BRICS+ On The Agenda As Russia & China Seek To Expand Trade

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Op/Ed by Chris Devonshire-Ellis

The BRICS network of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa may be expanded in the near future, according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who has said that Russia is currently focused on activities on the BRICS+ platform, which “makes it possible for interested countries to find ways to cooperate with the group’s members”

It remains to be seen whether this means a potential enlargement of the original BRICS members, or whether the BRICS grouping will collectively or individually look at expanding Free Trade Agreements with other regional blocs.

This is a subject we have covered in some detail, looking at the possibility of a Russian alignment involving the Eurasian Economic Union with South America’s influential Mercosur bloc here and with the Southern African Customs Union here. Russia’s total trade with the BRICS economies is currently worth about US$125 billion per annum.

India, another BRICS member, is also currently in negotiations concerning a FTA with Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union. My comments on this and an overview of the current status of this were published in Japan’s Nikkei Asian Review last week.

In terms of China, we discussed their potential to strike an FTA and bring the region into the Belt & Road Initiative with Mercosur here and with the Southern African Customs Union here. 

Ryabkov, who also serves as the country’s BRICS Coordinator, stated “As for expansion plans, I think that we need to continue pursuing the current path, first and foremost, seeking to boost practical cooperation, increase gains from it and specifying activities in many areas, so that our countries and our people can feel… that BRICS’ existence is important in terms of creating new positive elements in the economic, social and scientific development of our countries, as well as for other areas of development.”

While that is essentially political speech for “we intend to develop the BRICS grouping”; the implication for future trade between the BRICS grouping themselves, and other blocs should not be underestimated. Both China and Russia are keen to find ways to lessen dependence and trade threats from the United States and are looking at a longer term strategy to minimize exposure to Washington, seen as increasingly trade toxic in negotiating tactics and the ease of threatening trade sanctions if the US doesn’t get what it wants.

With expectations that the BRICS group will be responsible for 50% of the total global economy by 2030 the stakes are high, and where future supply chains develop an area to watch.

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