International Conference “BRICS: Prospects for Cooperation and Development”
In 2011-2013 the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation launched a series of seminars together with the Russian Foreign Trade Academy and the UN Development Program. These seminars were organized as a part of the expert consultations mechanism on BRICS cooperation, growth, trade and development. The goal was to discuss the prospects of cooperation, that is why the participation of experts and representatives of all the BRICS countries was essential. This discussion note is a brief summary of the seminars and proposals made by the experts. This is not an official position of the parties, it is an experts' opinion suggested for discussion to promote BRICS cooperation.
The seminars were attended by the official representatives of BRICS countries, the representatives and experts of UNDP, UNIDO, UNESCO, WHO, and the experts from BRICS countries’ organizations: University of the Amazon, Federal University of Brasilia, Getulio Vargas Foundation, National Confederation of Industries (Brazil), Russian Foreign Trade Academy, HSE International Organizations Research Institute, National Committee for BRICS Research (Russia), CUTS International, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (India), Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Development Research Center (DRC) of State Council (China), University of Johannesburg, Institute for Global Dialogue (South Africa) and others.
While forming the seminars’ agenda the experts suggested three priorities for BRICS cooperation development. The brief outcomes of discussion are presented in the following sections:
- Challenges of sustainable development in BRICS countries and problems of “green” protectionism;
- Support for small and medium innovative enterprises in BRICS;
- BRICS and Africa: new opportunities for cooperation.
1. Challenges of sustainable development in BRICS countries and problems of “green” protectionism
Rapid growth of BRICS countries, growing income and the role of BRICS on the international arena make the following issues increasingly important: sustainable development including green economy, renewable sources of energy, cooperation in the sphere of knowledge exchange, spread of technologies in this area. In trade area the issue of countering protectionism, including related to inconsistent environmental requirements and regulations, is getting more and more important.
It is vital to intensify the efforts to make all the economies greener, including BRICS economies, that account for more than a quarter of the global GDP (in PPP). Consequently, it is important for BRICS countries to analyze the compatibility of the national legislation, to elaborate and adopt new carbon emissions regulation. At the same time, it was stressed that transition to green growth should take into account national interests and capacities of individual economies.
Given that BRICS countries are environmental donors, it is their common interest to establish compensation mechanisms that would account not only for obligations of BRICS countries arising from the existing and emerging international environmental standards and requirements, but also contribution of these countries to maintaining and preserving the global ecosystem, including provision of oxygen for the atmosphere.
The economic indicators that is generally used do not properly reflect the environmental factors and countries' inputs. Therefore, it is relevant for BRICS to support the elaboration of a system of indicators that would take into account the environmental parameters of the economic growth and development, and promote the use of such indicators.
Many developing economies are technologically and financially unable to elaborate and adopt in a short period of time the most advanced environmental technologies, and to ensure fast transition to the low-carbon economy. BRICS countries could use the synergy effect both for their own needs and for the developing countries through establishing market mechanisms for the spread of environmental technologies, clean and renewable energy sources on the basis of technological platforms (dialogues).
Another promising sphere for BRICS cooperation is the analysis and monitoring of non-tariff trade barriers related to application of environmental requirements. A risk of green protectionism is becoming increasingly significant in international trade. Pursuing development of trade in BRICS it is important to intensify information cooperation, primarily on requirements and standards applied in the partner-countries, given that different groups of countries adopt their own regional environmental standards. It is also reasonable to monitor the development of new environmental requirements in OECD countries and analyze their influence on trade and investments, to elaborate a common position on the use of such measures.
Green economy in general and low-carbon economy in particular require a new environmental way of thinking and training of qualified personnel in this area. To achieve this, it is necessary to elaborate joint approaches towards changing the existent mechanisms of resources consumption, to elaborate and implement joint educational programs and to promote cooperation among educational institutions in respective areas.
An efficient way to intensify cooperation is to establish BRICS network of research organizations and think tanks, and to prepare expert surveys on these issues. The results of such surveys can be presented at BRICS expert meetings; they can be used in the CGETI work. In the result of this work a number of proposals may be presented to BRICS ministers and leaders. Such surveys may cover the following topics:
- Implementing the concept of sustainable development and green economy in BRICS countries, choosing indicators reflecting BRICS’ interests;
- Market mechanisms of climate policies in BRICS countries, prospects of development and implementation of national systems of emissions trading;
- Addressing obstacles in development of renewable energy sources in BRICS countries;
- Assessing needs and potential of personnel training on economic aspects of international environmental regimes and new international mechanisms with environmental goals.
2. Support for small and medium innovative enterprises in BRICS
Development and support for SMEs are the most important priorities of social and economic development in all BRICS countries. Given that future agenda of BRICS growth includes development of high value-added industries, and active elaboration and adoption of innovations, a promising issue of BRICS joint agenda is the development of small and medium innovative enterprises.
This issue covers exchange of experience and dissemination of the best practices of public regulation and support for SMEs, adoption of initiatives contributing to the ease of doing business (especially in the field of innovations), establishment of a favorable business environment through streamlining registration procedures and public regulation, reducing administrative barriers and providing an equal access to public support.
All BRICS countries show good results in establishing institutions of innovative development – business incubators, technological parks, special zones etc.; a shift is made from financial state support for SMEs to other types of support – marketing, organizational, educational, infrastructural and information support that are essential for creating demand for innovative products. Joint seminars, consultations with experts and managers, exchange of experience among BRICS countries would raise the efficiency of measures on entrepreneurship support and would contribute to their internalization.
Another area of cooperation development is the exchange of experience and implementation of measures aimed at integration of SMEs into global value chains, and development of their relations with large companies. All BRICS countries are interested in developing joint potential for expanding export of innovation products. It means that it is a relevant topic and that there is a significant interest in information and organizational support for exchange of information on markets and opportunities of innovative companies, more close cooperation not only at the bilateral level, but also at the regional level. A friendly environment and better access to IPR protection, and cooperation development among micro- and venture financing institutions are also of high importance for development of SMEs’ innovative activity.
3. BRICS and Africa: new opportunities for cooperation
African development agenda has a distinctive relevance for BRICS, due to its members’ engagement, international position and a special role at the intersection of developed and developing countries. This is based on the idea that the region’ natural, agricultural and human resources are essential for global development. Africa becomes a new center of growth for the global economy. Thus, many African countries have already developed ambitious growth and development plans supported by their achievements in poverty reduction, maintaining rapid economic growth, and strong commitment to developing and harnessing the substantial human and mineral resources. However, a number of obstacles, including underdeveloped infrastructure and issues of food security and health, do not allow to keep up stable economic development without external assistance.
For African countries, BRICS is a relatively new source of financing. Africa's importance for BRICS is explained by the activity of African countries in mineral production, infrastructure development, agriculture and health support. All BRICS countries actively launch bilateral projects in Africa. These projects could consolidate the experience, skills and technologies from various BRICS countries and contribute to economic growth and development in Africa.
BRICS countries possess unique agricultural technologies and experience and could assist in improving food security, including through development of a long-term incentive strategy for small agricultural businesses; development of natural risks insurance; human capacity building and creating relevant institutions; enhancing interaction with donors by improving transparency and mainstreaming the interests of African farmers; establishment of BRICS technology platforms (dialogues) in crop production, animal and food production.
Apart from capacity building, establishing the required infrastructure and financing pharmaceutical R&D, BRICS countries may assist in developing health system by enabling the application of modern health technologies, including telecommunication techniques and remote healthcare.
As for the investment projects and development of mineral resources in Africa, BRICS countries may enhance their cooperation with African countries, especially by assiting them in drafting standards and pursuing an environmentally responsible investment and social policy taking into account the aspects of involving local workforce and the interests of local communities.
Considering the capabilities and matching interests of BRICS countries and African states, cooperation will contribute both to the development of African economies and the growth of the entire global economy. Moreover cooperation between African countries will become an additional opportunity for growth, development and improving their influence in the world economy.