Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 13.2022
2022.03.28 — 2022.04.03
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Revisiting the R5 Paradigm (Пересматривая парадигму R5) / Russia, April, 2022
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues

The rise in geopolitical risks has notably accentuated the topicality of de-dollarization and the use of national currencies in financial transactions. One of the cases in point was the discussion between China and Saudi Arabia on the possibility of using Chinese Yuan for settlements in lieu of Saudi's oil deliveries to China. Back in 2017 the Valdai Club advanced the R5 initiative that was meant to bolster financial settlements and transactions in the national currencies of BRICS members.

An extension of this initiative was the R5+ concept that involved the extension of the use of national currencies not only to BRICS members but also to the regional partners in regional integration arrangements and the respective regional development institutions. In the 5 years that passed since the Valdai club introduced the R5 initiative several developments have rendered its implementation more feasible.

As noted in the original Valdai article on the R5 concept, "the "R5 initiative" targets the use of the respective national currencies of BRICS countries – Rouble (Russia), Rand (South Africa), Real (Brazil), Rupee (India) and Renminbi (China) – within the BRICS+ circle and more broadly in the world economy. The elements of such a strategy may include measures to boost trade and investment among BRICS+ (cooperation between the respective RTAs to create more scope for the use of national currencies), cooperation between development institutions in using national currencies to fund investments and long-term projects, creation of common payment card systems and common settlement/payment systems, cooperation in promoting BRICS+ currencies towards reserve currency status".

Perhaps the most important development throughout the past five years that favours the use of national currencies was the notable rise in the mutual trade amongst the BRICS economies as well as their regional partners. One of the most powerful drivers here is the rise in China's share of global trade, most notably within the Global South. In Russia's case there is the record-high level of trade turnover with China in 2021 at nearly 150 bn US dollars after a rise by more than a third compared to 2020. There is also a rising role of China in the world's investment flows, with China's development institutions actively funding the infrastructure expansion across the wide terrain of the Global South within framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Another crucial driver for the R5+ initiative is the significant progression of regional integration initiatives across the Global South. In particular there is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) led by China and the ASEAN economies. In Africa the key integration initiative is the African Continental Free Trade Area launched in 2018. Another important development is the rising coordination among the regional integration blocks and the signing of the respective memoranda between the Eurasia Economic Union, MERCOSUR and ASEAN.

The possible scope for the use of national currencies within the R5 paradigm has also been broadened in recent periods via the expansion in the membership of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB). In particular, among the new members of NDB is United Arab Emirates whose currency could be used in mutual settlements within the R5+ circle as well as transactions undertaken by NDB itself. There are other new members of the New Development Bank such as Egypt and Bangladesh with a significant weight in their respective regions that may also increasingly be involved in R5+ financial transactions.

This year the R5+ initiative should be underpinned by the BRICS+ platform launched by China in 2017 and expected to be rekindled this year during China's BRICS Chairmanship. The BRICS+ initiative has the potential to expand the scope for using national currencies via strengthening the trade and investment cooperation between the BRICS economies and their regional partners. An important role in the nexus between the BRICS+ and the R5+ initiatives will be the cooperation platform for the regional development institutions where BRICS countries and their regional partners are members. Such development institutions may include regional development banks such as the Eurasian Development Bank and/or regional financing arrangements (RFAs) such as the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization or FLAR.
The implementation of the R5+ initiative has the potential to expand not only the scope for the use of national currencies but also with time increase the number of reserve currencies coming from the developing world. It will also allow for a reduction in financial risks associated with "currency mismatches" and the fragilities associated with high levels of debt. The scope for de-dollarization in the global economy remains sizeable in view of the decades long "dollarization overstretch" and the imbalances that this has generated across the global economy.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
BRICS countries to serve as cornerstone of emerging world order — Russian diplomat (Страны БРИКС станут краеугольным камнем формирующегося миропорядка — российский дипломат) / Russia, March, 2022
Keywords: expert_opinion, quotation

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov recalled that they account for nearly half of the world's population and a large share of the world GDP

MOSCOW, March 30. /TASS/. The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) will serve as a cornerstone of an emerging world order, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told the RT television broadcaster.

"I believe that the BRICS countries, which account for nearly half of the world's population and a large share of the world GDP, will serve as a cornerstone of an emerging world order," he said.

He stressed the BRICS countries' significant role in protecting international law and struggle against the Western countries' sanction policy.

"We know that in each country there are certain nuances related with the problems they face, but now we are united in protecting international law and our efforts to overcome arbitrary, illegitimate, unilateral sanctions that have become the sole political instrument in the United States and other countries," Ryabkov said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24 said that in response to a request from the leaders of the Donbass republics he had made a decision to conduct a special military operation. He stressed that Moscow's plans did not envisage an occupation of Ukrainian territories. The Russian Defense Ministry said that its forces were refraining from strikes against Ukrainian cities and smart weapons were being used to put military infrastructure out of order. The civilian population is not at risk.

A number of countries, including Western ones, imposed harsh sanctions on Russia. The European Union, the United States, Canada, Britain and Japan introduced restrictions on Russia's financial sector and the export of high technologies. Also, they blacklisted Russian politicians, bankers and other individuals.

Rubles for gas "most serious blow" to American interests – expert (Рубли за газ — «самый серьезный удар» по американским интересам — эксперт) / Russia, April, 2022
Keywords: expert_opinion, economic_challenges

Paul Antonopoulos, independent geopolitical analyst

European countries were stunned by Russia's demand that gas be paid in rubles as they seemingly expected the Eurasian country to be sanctioned and locked out of Western financial mechanisms without retaliation. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on March 31 that he had signed a decree forcing buyers from "unfriendly countries" to pay for Russian gas in rubles from April 1, warning that contracts would be halted if these payments were not made.

Although the companies and governments of "unfriendly countries" have rejected the move as a breach of existing contracts, which are set in euros or dollars, French economy minister Bruno Le Maire said his country and Germany were preparing for a possible scenario that Russian gas flows are halted - something that would plunge Europe into a full-blown energy and economic crisis.

Although the halt of gas supplies to Europe could see Gazprom lose about half of its profits and reduce investment, it will have an even greater negative consequence on the European energy sector. Europe will not be able to quickly replace Russian gas with LNG supplies from the United States and Qatar, and as a result, European gas prices could rise to $5,000 per 1,000 cubic meters or even higher, which will force a consumption reduction and hit the economy.

Charles Michel, head of the Council of Europe, presented the EU Programme on ensuring energy security. He stressed that eliminating dependence on Russian energy sources is at the heart of the program as, according to him, it is necessary to quickly get rid of Russian carbon hydrogen and then fossil fuels in general.

However, it is clear that even without the current global energy crisis caused by the lack of gas supplies, it would still be impossible to find a short to medium term solution to replace Russian sources. In this way, EU states, the UK, the US and other listed unfriendly countries will have no choice but to engage in rubles trade if they want to continue receiving Russian energy and not let their economic situations worsen.

Speaking about changes in the global economic system following sanctions and Russia's responses to the financial hostilities, Serbian geopolitical analyst Borislav Korkodelovic said: "IMF and World Bank data also show that it is becoming increasingly easy for the rest of the world to reject the demands of the West because it is no longer as economically omnipotent as it once was."

"Even when it comes to nominal GDP, the difference between the BRICS countries on the one hand, and the EU and the US on the other, is narrower (24% to 30% before the pandemic and now it is even smaller). When the GDP is calculated relative to the parity of purchasing power, the stakes have already been replaced: 45% to 44.1% in favor of BRICS."

For his part, Serbian lawyer Branko Pavlović said that Russia, China and India had a key part in building a new global economic system that is more equitable, as it should have been after the Second World War.

"This is a fight for a whole new international relationship and a return to multilateralism with respect to the sovereignty and equality of states, as envisioned after World War II, but now with incredible economic momentum to the general benefit. Everyone around the world understands that America and the West have been exploitative so far. We are now witnessing a new internationalism of liberation," said Pavlović.

This sentiment was shared by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov who said that BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) will be at the center of a new world order and stressed that the demand for rubles "is not a change in the terms of [energy] contracts," but rather "a protection of Russian interests."

It is this very drive to protect Russian interests that has forced Putin's hand to demand rubles for energy. In fact, sanctions against Russia have only forced an accelerated change to the global economic system as de-Dollarization is being explored by nearly every major non-Western country.

Alfredo Jalife-Rahme, a Mexican political scientist, said that London, Washington and Beijing agree that there is a weakening of globalization. He stressed that "Moscow's demand that your gas is paid in rubles" is an example of "the dismantling of the globalized model in the energy framework."

Jalife-Rahme also explained that "the financial globalization with the predominance of the dollar generated annual profits of 1 trillion dollars for the United States, about 10% of the global GDP. The change of this paradigm may be one of the most serious blows of the Ukrainian situation to American interests."

The West thought that it could economically collapse Russia, ignoring that sanctions failed to topple Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, Iran's Ayatollah's, Kim Jong-Un and Nicolás Maduro. Rather, sanctions have only forced an acceleration of the de-Dollarization of the global economy. In effect, the demand for rubles for gas is pushing forward a multipolar and more equitable global economic system.

World of Work
BRICS International Scientific and Practical Conference to Be Held in October (Международная научно-практическая конференция БРИКС пройдет в октябре) / Russia, March, 2022
Keywords: social_issues

On 25-26 October 2022, the International Scientific and Practical Conference "BRICS Scientific, Technological and Innovative Cooperation" will be held.

Conference organizers: Russian National Committee on BRICS Research, Institute of Scientific Information for Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences (INION RAS).

The purpose of this conference is a constructive discussion of strategies, key problems, challenges and mechanisms of innovative technological development and cooperation of the BRICS countries.

Leading Russian and foreign experts, representatives of relevant ministries and departments, business structures, political parties and public organizations, media are invited to take part in the conference. Participation of students with reports and comments will not be considered. Participation of leading experts can be offline, online and by correspondence.

The following issues will be discussed at the conference:

- Global trends of scientific, technological and innovative development;

- National interests of the BRICS countries in the field of scientific, technological and innovative development;

- Goals, objectives and main mechanisms of modernization of the technological base and scientific complex of the BRICS countries;

- The place and role of scientific, technological and innovative development in the implementation of the national development goals and strategic objectives of the BRICS countries;

- Mechanisms for project and program implementation of modernization strategies, innovative and scientific and technological development of the BRICS countries;

- Innovative policies in the BRICS countries: principles, priorities, strategies and mechanisms for their implementation;

- Scientific, technological and innovative cooperation in the modern world;

- Goals and objectives of scientific, technological and innovative cooperation of the BRICS countries;

- Priorities and strategic areas of scientific, technological and innovative cooperation of the BRICS countries;

- Main barriers to the development of scientific, technological and innovative cooperation;

- Targets and performance indicators for scientific, technological and innovative cooperation of the BRICS countries;

General requirements: clear and reasoned presentation of the problem(s) under consideration, mandatory representation and practical relevance of assessments, conclusions and recommendations.

Participation in the conference and publication of materials are free of charge.

BRICS int'l journalism online training program concludes (Программа онлайн-обучения журналистов БРИКС завершилась) / China, March, 2022
Keywords: media, social_issues

BEIJING, March 28 (Xinhua) -- An online journalism training program for media professionals from BRICS countries concluded Monday.

Lasting three months, the BRICS International Journalism Online Training Program saw seasoned journalists and renowned academics from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa give lectures to 25 trainees from the five countries, covering topics including BRICS cooperation, news reporting and the Beijing Winter Olympics, among others.

The trainees also took part in extensive exchanges regarding multiple hot topics in the media sector, including the digital transformation of media outlets from BRICS countries, as well as the society and cultures of the five countries.

Trainees spoke highly of the training program, which, they said, not only effectively helped media practitioners from BRICS countries improve their professional skills, but also provided them with a rare opportunity to enhance mutual understanding and friendship.

The program was jointly launched by the member institutions of the BRICS Media Forum's presidium -- China's Xinhua News Agency, Brazil's CMA Group, Russia's Sputnik International News Agency and Radio, India's The Hindu, and South Africa's Independent Media.
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