Lebanon set to cut ministers' pay in bid to defuse protests    Match abandoned in latest blow to Mexican football    Tennis: Murray beats Wawrinka to win first title since hip surgery    Manchester City not ready to win Champions League: Guardiola    U.S. troops cross into Iraq from Syria    British PM pushes for Brexit deal vote after being forced to seek delay    Spanish PM to visit Barcelona, criticises regional chief    Liverpool's Egyptian winger Salah ruled out of Manchester United clash    EBRD bank praises Egyptian reforms efforts – official    Sisi: Russia-Africa Summit reflects historic friendship ties    Gold flat as stocks look for trade talk cues, Brexit deal    Sterling falls from 5-month peak on Brexit delay jitters    Parliament committee to address problem of stray dogs in Egypt    Lebanon PM Hariri agrees reform package in bid to resolve economic crisis: Official sources tell Reuters    Shell Egypt to sell assets in Western Desert to focus on offshore exploration    WHO hails 'triumph' as Ebola vaccine gets European green light    Current and ex smokers may lower lung cancer risk with exercise    Egypt's Sisi praises SCC's role in protecting justice, rights, freedoms    France's President Macron receives Egypt's Coptic Pope Tawadros II at Elysee    Egypt inks deal with Euroclear Bank to upgrade public debt management    Egypt's Cooperative Insurance Society to cover NGOs clients' loans    After a young pupil dies of meningitis in Egypt, tips to help prevention    Egypt's PM urges US's ADTRAN Inc. to invest in communications equipment    French President Macron receives Egypt's Coptic Pope Tawadros II at Elysee    'Passports should be valid for six months,' Egypt's foreign ministry advises citizens planning travel abroad    Grand Nile Tower Arts & Cultural Centre launches second round    Egypt's coach Hossam El-Badry satisfied with winning start despite technical problems    Luxor's new discoveries    Moroccan film Nomades scoops awards in Alexandria Film Festival    Toshiba's JV with Egyptian Elaraby opens regional HQ in South Africa    Six authors vie for Booker prize 2019, Atwood in the lead    In Photos: A sneak peek into rehearsals for the Cleopatra ballet world premiere    Sisi: army engaged in attrition phase against terrorism in Sinai since 2013    Sisi, Ethiopia's PM to meet in Moscow to discuss GERD issue    Sisi, Ethiopia's PM agree to overcome obstacles in Nile dam talks    Farwell to Egyptian comic actor Talaat Zakaria    Court sentences six to death, 41 to lifetime imprisonment violence related case    Trump says he would release Mideast peace plan after Israeli elections    ACWA Power compares 3 bids to supply production units for Luxor power station    What do you know about gold alloying?    NBE announces EGP 2.5m prizes for handball youth teams for their world achievements    Jennifer Lopez evokes Egyptian outrage post her North Coast performance    Al-Sisi honours Egypt's scholars on Science Day    IS claims responsibility for suicide bombing killing 63 in Afghan wedding    Political parties gear up for parliamentary, senate, local elections    Unprecedented Glory: Egypt win Men's U-19 World Handball Championship    12th National Egyptian Theatre Festival fuel up public theatre art scene    Ministry of Environment has a plan for "black clouds season"    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

The cracks in the BRICS
Published in Daily News Egypt on 23 - 03 - 2012

NEW DELHI: As it prepares to hold its latest annual summit in New Delhi on March 28-29, the BRICS grouping — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa — remains a concept in search of a common identity and institutionalized cooperation. That is hardly surprising, given that these countries have very different political systems, economies, and national goals, and are located in very different parts of the world. Yet the five emerging economies pride themselves on forming the first important non-Western global initiative.
The lack of common ground among the BRICS has prompted cynics to call the grouping an acronym with no substance. To its protagonists, however, it is a product of today's ongoing global power shifts, and has the potential to evolve into a major instrument in shaping the architecture of global governance — the midwife of a new international order.
After all, the BRICS economies are likely to be the most important source of future global growth. They represent more than a quarter of the Earth's landmass, over 41 percent of its population, almost 25 percent of world GDP, and nearly half of all foreign-exchange and gold reserves. The BRICS, in fact, might also be dubbed the R-5, after its members' currencies — the real, ruble, rupee, renminbi, and rand.
At the New Delhi summit, the BRICS leaders will discuss the creation of joint institutions, particularly a common development bank that can help to mobilize savings between the countries. Currently, the BRICS countries constitute a loose, informal bloc. If the group's leaders fail to make progress on establishing an institutional structure, they will lend credence to the contention that it is merely a “talking shop” for countries so diverse that their shared interests, to the extent that there are any, cannot be translated into a common plan of action.
It was just last year that BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) became BRICS with the addition of South Africa. The BRIC concept, conceived in 2001 by Jim O'Neill of Goldman Sachs, was embraced by the four original countries only in 2008, when their foreign ministers met on the sidelines of a Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral meeting. The addition of Brazil paved the way for the first BRIC summit in 2009, which, interestingly, piggybacked on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in Yekaterinburg, Russia, that year.
That association helped the SCO — still largely a Sino-Russian enterprise — to receive more publicity, but it left the BRIC countries with little space to start formulating a unified action plan. The subsequent enlargement to include South Africa has made the BRICS a more global grouping, which threatens to render irrelevant yet another initiative, the IBSA (India, Brazil, and South Africa).
For Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa, the BRICS grouping serves as a forum to underscore their rising economic clout and showcase their emergence as global players. But, for China, which needs no recognition as a rising world power, the BRICS offers tangible — not just symbolic — benefits. As a result, China indeed has cast a lengthening shadow over the group, openly seeking, for example, to control the proposed common development bank — something that India and Russia, in particular, are loath to accept.
At a time when China is under pressure for manipulating the value of the renminbi to maintain export competitiveness, the BRICS framework offers it a platform to expand its currency's international role. As part of its quest for a global currency that could rival the dollar or the euro, a cash-rich China plans to extend renminbi loans to the other BRICS members.
Lending and trading in renminbi is likely to boost China's international standing and clout further. But its undervalued currency and hidden export subsidies have been systematically undermining manufacturing in other BRICS countries, especially India and Brazil.
Proponents of the BRICS concept nonetheless remain hopeful that the group can serve as a catalyst for global institutional reform. With existing international arrangements remaining virtually static since the mid-twentieth century (even as non-Western economic powers and nontraditional challenges have emerged), the world needs more than the halfhearted and desultory steps taken thus far. The formation of the G-20, for example, was an improvisation designed to defer genuine financial reform.
In fact, the modest measures implemented in response to the changing distribution of global power have been limited to the economic realm, with the hard core of international relations —peace and security — remaining the exclusive preserve of a handful of countries.
China is not on the same page as the other BRICS countries when it comes to global institutional reform. It is a revisionist power concerning the global financial architecture, seeking an overhaul of the Bretton Woods system. But it is a status quo power with respect to the United Nations system, and steadfastly opposes enlargement of the Security Council's permanent membership. It wishes to remain Asia's sole country with a permanent seat — a stance that places it at odds with India.
If the BRICS countries are to jell as a pressure group in international relations, they must agree on what they believe to be attainable political and economic objectives. For example, they are generally united in their frustration with — but not in their proposed response to — the dollar's status as the world's reserve currency. Indeed, the most important bilateral relationship each BRICS country has is with the United States.
The BRICS concept represents, above all, its members' desire to make the global order more plural. But it is uncertain whether the group's members will ever evolve into a coherent grouping with defined goals and institutional mechanisms. In the coming days, we might find out whether the BRICS will ever be more than a catchy acronym with an annual boondoggle attached.
Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research, is the author of Asian Juggernaut and Water: Asia's New Battleground. This commentary is published by Daily News Egypt in collaboration with Project Syndicate, www.project-syndicate.org.

Clic here to read the story from its source.