10th BRICS Conference of Trade Ministers Sees Multilateral Trade, Regional Development
July 27, 2020 (EIRNS)—The Tenth annual meeting of the BRICS Trade Ministers took place July 23 (virtually) in Moscow. Despite being overshadowed by the COVID pandemic—which has consumed three of five BRICS countries, save China and Russia—and related collapse, the focus was on how best to resume economic activity in the wake of the lockdowns. While videos of individual presentations are not available, local press coverage, combined with the Joint Communiqué, provide the following picture.
With global supply lines—the heart of globalization—shattered by the virus, BRICS members have been forced to develop domestic manufacturing and, especially, food production, and want to see this “regionalism” maintained and expanded during recovery. Although there were mentions of working within the WTO framework, there will be no going back to “just in time” or other now-exposed platitudes of free trade monetarism.
Speaking from hard-hit South Africa, the country’s Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel opened his comments stressing that “solidarity and working together is critical” both to fighting the pandemic, and for recovery. “African countries are learning the hard lesson,” Patel said, “that if we are simply exporters of raw materials and importers of medication, medical equipment and other critical goods, then our ability to ensure protection of citizens in moments like these, is compromised.” Later he stressed the need for non-globalized world economy, “including significant infrastructure investment and developing greater levels of dynamism and competitiveness in domestic industry.”
Although generalized, the final communiqué reflects this outlook, in part: “We agree to work together with the aim to improve the functioning and inclusive participation in global supply chains, as well as global and regional value chains that were affected by the pandemic,” they wrote. “We agree to work together with the aim to improve the functioning and inclusive participation in global supply chains, as well as global and regional value chains that were affected by the pandemic.”
This is further reflected in the conclusion, “We acknowledge that the BRICS countries have done significant work for development of their vast remote and rural areas, and that there is a need to further enhance infrastructure, provision of services and employment opportunities.... Taking note that the pandemic has forced temporary contraction of opportunities for physical interaction, we acknowledge that establishment of digital infrastructure can help overcome poverty and achieve sustainable development.”
The BRICS countries are looking towards a meeting of Foreign Ministers in September.