all-round cooperation, particularly in economic and trade sectors, which have yielded substantial results over the past decade.
For example, the New Development Bank (NDB), also known as the BRICS bank, has produced notable accomplishments.
The multilateral bank has approved 65 infrastructure and sustainable development projects worth 21 billion U.S. dollars across all its member countries in the past five years, ranging from urban development to water sanitation, from clean energy to smart cities, NDB President Marcos Troyjo said earlier this month.
The bank is also providing up to 10 billion dollars in crisis-related assistance and economic recovery projects through its emergency COVID-19 response program, he added.
To ensure that the BRICS countries can further unleash their cooperation potential and a second “golden decade” for the bloc despite the current difficulties, they need to join their hands more closely.
The first priority is to work with the rest of the world in the epic fight against the pandemic. The BRICS countries should strengthen public health cooperation, exchange experience in epidemic prevention and control, and make joint contributions to ensuring that vaccines, once ready, are affordable and accessible globally.
The member countries also need, on the condition of maintaining health safety, to resume work and production and set up “fast tracks” and “green lanes” to facilitate the flow of people and goods in an orderly fashion.
The second common task is to deepen their economic and trade cooperation so as to infuse new impetus into the global economy. The Chinese economy is already bouncing back, and is very likely to become the only major economy in the world to register positive growth this year. Other BRICS countries also boast an optimistic economic outlook.
British economist Jim O’Neill, best known for coining the acronym BRIC in the early 2000s, told U.S. news outlet CNBC that China is “well on its way” to recovering from the pandemic-induced economic crisis and will continue to be “the most important marginal driver” of global gross domestic product (GDP).
O’Neill pointed out that Brazil, Russia and India are also likely to see V-shaped bounce backs in the coming quarters.
To facilitate a more steadfast recovery of themselves and the global economy, the BRICS countries need to strengthen macroeconomic policy coordination and jointly stabilize the global industrial and supply chains.
Over the longer run, while mulling updating the strategy for their economic partnership, the BRICS countries should leverage their respective strengths and jointly explore new growth drivers, so as to achieve higher quality, as well as more resilient and sustainable development, and to blaze new paths that could inspire other emerging markets and developing countries.
The third job is to improve global economic governance so that it can better reflect the transformations of the current global political and economic landscape.
Collectively, the BRICS members represent 30 percent of the world’s landmass, 42 percent of the global population and 20 percent of the global GDP, which put them in a good position to play a greater role in anchoring this changing world.
Calling BRICS “stepping stones” for reforming global governance, Yaroslav Lissovolik, program director of Russia’s think tank Valdai Discussion Club, noted that apart from the increasing weight of the bloc in the world economy, BRICS exercises a “comparative advantage” compared to other groups or arrangements in reaching out to the rest of the world, given that “this diverse grouping is present in all of the main regions of the developing world.”
The BRICS countries, as the representatives of the developing world, share the obligation to increase the voice and influence of emerging markets and developing countries in the international arena. To this end, they should advocate the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits in improving global governance, and push for reforms of the global economic governance system to strike a balance between fairness and efficiency.
Currently, economic globalization is encountering strong headwinds. The BRICS countries need to band together to counter protectionism and isolationism, maintain the multilateral trading system centered on the World Trade Organization, and build an open world economy.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has compared the BRICS economies to five fingers of a hand, saying they are “short and long if extended, but a powerful fist if clenched together.” Indeed, if the five countries can forge a more tenacious partnership, their joint efforts can always make more positive differences in the world.