BRICS meeting warms-up Pretoria

Monday, June 4, 2018

The BRICS Foreign Affairs Ministers kicked off their second formal meeting in a cold Pretoria this morning. 

The meeting, which is in preparation for the 10th BRICS Summit taking place in July, started with all around acknowledgement of the long-standing cooperation among BRICS countries, as well as calls for strong multilateralism. 

“Over the last 10 years, the BRICS Agenda has evolved and expanded beyond the economic focus that initially brought us together, to also include global political, security and social matters. 

“There can be no doubt that our shared commitment to BRICS will bear fruit and we will make advances in confronting our common challenges and realising our common objectives for peace, harmony and greater representation in global governance institutions,” Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said at the opening of the meeting. 

The meeting was attended by Sisulu’s counterparts - China's Wang Yi, Russia’s Sergey Lavrov, India’s Sushma Swaraj and Brazil’s Marcos Galvão. 

As such, the ministers meeting today discussed practical cooperation amongst the BRICS states, the current international political situation, as well as the role of BRICS in the implementation of the UN’s Agenda 2030. 

Global geo-political realities

But it was the global geo-political realities which made the meeting timely. 

“We meet in the face of multilateralism under siege; when the integrity of international agreements can be hastily and expediently compromised; when more and more countries take an inward-looking position at the expense of others,” Sisulu said. 

The Minister was referring to the refusal of Washington to renew a temporary exemption of the European Union (EU) from tariffs on steel and aluminium imports which has been met with worldwide criticism. 

In March, the US administration decided to impose a 25-percent tariff on steel imports and a 10-percent tariff on aluminium imports, despite worldwide objection.

Sisulu said the BRICS forum must reassert its collective responsibility of providing new perspectives and solutions to the current international order.  

“As we work collectively, not only in our interest but in also advancing the interests of our shared global community, we must do so with a view to protect the sacred and shared values of multilateralism and international law that underpin our union,” the Minister said, adding that the evolving world requires of BRICS countries to keep track with its multifaceted and dynamic changes.  

Legacy of Madiba

South Africa is the current chair of the union until December which coincides with the Centenary commemoration of the world icon, former President Nelson Mandela. 

Minister Sisulu told her counterparts that South Africa’s BRICS Chairship will therfore be anchored in building on the legacy of Madiba, as well as on the achievements of the past decade of BRICS Summits in order to further enhance BRICS cooperation and guide countries into the new era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

New areas of BRICS cooperation

Already South Africa has proposed new areas of BRICS cooperation, which include a working group on peacekeeping, the establishment of a vaccine research centre, the establishment of the BRICS gender and women forum, the BRICS strategic partnership towards the advancement of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as well as the establishment of the BRICS Tourism Track of Cooperation.

The 2018 Summit will be an important milestone for BRICS cooperation, as it represents a decade of BRICS collaboration at the highest diplomatic level. It will culminate in the adoption of the Johannesburg Declaration, which will include BRICS’ commitments for the year ahead.

BRICS support Pretoria in hosting summit

Member countries from BRICS used their opening statements to express full support for Pretoria in hosting the summit.

Russia called upon all nations to adopt a comprehensive approach in combating terrorism, including countering radicalisation and blocking terror financing sources.

Speaking through an interpreter China’s Wang Yi said this summit will be a new page for BRICS cooperation. 

“In the face of the global challenges, BRICS countries must stand at the forefront of global trends to respond to people’s needs. We must speak strongly on multilateralism.”

Looking into the future, Wang said the BRICS countries need to intensify their cooperation in order to secure a shared future.

“We need to deport our cooperation, dig into a new driver force of innovation ... dialogue and mutual trust and developmental issues for developing countries.”

Brazil's Marcos Galvão used his address to reaffirm calls for reforms of the UN and UNSC in order to be more responsive and to respond to challenges of the changing world. 

Swaraj for her part hoped that the deliberations will contribute towards enriching intra BRICS cooperation further. 

BRICS progress since 2011

Already, there has been substantive progress achieved since South Africa joined BRICS in 2011, as seen in the launch of the Africa Regional Centre of the New Development Bank (NDB) in South Africa.

The formation has strengthened its cooperative mechanism for institutional development, most notably witnessed in the creation of the NDB and the recently launched Africa Regional Centre in Johannesburg.

The five BRICS countries account for 26% of the world's landmass and are home to 43% of the world's population. The bloc is composed of emerging markets and the developing world. -