The Business Forum and the Business Council have emerged as central pillars of the BRICS formation. These are the words of President Cyril Ramaphosa who joined his four counterparts at the conclusion of the business segment of this year’s BRICS summit in Brazil.
He lauded the strong economic ties between the five leading emerging economies as critical in finding common ground to common challenges.
The Presidents of China and Russia also took a veiled swipe at the United States over trade policies that have not only hurt the global economy but also made a stronger argument for the strengthening of BRICS.
Stronger Together was the sentiment at the summit and not a rugby ball in sight, as the five leaders bolstered the case for closer ties in a world of growing uncertainty.
Ramaphosa says, “Key countries in the global economy face slowing growth, complex changes to their trading relationships, or a turn away from the open rules-based global trading system. For business people, these challenges are felt in slowing investment opportunities, more costly and complex trade, and rising uncertainty. I am confident that the BRICS countries can overcome these challenges.”
He says South Africa remained committed to supportive governance and undertaking economic reforms aimed at developing an entrepreneurial state while highlighting Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area as a future boon for the region.
“In creating a unified African Free trade area, we aim to turn this underlying human potential into an opportunity for shared and sustainable growth. Realising this potential will require partnerships and will offer an opportunity for BRICS countries to join us in building infrastructure, sharing knowledge and creating local manufacturing capacity.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping says, “Mounting protectionism and bullyism are eroding international trade and investment and weighing down the world economy and I’m sure this is something you know too well from your direct participation in this global value chain. The current circumstances make it highly relevant for us to hold this BRICS business forum and half in-depth discussions on such topics on trade and investment facilitation, innovation and infrastructure development.”
Sentiments echoed by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Putin says, “A consequence of this global recession is the fact that we have witnessed the extensive use of unfair competition, unilateral sanctions and protectionism. In such conditions, BRICS countries have to undertake very serious efforts in order to ensure the development of their economies and not let the social situation, level of life and welfare of our population decrease.”
With little clue as to some of the deals that might emerge from this forum, the Chair of the South African Chapter of the BRICS Business Council, Busi Mabuza says, “The deal, there’s a deal pipeline that we are going to be presenting to the heads of state later this evening (Wednesday)… give us a snippet… may I do that another day.”
Earlier, Ramaphosa was welcomed by the energetic beats of the Brazilian Batala Group in an outreach engagement with African Ambassadors credentialed to Brazil.
The South African delegation arranged the side event with African Ambassadors in the absence of the more formal outreach segment of BRICS that normally sees regional leaders invited to attend the summit much like Ramaphosa was invited to the G7 in Canada last year.
Officials say Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro refused to host the outreach without Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido in attendance, something the other BRICS leaders would have rejected as they continue to recognize Nicholas Maduro as the legitimate President.
Making the final day of political engagement on Thursday all the more interesting to observe.
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