Chinese President Xi Jinping pushes for expanded Brics-Plus

Chinese President Xi Jinping, flanked by South African President Jacob Zuma and Brazilian President Michel Temer, at the opening ceremony of the Brics Business Forum in Xiamen yesterday. Mr Xi said the bloc should "promote the Brics-Plus approach to
Chinese President Xi Jinping, flanked by South African President Jacob Zuma and Brazilian President Michel Temer, at the opening ceremony of the Brics Business Forum in Xiamen yesterday. Mr Xi said the bloc should "promote the Brics-Plus approach to build an open and diversified network of development partners".PHOTO: REUTERS

Bloc is no talk shop but a 'task force that gets things done', says Chinese President as he lauds successes of grouping

Chinese President Xi Jinping has lauded the successes of a grouping made up of the world's five major emerging economies amid doubts over its relevance.

Speaking yesterday on the eve of the annual Brics summit in the south-eastern Chinese city of Xiamen, he also emphasised that the bloc was no talk shop but a "task force that gets things done".

Mr Xi also pushed the Chinese concept of a Brics-Plus approach of involving other emerging markets and developing countries in the Brics forum, an idea first mooted earlier this year.

Brics gathers Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa from four continents with disparate political and economic systems, giving rise to scepticism of its ability to cooperate effectively. Uneven development of the members - China and India have had high growth rates while the others have hit speed bumps - and political turmoil in Brazil and South Africa have added to the bloc's challenges.

Still, reviewing the Brics' first 10 years - the bloc was formally established in 2006 - Mr Xi noted that the bloc's combined gross domestic product has grown 179 per cent, trade has increased by 94 per cent and urban population has expanded by 28 per cent.

The bloc has contributed "significantly to stabilising the global economy and returning it to growth", he added.

"The past decade has seen Brics countries advancing results-oriented and mutually beneficial cooperation," he said in a speech at the Brics Business Forum. "Leveraging our respective strengths and converging interests, we have put in place a leaders-driven cooperation framework that covers wide-ranging areas and multiple levels."

He noted that the bloc's New Development Bank and Contingent Reserve Arrangement have contributed to enhanced global economic governance and the building of an international financial safety net.

Showing his ambition for the bloc, he said: "Our goal is to build a big market of trade and investment, promote smooth flow of currency and finance, improve connectivity of infrastructure and build close bonds between the people."

Figures cited yesterday by Chinese Vice-Minister for Commerce Wang Shouwen, however, showed that there was much room for growth in Brics cooperation.

According to Mr Wang, trade among the five members makes up just 6 per cent of their total foreign trade. Mutual investment makes up just 5 per cent of the five countries' total foreign investments.

Even so, China is pushing the idea of expanding Brics. Mr Xi said yesterday the bloc should "promote the Brics-Plus approach to build an open and diversified network of development partners".

"We should get more emerging markets and developing countries involved in our concerted endeavours for cooperation and mutual benefits," he said.

Since 2013, Brics host nations have invited non-Brics countries to take part in dialogues on the sidelines of the bloc's annual summit.

China, however, appears to be suggesting a formal platform for cooperation between Brics members and non-members.

The Brics-Plus plan will be discussed at the current summit, which ends tomorrow. China has invited leaders of five countries - Mexico, Guinea, Thailand, Egypt and Tajikistan - to take part in a dialogue with Brics members.

Apart from Brics-Plus, today's summit will seek consensus on actions to support a multilateral trade system and oppose trade protectionism as well as discuss trade liberalisation and people-to-people exchanges.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2017, with the headline 'Xi pushes for expanded Brics-Plus'. Print Edition | Subscribe