BRICS Trade Ministers have affirmed their commitment to a multilateral trading system as a tool to promote greater inclusivity.
“…Unilateralism is now placing the future of the multilaterism system at risk and we reaffirmed our commitment to a multi-lateral trading system. Many of us expressed the view that a multilateral trading system needs to become the tool to promote greater inclusivity and lessen inequality in the world,” South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister, Dr Rob Davies, said.
Speaking to SAnews following what he regards as a fruitful and constructive engagement of BRICS Trade Ministers in Magaliesburg, Davies said the Ministers have agreed to update work they have done previously.
“We have agreed to update some work which we did before, which is to identify areas where we are complementary in trade and to emphasise those. We have a cooperation programme on technical standards, which is going to support the exchange in information and I am aware that these are major issues in international trade now,” he said.
Earlier at the opening session of the meeting -- which follows on the one held in Xiamen, China last year -- Davies said today’s meeting comes at a time of great turbulence in the global environment.
“We are seeing disruptive and destructive behaviour by the current leadership of the world’s largest economy. It’s not just that tariffs have been raised. It is that a little used justification of national security has been used to raise tariffs above WTO [World Trade Organization] bindings and to apply them not on the basis of the rule without discrimination, but discriminatorily applying them to some of us and not to others,” Davies said.
This, the Minister said, is a matter of great concern “because it is weakening the multilateral trading system, weakening the rules based trading environment that we have all gotten used to”.
Davies, however, conceded that the multilateral system is “not perfect” and that negotiations on the WTO agenda in terms of the developmental mandate remain largely unfinished.
The Minister bemoaned the issue that there is aggressive action aimed at rebalancing the global trading system in the partisan advantage of one player.
The Minister’s comments were echoed by the Chinese Assistant Minister of Commerce, Li Chenggang, who (speaking through a translator) said the world’s largest economy “is behaving like a bull in a china shop”.
In May, Cabinet expressed its disappointment at the decision by the United States not to exempt South Africa from the application of steel and aluminum duties.
US President Donald Trump signed proclamations granting permanent country-exemptions to a select number of countries and extended by one month the Section 232 steel and aluminium tariff duty exemptions for some.
The proclamation follows the 8 March proclamation signed by President Trump to impose a 10% ad valorem tariff on imports of aluminium articles and a 25% ad valorem tariff on imports of steel articles. This excluded select countries namely Canada, Mexico, the European Union, South Korea, Australia, Argentina and Brazil.
Significance of BRICS
Davies said the coming together of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) is extremely important, as these countries represent about 22% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).The bloc is a significant force that many parts of the emerging world look to.
He told SAnews that South Africa has expressed its concern on the flexibilities around public health and intellectual issues among others.
The meeting also heard of progress made in other member states in the bloc, with the Brazilian Deputy Minister for Industry, Foreign Trade and Service, Yana Dumaresq, saying that in recent times, the country has signed 30 agreements with BRICS members.
She urged BRICS countries to facilitate more trade among each other, while the other Ministers called for strengthened cooperation to protect multilaterism.
The meeting also endorsed a practical cooperation mechanism, as well as an action plan that will enhance cooperation on various aspects on intellectual property.
They also agreed on a practical approach to promote trade and value added products.
SA’s membership of BRICS
Meanwhile, Small Business Development Minster Lindiwe Zulu said South Africa is honoured to hold the Presidency of BRICS in 2018. She said the 10th BRICS Summit to be held from 25 July comes at a time when there is increased anti-globalisation sentiment.
“We are meeting at a time when there are unprecedented challenges facing multilateral systems. We are also witnessing a rise in anti-globalisation sentiments due to lack of inclusive growth.
“We need to position the BRICS partnership differently and ensure that it contributes to inclusive growth and that development is at the centre of everything that we do in order to change the world.”
Zulu said South Africa, which joined BRICS in 2011, takes its participation in the bloc seriously.
“We do believe in this partnership and we will do everything we can to make sure that this partnership grows. No doubt, individually BRICS countries are important and influential globally but even more so through the alliance we have forged.” - SAnews.gov.za