Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 46.2021
2021.11.15 — 2021.11.21
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Innovation center pumps new life into BRICS cooperation (Инновационный центр вдохнул новую жизнь в сотрудничество БРИКС) / China, November, 2021
Keywords: innovations

XIAMEN, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- Enterprises from BRICS countries are strengthening ties and finding more cooperation opportunities despite COVID-19, partly thanks to an innovation center launched last December in the Chinese city of Xiamen.

Benefited from the BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution Innovation Center, Xiamen Rockwise Information Service Co., Ltd., a stone trading platform, has attracted around 30,000 stone suppliers, including over 700 dedicated to stone imports from other BRICS countries.

Despite COVID-19, stones worth more than 60 million yuan (about 9.4 million U.S. dollars) were imported from Brazil, India, and South Africa to China in the first ten months of this year through the platform, said Lu Ni, one of the partners at the company.

Lu said the establishment of the innovation center, which focuses on policy coordination, talent cultivation, and project development, has enhanced their confidence to expand the stone business with other BRICS countries.

BRICS is the acronym for an emerging-market bloc that groups Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. It is home to over 40 percent of the world's population and about a quarter of the world economy.

The BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution Innovation Center was launched in Xiamen in December last year. At the center's inauguration ceremony in September, 28 projects with a total investment of over 13.4 billion yuan were inked by BRICS enterprises.

It has provided a foothold for companies to use technological innovation and digital transformation brought by the new industrial revolution.

Huanchuang (Xiamen) Technology Co., Ltd. is a high-tech enterprise specializing in the disposal of solid waste and service operations. Its customers are in Russia, India, and South Africa.

"The innovation center provides a new communication channel for BRICS enterprises and helps us expand overseas markets," said Li Xuefeng, deputy general manager of the company. "And the local government offers us more services involving talent and technology support."

Li's company plans to launch more high-tech products and promote their equipment and production lines. They also want to provide integrated solid waste disposal solutions to other BRICS countries.

In early November, the BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution Innovation Center held a virtual meeting with Russia's "Silicon Valley" Skolkovo innovation center to seek cooperation opportunities.

Yuri Saprykin, vice president of the Skolkovo Foundation, said the Skolkovo innovation center attaches importance to and looks forward to deepening cooperation with Xiamen's innovation center. The center expects both sides to speed up collaboration and promote the development, operation, and market expansion of Russian and Chinese entrepreneurs in the two places.

Alessandro Golombiewski Teixeira, distinguished professor of public policy at Tsinghua University, said Xiamen's innovation center is an excellent example of building the industrial revolution partnership between BRICS countries, which was meaningful not only for BRICS but a positive experience for the world. ■

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Meets with President of the NDB Marcos Troyjo (Вице-премьер России встретился с президентом НБР Маркосом Тройхо) / France, November, 2021
Keywords: top_level_meeting, ndb

Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk, who heads the Russian delegation at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), had a meeting with President of the New Development Bank Marcos Troyjo on the sidelines of event.

They discussed the results of the New Development Bank's activities, paying special attention to the current state of the bank's Russian loan portfolio and its prospects, including the provision of funding to the Russian Federation's regions and Russian corporate borrowers.

Mr Overchuk and Mr Troyjo noted the bank's important role in supporting the governments of BRICS countries during their COVID-19 response efforts and in financing economic recovery programmes.

Mr Overchuk praised the bank's work to finalise its new strategy and expressed hope that the New Development Bank would allocate funding to resolve infrastructure development and climate-related problems, and to implement energy transition tasks and digital transformation programmes, provided that it would continue to focus on infrastructure funding and sustainable development projects as its main areas of operations over the next five-year period.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
Boost from BRICS: 'Emerging' Trading Partners Are Fair Deal for Impoverished Africa (Повышение со стороны БРИКС: «новые» торговые партнеры - это честная сделка для бедной Африки) / France, November, 2021
Keywords: expert_opinion, economic_challenges

China, Brazil and India have become major trading partners for poor African countries. The emerging economic powers of Asia and Latin America are not, however, the only ones to benefit from these partnerships. Historically dependent Africa is profiting as well from these new relationships, which have more to do with efficiency than "charity."

Today, the term "rogue aid" is by no means the right way to describe the business partnerships between poor African countries and their new trading partners, especially China. This concept, which was first used in early 2007 by the prestigious American magazine Foreign Policy, conveys several clichés about the impact of this new kind of aid: deteriorating governance norms in Africa, mounting debt, de-industrialization and the piling up of non-advanced manufactured goods.

The concept is in fact inappropriate in several ways.

It is no longer necessary to state the importance of emerging countries for Africa. Using the most recent data about the African continent, the 2011 edition of the African Economic Outlook

Africa's top trading partners are China, India, Brazil, South Korea and Turkey, not only in terms of bilateral trade volume, but also because of the diversity of countries and sectors these emerging countries work with.

Which trading partners are most efficient in helping African countries reach their development goals? When it comes to infrastructure, water, transport, energy and innovation, Africa sees emerging countries as more efficient partners than the traditional donors and multilateral institutions. These results are even more striking when you think about the efforts made by traditional donors in these fields.

The economic cooperation between Africa and its emerging partners goes beyond China-Africa bilateral trade. It also goes beyond commercial exchanges, and increasingly beyond raw material extraction. The emerging partners offer more flexible financing, more appropriate expertise, technology and training, more affordable and promptly delivered infrastructure, generic drugs, machines and consumer goods adapted to Africa.

More importantly, African governments have a wider range of policy options, which means they have increased their ability to make the necessary decisions to pursue their own development goals, rather than those of their donors. This has put an end to decades of a near unilateral dependence on Western sponsors. And since Africa is a shock-prone continent, it seems wiser to depend on a larger number of trading partners and customers.

The power of choice

The China-Africa partnership isn't unique. Trade between African countries and their emerging partners has grown at dizzying speed over the past decade. Today, Africa's trade with emerging countries has doubled, reaching 40% of its total trade volume. Ten years ago, they represented only half of the trade between Africa and the European Union. Now they are on par. In 2009, China overtook the United States as Africa's top trading partner.

So is Africa moving away from a post-colonial dependence towards a Chinese one? The current trends seem much more promising: Africa can now choose its trading partners. China has not replaced the West as Africa's exclusive partner. In fact, putting the West aside, Africa's trade with all its other emerging partners represents almost twice its trade with China.

But the partnerships don't stop at trade. These new partners offer new financing mechanisms. China, India and Brazil in particular offer alternative methods of development funding. These new economic players have blurred the traditional dividing lines between investment and public development aid, between trade and aid, between the public and private sector. In terms of economic cooperation, aid is only one tool among many.

This shows a significant difference between the cooperation strategy of traditional sponsors and that of new partners. Western style "charity" emphasizes aid to reduce poverty. The "Asian" model emphasizes the partner's potential and tries to develop mutual benefits. In fact, this approach is similar to Japan's former cooperation strategy with China.

Emerging countries aren't only looking for Africa's raw materials. Many would be surprised to learn that the growth of African trade isn't solely based on its natural resources. Manufactured goods represent a growing portion of the products emerging countries import from Africa, while they are a shrinking share of Africa's trade with Western partners. Moreover, the flow of foreign direct investment is more concentrated in OECD member countries than in oil-exporting African countries.

We cannot expect a small African country to lead negotiations with major emerging countries by itself, and be treated as an equal. But today, thanks to cross-border improvements in infrastructure, African countries are benefiting from better regional cooperation and economic integration. Greater transparency from Africa's emerging partners could help dispel the remaining myths that some Africans, and too many Europeans, still too often take as truth.

Le Temps

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of InfoBRICS.

China soared while India climbed but Brazil and Russia stumbled. / By Enda Curran, Ben Bartenstein and Lizzy Burden (Китай взлетел, а Индия поднялась, но Бразилия и Россия оступились. / Авторы Энда Карран, Бен Бартенштейн и Лиззи Бёрден) / USA, November, 2021
Keywords: economic_challenges, expert_opinion

By Enda Curran, Ben Bartenstein and Lizzy Burden

Jim O'Neill wasn't trying to change the way investors and executives looked at the world twenty years ago. He just wanted to prove he was up to his new job.

Then 44 years old and the just-named chief economist of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., O'Neill was keen to be seen less of what he called a "dirty economist" pally with traders and on top of every market and central bank move. He hoped to become someone viewed as boasting the intellectual heft to lead Goldman's team of economists alone, having previously shared the role.

With the 9/11 attacks already shaking up the American-centric view of how the global economy worked, he launched a project built around a simple premise: the economic heft of Brazil, Russia, India and China was set to grow massively. The result was Global Economic Paper Number 66: "Building Better Global Economic BRICs," published on Nov. 30, 2001.

The central thesis: The global economy would in the following decades be driven by the growth of these emerging markets which had large populations to harness. It argued global policymaking forums such as the Group of Seven should be re-organized to incorporate BRIC representatives.

It took a second note from Goldman in 2003 before the idea really took off. It stretched the vision to 2050 and detailed how China's economy could become as large as the U.S.'s by 2039 with India subsequently passing Japan to become the third-biggest economy.

Two decades on and the BRICs are displaying a mixed performance, as O'Neill himself acknowledges. China soared in strength and India climbed, though both face headwinds in the pandemic era. Russia and Brazil, however, stumbled after good starts.

"I got China very right, and Brazil and Russia very right in the first decade, but the second decade for Brazil and Russia has been close to a disaster," says O'Neill.

It was after the 2003 paper that O'Neill remembers financial titans such as Blackstone Inc. Co-Founder Stephen Schwarzman began calling Hank Paulson, then Goldman's chief executive officer, to rave about the vision. One chart from the latest paper was downloaded from Goldman's website ten times more often than any other document, he says.

O'Neill found himself propelled from the trading floor and into executive suites and Davos-style gatherings.

The early 2000s worked out well for O'Neill's vision. By 2005, it was clear the BRICs grouping would meet O'Neill's projections sooner than he expected.

Buoyed by that success, in December 2005 O'Neill released a new paper looking at the Next Eleven—a grouping of developing economies, which as the name suggests were seen as the next in line for economic lift off. While the Next 11 never really gathered momentum as a concept, the BRICs continued to take off.

China was notching double digit growth rates, with India not too far behind, and record commodity exports and current account surpluses were boosting Brazil. But the gloss was coming off Russia's performance amid concerns over stalling reforms and rising inflation under President Vladimir Putin.

By the late 2000s, what started as an economic analysis had morphed into summits of the group's political leaders keen for a rival forum to Western-dominated multilateral outfits, with South Africa added to the mix. A new lender, now called the New Development Bank, was created.

When the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers sparked the global financial crisis, the BRICs initially proved more resilient than their developed peers, marking what would end up being a high point for their combined relative performance on the global economic stage.

The BRICs more than doubled their share of the global economy from 8% in 2000 to 19% in 2011, according to Bloomberg Economics.

But the going has been tougher since.

Brazil started to slow due to consumer debt and weak business confidence. Oil price volatility weighed on Russia. India was rattled by the 2013 Taper Tantrum, when the Federal Reserve signaled a winding back of its bond buying program. By August 2013, Brazil and India had been lumped into the Fragile Five grouping, coined by Morgan Stanley, to capture the economies vulnerable to investor outflows (joined by Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey). China continued to power ahead, fueled by a massive borrowing binge that Beijing's policy makers are still grappling with the legacy of even today.

Political tensions have also flared up, with Putin turning inward, scandals in Brazil and reform stumbles in India. A botched currency devaluation from China in 2015 rattled global markets and saw it backtrack on some of its market opening plans.

Some remain unimpressed with the whole concept. The BRIC term "is one of the most misleading terms used in the vernacular of finance in recent years as the four countries are much more different than they are similar," said Stephen Jen, who runs Eurizon SLJ Capital, a hedge fund and advisory firm in London.

He calculates that in the years from 2006 to about 2014, the average growth of emerging economies excluding China was 4.0%, a rate which slumped to 1.8% in the years between 2015 and 2019.

Franklin Templeton Investments and Schroder Investment Management launched BRIC-themed funds TEMBRAC and SCHBREA in October 2005, with HSBC Holdings Plc and Goldman Sachs following soon after with their own HSBBRIC and GBRAX. By 2007, Invesco Ltd. and BlackRock Inc. had launched exchange-traded funds built around those developing nations as well with EEB and BKF.

None of those investment vehicles quite lived up to the hype of the early years, though. Goldman folded its money-losing BRIC fund in 2015, merging it with a broader emerging-market portfolio. Invesco's ETF was shuttered last year in a wave of closures. The funds that remain have lagged the performance of MSCI Inc.'s developing-nation stock index.

An investment into Templeton's BRIC fund upon its inception would net a total return of roughly 130% today in dollar terms, compared with 220% and 440% for portfolios that tracked the emerging-market benchmark and the S&P 500 Index respectively, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

"BRICs was a great concept initially to talk about where you'd see some of the biggest economic growth, but it was a terrible investment thesis," said Hari Hariharan, the chief executive officer of New York-based NWI Management.

So where are we today and what's next?

The coronavirus hasn't helped. All were ravaged by the pandemic. China's aggressive zero-cases approach helped the economy roar back from its initial slump, though growth is slowing again as consumers remain cautious and the government acts to cool the property sector and rein in industries from technology to online education. Inflation surges have already prompted Brazil and Russia to lead the world in tightening monetary policy.

The kind of emerging market optimism that spurred the BRIC call 20 years ago has given way to a bleaker assessment of prospects now. Ziad Daoud, chief emerging markets economist at Bloomberg Economics, argues slipping governance, challenging geopolitics and weaker growth drivers mean the focus has shifted from "opportunities to risks." Inspired by O'Neill, he has created the "BEASTS"—Brazil, Egypt, Argentina, South Africa and Turkey—which he sees as most vulnerable due to the combination of lower reserves, weaker current account balances and higher external debt.

The International Monetary Fund reckons emerging markets will grow 5.1% this year compared to 4.5% in advanced economies and the 6.6% of 2003 to 2012. Inflation is also proving heady at an estimated 5.5% this year. More worryingly, the IMF says the pandemic's scars will last longer. It predicts total output in the advanced world to exceed its pre-crisis growth path by 2024, but the emerging world outside of China will still be undershooting by 5.5%.

Still, Bloomberg Economics forecasts emerging markets share of the world economy will keep rising to almost 60% in 2050, with India and Indonesia among the drivers. China's contribution to growth is expected to be dragged by an aging population, high debt and diminished space for easy productivity gains, but even still it remains on track to replace the U.S. as the Number One economy by the mid-2030s, with India climbing to third.

Two decades on from the acronym that made his name, O'Neill's reputation is secure. In 2010, he was made chairman of Goldman Sachs's asset management arm. He also wrote a book and sat on the board of his beloved Manchester United. Then came elevation to the U.K.'s House of Lords and a role as a minister in its Treasury, where he sought ways to boost the economy of northern England. He even chaired a review of antimicrobial resistance before becoming chairman of the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

As for the BRICs, O'Neill thinks there is still more they can do to reverse their disappointing second decade and play a greater role in global governance. One idea is for India and China is to strengthen their bilateral trading links. Another is to do more to tackle their vulnerabilities to infectious diseases.

"We are now in a much more multipolar economic order," said Oliver Stuenkel of the School of International Relations at Fundação Getulio Vargas and author of 'The BRICS and the Future of Global Order.' "That may not be because of BRICS, but the grouping symbolizes the profound change we have seen in the global economy over the past 20 years."

Moscow's Trade with BRICS States Grew Nearly 30% in 2021 (Товарооборот Москвы со странами БРИКС в 2021 году вырос почти на 30%) / Pakistan, November, 2021
Keywords: trade_relations

The trade turnover between the Russian capital and the BRICS member states in the first eight months of 2021 increased by nearly 30% year-on-year, amounting to more than $42 billion, Vladimir Efimov, Moscow deputy mayor for economic policy, have said.

BRICS is an economic bloc founded in 2006 and involves Russia, China, Brazil, India, and South Africa.

"In January-August of this year, Moscow's trade turnover with the BRICS countries reached 42.1 billion, which is 27.9% more than in the same period last year, when the trade turnover stood at $32.92 billion, and 12.5% higher than in the eight months of 2019, when the trade turnover amounted to $37.43 billion. Moscow's trade with the countries of the bloc is quite balanced, with exports to the BRICS countries accounting for some $20 billion, imports accounting for about $22 billion," Efimov said.

China leads with 92.5%, or $38.93 billion, in terms of bilateral trade with Russia over the period in question. India ranks second on the list with 6%, or $2.

52 billion, followed by Brazil with 1.1% or $0.46 billion, and South Africa with 0.5%, or $0.2 billion, according to the deputy mayor's office.

The "greatest interest" in the structure of trade between Moscow and BRICS lies within the Russian capital's non-resource non-energy exports to the bloc's member states, amounting to $1.5 billion this year compared to $1.23 billion in 2019, according to Alexander Prokhorov, the head of investment in the Moscow city government. The rate of these exports has grown by nearly a third from 2018-2020 from $2.33 billion up to $2.98 billion.

According to the Mosprom Export Support Center, an arm of Prokhorov's department, Moscow's 2021 non-resource non-energy exports to China amounted to $1.11 billion, to India to $340.13 million, to Brazil to $20.45 million, and $27.38 million to South Africa. Moscow exports to BRICS countries include mainly industrial goods, including mechanical equipment, plastic products, electrical devices, communication equipment, among others, it added.

Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Putin says BRICS' role should carry more clout globally (Путин считает, что роль БРИКС должна иметь большее влияние во всем мире) / Russia, November, 2021
Keywords: vladimir_putin, quotation, global_governance

MOSCOW, November 18. /TASS/. The role of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) in the world should be more substantial, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated on Thursday.

"In international affairs, the role of BRICS should be more prominent and meet the growing potential of the member countries," he said at the extended board meeting of the Foreign Ministry.

Putin pointed out that BRICS "covers over 40% of the world's population and more than a quarter of the planet's land area."

He assured that Moscow will continue to actively participate in the development of both BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). "Concrete steps should deepen the partnership within the SCO. It is one of the most influential centers of the multipolar world, and a multipolar international architecture which contributes to guaranteeing stability and sustainable socio-economic growth in the Eurasian region," the Russian president stressed. "It is in our interests to ensure that SCO member states coordinate foreign policy activities more closely, particularly at the UN, as well as at other international platforms," the head of state added.

President Vladimir Putin's remarks at the expanded meeting of the Foreign Ministry Collegium, Moscow, November 18, 2021 (Выступление президента Владимира Путина на расширенном заседании Коллегии МИД, Москва, 18 ноября 2021 г.) / Russia, November, 2021
Keywords: vladimir_putin, quotation, global_governance

Mr Lavrov, colleagues,

I would like to welcome everyone here to the expanded meeting of the Foreign Ministry Board. Today, our agenda is focused on the implementation of Russia's foreign policy and priority tasks for the future, taking into account the adopted amendments to the Constitution, which also concern foreign policy.

Importantly, our Fundamental Law has now sealed such basic ideas and values as loyalty to the homeland, respect for our native tongue, history, culture and traditions of our predecessors. This is everything that unites our people around common ideals and determines the vector for the development of the sovereign, independent and peace-loving Russian state, an active member of the international community.

We will also fix the specific areas of foreign policy, of our diplomatic work in today's difficult international conditions in the new version of the Foreign Policy Concept that is now being drafted. This document, along with the National Security Strategy endorsed this summer, will, actually, become a roadmap for the Foreign Ministry and other ministries and departments.

The main thing is that our foreign policy should continue ensuring the most comfortable and secure conditions for Russia's development, resolving ambitious socioeconomic tasks and improving the living standards of our people.

With this in mind, Russia is committed to developing partnership and mutually beneficial constructive relations with all countries and regional associations. We will proactively participate in international efforts to counter common challenges and threats which, unfortunately, still include terrorism and cross-border crime, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, poverty, inequality, climate change and environmental degradation.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia is set to continue to firmly uphold the fundamental principles enshrined in the UN Charter such as sovereignty and equality of states, non-interference in their internal affairs, fair settlement of disputes and of course, the key role of the UN in addressing international problems.

Our proposal to hold a summit of states – permanent members of the UN Security Council, which bear special responsibility for maintaining international peace and stability, is in line with this principled approach.


The coronavirus pandemic – we will have to talk about this as well, since there is no way around it given the circumstances – has seriously disrupted the usual course of life around the world. Last year – and the [Foreign] Minister just mentioned this – we were unable to even get together for our traditional meeting at the Foreign Ministry with the ambassadors and Russia's permanent representatives. In fact, we began to work in a new environment.

But here is what I would like to emphasise. I have spoken about this more than once. Despite the ongoing measures, the pandemic is far from being overcome, and the risks of more waves of the disease coming our way are quite likely, and not a single country will be able to isolate itself from them. So, Russia calls for establishing actual cooperation in fighting this insidious disease on an equal and fair basis. Achieving success and defeating the virus is impossible without this.

Recently at the G20 summit, I proposed expediting the mutual recognition of national vaccine certificates and urged our partners to act promptly – you have probably seen this. It is of the essence for reviving global business and tourism activity and, in general, bringing life back to normal.

Of course, in this context, the role of the World Health Organisation (WHO) is increasing. Its work should be supported in every way. It could be even more active in mass immunisation, and in particular, could speed up the prequalification of new vaccines and medications, that is, the process for assessing their quality, safety and efficacy.

Another growing challenge is climate change. Russia is addressing it, proposing out-of-the-box initiatives. Clean nuclear energy and hydropower, gas power generation, as well as the enormous absorptive capacity of our forests and ecosystems have made our country one of the leaders in the global decarbonisation process. We meet all our commitments under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.

Recently, a major decision was taken to implement a new programme to improve energy efficiency in the economy by 2035, and this is only the first stage. The programme will be part of a broader plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 at the latest. This does not mean it cannot be achieved earlier – I said, not later.

Our diplomacy should be more active in countering attempts by the European Union and the United States to assume the right to dictate the climate agenda single-handedly and to create standards for it, although we saw how difficult discussions in Glasgow were and how many questions they had between themselves. But we are not calling for dissent; on the contrary, we are calling for a search for mutually acceptable solutions. Incidentally, overall we should proceed from the premise that Russia has taken an advanced position in the green transformation and in digitisation in all economic industries and areas of life.

Regarding other priorities for the diplomatic service, I would like to mention the need to pay more attention to strengthening ties with our compatriots abroad, protecting their interests and preserving pan-Russian cultural identity, as well as to simplifying the procedures for granting Russian citizenship to them. Yes, I realise that this problem is at the junction of several ministries and departments, but the Foreign Ministry should also deal with this. In general, we should map out the best ways for using the creative potential of the millions of Russians around the world.

Obviously, it is necessary to continue creating an atmosphere of friendship, security and cooperation in the post-Soviet space. To achieve this, we need to expand our relations with our partners in the Commonwealth of Independent States, with whom we are bonded by historical, cultural and simply human ties.

The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) is a key integration association. The EAEU goal is to create a common market for goods and services, capital and workforce. Consistent promotion of integration is already producing results for the participating states, driving their economic growth and helping improve the wellbeing of their citizens. We should use such achievements to involve new members and partners in the orbit of this organisation.

Considering the risks and challenges arising along the perimeter of our borders, we should pay special attention to joint efforts with our allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). In the last few decades, the CSTO has seriously contributed to the maintenance of stability in Eurasia. We should steadily promote our cooperation in the CSTO and use it in practice for the reliable protection of the national interests, sovereignty and independence of its members.

We should also enhance, through practical actions, our partnership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). This is one of the most influential centres in the multi-polar world, multi-polar international architecture. It is substantially facilitating stability and a sustainable socioeconomic growth in Eurasia. It is in our interests to achieve closer foreign policy coordination between its members, primarily in the UN, and other international venues.

Of course, we will develop cooperation in BRICS in the same vein. BRICS brings over 40 percent of the world's population together and occupies more than a quarter of the Earth's land area. BRICS should play a bigger role in international affairs and match the growing potential of its participants.


Traditionally, our diplomacy is actively involved in settling regional conflicts. Unfortunately, the number of these conflicts and crisis situations around the world is multiplying, requiring more attention and swift response.

Of course, Ukraine's internal crisis is among the most pressing and sensitive issues for us, which has so far remained unresolved. Demonstratively, Ukraine has failed to fulfil its obligations under the Minsk Package of Measures, as well as the Normandy format agreements. In other words, our Normandy Quartet partners – Germany and France – do not dispute the importance of the Minsk agreements. By the way, we must not forget that the Minsk agreements have become a norm of international law since the UN Security Council adopted the relevant resolutions. Unfortunately, in reality, [Germany and France] are indulging the current Kiev leadership's course on dismantling the [Minsk agreements], which, unfortunately, has led the talks and the settlement itself into a dead end.

Nonetheless, it is important to energetically continue the mediation efforts in the Contact Group and the Normandy format, since there are no other international mechanisms to promote an internal Ukrainian settlement, and there is no alternative to implementing the Minsk agreements in full.

Importantly, our Western partners are exacerbating the situation by supplying Kiev with modern lethal weapons, conducting provocative military exercises in the Black Sea and other regions close to our borders. With regard to the Black Sea, this even goes beyond certain limits since strategic bombers, which carry very serious weapons, fly at a distance of only 20 kilometres from our state border.

Indeed, we constantly express our concerns about these matters and talk about red lines, but of course, we understand that our partners are peculiar in the sense that they have a very – how to put it mildly – superficial approach to our warnings about red lines. We remember well NATO's eastward expansion – the audience here is quite representative and professional. Despite the fact that relations between Russia and our Western partners, including the United States, were nothing short of unique, and the level of relations was almost allied, our concerns and warnings regarding NATO's eastward expansion have been totally ignored.

There have been several waves of expansion, and let's look at where the military infrastructure of the NATO bloc is now – anti-missile defence systems have been deployed right next to our borders in Romania and Poland. These can easily be put to offensive use with the Mk-41 launchers there; replacing the software takes only minutes. Nevertheless, our recent warnings have had a certain effect: tensions have arisen there anyway.

In this regard, I have two points to make. First, it is important for them to remain in this state for as long as possible, so that it does not occur to them to stage some kind of conflict on our western borders which we do not need, we do not need a new conflict.

Second, Mr Lavrov, it is imperative to push for serious long-term guarantees that ensure Russia's security in this area, because Russia cannot constantly be thinking about what could happen there tomorrow.

Clearly, and I can see this despite the fact that many people are wearing face masks, but I can tell by their eyes that there are sceptical smiles with regard to whether we can count on and hope for serious agreements in this area, keeping in mind that, after all, we are dealing with, to put it mildly, not very reliable partners who can easily backtrack on any previous agreement. Nevertheless, as difficult as it may be, we need to work on this, and I want you to keep that in mind.

It is also impossible to ignore that Western countries are using the migration crisis on Belarus-Poland border as a new reason for tension in a region close to us, for putting pressure on Minsk, while at the same time forgetting their own humanitarian commitments. Just look how the Polish security forces are behaving at the border – you can watch it on the internet or on television. The first thing that comes to mind is those poor children, there are small children there. And they are shooting water and tear gas at the crowd, throwing grenades. At night, helicopters fly along the border, sirens are howling.

I remember well how in 2014, when the Polish government, trying to stop the use of similar equipment by law enforcement forces in Ukraine – [Viktor] Yanukovych was President then – how they said it was unacceptable to use such means against the civilian population. What are they doing now?

Indeed, we know and understand that Belarus has its problems, although domestic political tensions have calmed down, but the problems exist, and yes, we are well aware of this and we certainly support a dialogue between the authorities and the opposition. But Russia, for its part, will undoubtedly continue its policy of strengthening ties and deepening integration with Belarus. We are determined to implement all 28 recently adopted Union State industry programmes to develop a common economic space, and go on to pursue coordinated macroeconomic, tax, banking and credit policies.

A year ago, Russia's vigorous mediation efforts helped curb the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, but the recent shootings on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border have shown that the region has not yet fully stabilised. The efforts of the Russian peacekeeping contingent, as a guarantor of the ceasefire and the civilian population's security, are essential to ensure stability.

Undoubtedly, Russian diplomacy is playing a growing role in further efforts to settle disputes between Azerbaijan and Armenia, restore economic ties and unblock vital transport corridors in the South Caucasus. We have established an interstate commission at the level of deputy prime ministers. It is working, and I think it has good prospects. All countries of the region, including Russia, are interested in the long-term resolution of these problems.

There are serious challenges with respect to Afghanistan, especially after the US withdrawal from that country. In further contacts with the Taliban, it is necessary to make more active use of the formats of the Moscow consultations and the consultations of the extended "Troika" with the participation of external players and neighbours of Afghanistan with a view to promoting civil peace and public order, neutralising terrorist structures and drug crime.

Developments in Afghanistan dictate the need for additional measures to ensure Russia's security on its southern borders and provide assistance to our allies – Central Asian states that consider Russia to be a guarantor of regional stability. It is necessary to continue acting in this vein, taking measures to prevent uncontrollable refugee flows and stop terrorists and other criminals from crossing our border.


We have repeatedly noted the centre of gravity of the world's politics and economy steadily shift from the Euro-Atlantic to the Asia-Pacific. So, we should continue vigorously developing relations with the states of the Asia-Pacific Region, being guided by our ambitious initiative to create the Greater Eurasian Partnership as a common, broad and open space of security, mutually beneficial economic and humanitarian cooperation.

We will continue strengthening ties with our good neighbours and friends in the People's Republic of China. Our bilateral ties have now reached the highest level in history and amount to a comprehensive strategic partnership. It is possible to say that they are a model for effective interstate cooperation in the 21st century.

Naturally, this is not to the liking of everyone. Some of our Western partners are openly trying to drive a wedge between Moscow and Beijing. We are well aware of this. Together with our Chinese friends, we will continue responding to such attempts by expanding our political, economic and other cooperation, and coordinating steps in the world arena.

Russia has a similar approach in relations with India, our specially privileged strategic partner. We intend to build up our truly multifaceted bilateral cooperation. We regard India as an independent, strong centre of the multipolar world. We have a similar foreign policy philosophy and priorities.

Cooperation between Russia and ASEAN contributes to maintaining stability and security, as well as ensures sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific. It is important to deepen and improve, in every possible way, the experience we have accumulated over 30 years of productive political, economic and social cooperation with ASEAN.

It is equally important to maintain the intensive work with our partners in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, consistently implementing existing initiatives for post-pandemic economic recovery, stimulating trade in goods and services, investment and technological exchange, and expanding humanitarian contacts.

Russia has always acted and will continue to act as an impartial mediator to resolve conflicts and crises in the Middle East and help stabilise that region in every possible way. Our direct involvement contributed to defeating international terrorism in Syria, preventing the country from disintegrating, and to launching the intra-Syrian settlement process under the auspices of the UN, as part of the Astana format with Turkey and Iran.

Russian diplomacy should continue to contribute to the normalisation of relations between Syria and the Arab countries and an early return to the League of Arab States, as well as to enlist international assistance to improve the humanitarian situation in that country.

Assisting in the advancement of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is of fundamental importance for the improvement of the situation in the Middle East. We need to continue balanced and purposeful work with all parties to the Libyan conflict, to direct them towards finding a compromise. Overall, forging a truly friendly, pragmatic and non-ideology based dialogue with all states in the Middle East remains our unconditional priority.

Russia intends to continue to focus on cooperating with the African states, building comprehensive and mutually beneficial ties. By the way, this was the purpose of a recent decision to strengthen the staff of the Africa Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As you know, in 2019, Sochi hosted the first Russia-Africa summit; the parties are exploring the possibility of holding the next meeting in 2022.

With regard to Latin American and Caribbean countries, this region has always been interested in cooperating with Russia, and interest is growing, especially in the wake of our major supplies of vaccines and medicines to combat the coronavirus. We have formed a circle of countries on the continent that we traditionally maintain good and close relations with, and this circle is expanding, so we need to keep this process going.

Regarding European affairs, I have to state with regret that the opportunities for cooperation continue to narrow. Even though the EU remains our leading trade and economic partner, the previously rather productive Russia-EU cooperation is currently experiencing major difficulties.

The EU continues to push us back with its sanctions, unfriendly actions and unfounded accusations while ignoring the obvious benefits of interaction in politics, the economy and culture. We must not forget that we are neighbours and, as we know from history, dividing lines on the continent have never led to anything good. Of course, Russia is interested in maintaining neighbourly and constructive ties with the European countries, but everything depends on our partners' willingness to establish and maintain equal and respectful cooperation.

A similar, if not more depressing, situation prevails in our relations with NATO which has adopted a markedly confrontational stance and is stubbornly and demonstratively bringing its military infrastructure closer to our borders, as I mentioned earlier. Moreover, NATO was the one that broke our dialogue mechanisms. Of course, we will provide a proper response to NATO's military activity along Russia's borders, but, most importantly, Brussels must understand that alleviating military-political tensions is not only in Russia's interest, but also in the interest of Europe and the world in general.

Out of the blue, they expelled our diplomats without providing any reason for doing so, and then they take offence at us closing their [diplomatic] mission in Russia. Why take offence? This was their initiative. They did it with their own hands and then started looking for someone to blame. Well, if they do not want to cooperate with us, okay, don't, it is not that we are desperate to cooperate with them. I think they will want to, they are already sending signals that they want to cooperate, but why did they expel our diplomats just like that, out of the blue, for no reason? Is it some kind of sport for them?

This also applies, by the way, to Russia-US relations, which, as you know, largely underlie global security and stability. At this point, these relations, to put it mildly, are in an unsatisfactory state. The diplomats from both countries are experiencing major problems. Embassy staffs have been cut and the embassies cannot function properly, let alone systematically engage in expanding bilateral ties. These are the consequences of the provocative policy pursued by US authorities, which began to practice large-scale bans and restrictions for Russian diplomats five years ago.

Our property in the United Sates has been seized in violation of every international standard and rule, every single rule. They have grossly violated the rules, just took our property and that was that – where is the Vienna Convention now? They even refuse to talk to us about it. Isn't this strange, in the seemingly civilised world we live in? Or it is not so civilised after all.

Nevertheless, the summit with President Biden in Geneva last June opened up a few opportunities for a dialogue and gradual alignment, straightening out our relations, and it is important that both sides consistently expand the agreements reached.

Indeed, something is already being done, this much must be admitted: joint work has begun on the strategic stability and information security agenda. True, our interests, assessments, and positions on many bilateral and international issues differ – this is indeed so and everyone is well aware of it – sometimes the difference is dramatic. However, I would like to say this again, we are open to contact and an exchange of views, to a constructive dialogue.


The points that I made here show that the diplomatic service is definitely shouldering a heavy burden, which is constantly increasing. You have to work under very difficult and challenging conditions. The state will continue to heed any pressing problems with diplomatic service employees, and to strengthen their social guarantees.

We have made a few steps towards this in the past few years. Two basic laws have been adopted – on the diplomatic service and on the status of Russian ambassadors and permanent representatives in foreign states. A new remuneration system has been introduced, which increased the incomes of employees at the Foreign Ministry headquarters. The headquarters was slightly upsized, and the Foreign Ministry's proposals on expanding Russia's diplomatic and consular presence in a number of CIS countries have been approved, too. We will continue to keep all these matters under review, and to support useful initiatives from the top Ministry officials.

To conclude my remarks, I would like to thank all the employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their high-quality and dedicated work, and to wish them every success.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to again express my special gratitude to the diplomatic service veterans, who could not join us in this room today for obvious reasons, and I would ask you to convey to them my best wishes of good health and happiness.

Thank you for your attention.

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