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Future of BRICS: BRAXIT or ‘Power Next’?

Niroshika Liyana Muhandiram

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The club of emerging political and economic powers of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa in response to new global challenges is famously known as BRICS. Since its inception in 2006, it has been a platform to highlight the prominence of multi-polar world order challenging the collision of G-7 members. These five countries account for 20 percent of world GDP and 40% of the world population. Further, they hold 40 percent of gold and hard currency reserves. Being collectively the largest market, their cumulative GDP has tripled in the last ten years.

With the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro on 28th October 2018, many are skeptical about the future of the BRICS as he comes from the far-rightwing camp which seems to be antagonistic to the BRICS. Brazil is the most populous nation in South America with the world’s eighth-largest economy of the world. Bolsonaro wants Brazil to be great as Trump wants America to be great. Even during Bolsonaro’s campaign period, he has reiterated that his foreign policy would be changed from his precursor. Further, he is a follower of conservative Christianity who profoundly believes in restoring Judeo-Christian tradition against communism.

With this scenario, the future of BRICS has been subjected to controversial as to Jair Bolsonaro would lead Brazil to exit the BRICS moving towards the pro-western camp. Another argues that this collision would last long due to their close trade relations. 

The Origin of BRICS

In 2001 the term BRIC was firstly coined by Jim O’Neill, a British economist in a paper written for ‘Global Economic Paper’ of Goldman Sachs using the acronym stands for Brazil, Russia, India, and China. The first summit was held in 2009 at Yekaterinburg, Russia emphasizing the need of reformations to be made to the international financial institutions. In 2011, South Africa became a member of this group at the third Summit held at Sanaya, China making BRIC into BRICS. The primary purpose of BRICS is to broaden the cooperation among members and enhances the support for multipolar world order. It is mainly an indication of the movement of world power from the west to the South.  Since the inception BRICS conducts its annual summit of heads of the states to youth forums though the members don’t have their own permanent executive body or a secretariat.

Functions of BRICS

Two main functions of the BRICS are, to 1) liaise with meetings and international organizations such as IMF and G-20 Grouping and to 2) design a framework for BRICS members for multi-sectoral cooperation. Today it covers more than 30 sectors including agriculture, science and technology, culture, outer space, think tanks, Internet governance and security, social welfare, intellectual property, health, and tourism.  The forum called BRICS Business Council promotes and strengthens business, trade and investment ties amongst the business communities of the members. Think Tank Council formulates long term economic strategies of the members.

Further initiatives have been made for establishing New Development Bank (NDB) to finance the infrastructure projects in emerging economies and developing countries and also for entering into Contingent Reserves Arrangement (CRA) to promote mutual support among the members in situations of instability in the balance of payments. Demands have also been made to reformulate the IMF but, they were not yet successive because of the resistance caused by the Western power. Moreover, the BRICS are open to cooperation and constructive engagement with other countries, as well as open with international and regional organizations in dealing with current global issues.

Despite this, one of the vital political demands that the BRICS has made to the United Nations Organization is to expand the number of members of the Security Council covering the BRICS members and making decisions of the UNO more democratic and accountable. This shows the importance of BRICS to balance the prevailing world order and also to voice for the global south in international relations.

Challenges Ahead

However, as it is mentioned the foreign policy of Bolsonaro is opposite to the leftist approach which was a blessing to accelerate the activities of BRICS. It is more similar to the protectionist approach followed by the US President, Trump. Once, Bolsonaro said at a press conference as “It is about aiming for a great Brazil like that – the way Trump wants America to be great”. This approach is contrary to the joint statement made at the 2nd summit of the heads of the states held at Brazil where the members pledged to resist all forms of protectionism and fight disguised restrictions on trade. Further, criticisms made concerning multilateralism and pulling out Brazil from Global Compact for Migration also support Bolsonaro’s protectionist approach. With respect to the crisis in Venezuela, Bolsonaro supporting the USA rejects Nicolas Maduro as the duly elected President, while all other BRICS members accept Maduro as democratically elected president.
Moreover, distant relations between China and Brazil also a reason to make BRICS in a more controversial position.  With the Xi Jinping’s rise in China from 2013, China took the leadership of the BRICS group and proposals were made at the Fortaleza Summit in 2014 to establish NDB to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies, as well as in developing countries. However, Bolsonaro’s far right and anti-communist ideology is contrary to fundamental policies of China. His early visit to Taiwan and South Korea and China’s reaction on his visit has greatly influenced on assuming Bolsonaro would choose between BRICS and OECD members.

 Nonetheless, since 2009 China is the top trading partner of Brazil and on the other hand export of soy to China from Brazil is as crucial as the arrival of Chinese investment into Brazil. According to a recent study carried by the Started Charted Bank, China will become the largest economy of the world in 2020. Hence, though there is much ideological dissimilarity, both the countries are dependent on each other concerning their trade relations.

Conclusion

If Bolsonaro is more driven by his far-right ideology than by pragmatism, he will not deal closely with the BRICS members. However, it is difficult to assume that he will abandon this BRICS group as Brazil is highly dependent on Chinese imports. It would be challenging for him to dramatically shift in his trade relations having with China and also with Russia. More importantly, in the middle of this year, it is Brazil’s turn to host the BRICS summit of 2019. Though there are no valid reasons for BRAXIT, i.e. for Brazil to exit from BRICS, Brazil would not be an active player in BRICS making BRICS into the most powerful allies of the South as it happened during LuizInácio Lula da Silva’s tenure. Skepticism arose even when Narendra Modi appointed as Prime-Minister in India coming from the far right wing that how BRICS is going to maintain cooperation among members with the rivalry between India and Russia. Further, Brazil was not prominent in BRICS during his predecessors Dilma Rousseff and Michel Temer’s period. Conversely, it’s not only stance of Brazil has been changed even China doesn’t seem to be willing to invest much on the BRICS as in the past. As Lord Palmerston once stated, “in international relations, there is no eternal allies and no perpetual enemies. Only the interests are eternal and perpetual”. Hence, BRAXIT seems to be far away than we assume.

Niroshika Liyana Muhandiram is a Lecturer attached to the Legal Studies Department of the Open University. She has completed her LL.M in International Law from the South Asian University, New Delhi, India winning the Gold Medal for the Excellent Academic Performance of the Faculty of Legal Studies of the South Asian University. Her special areas of focus are Public International Law, International Investment Law, Commercial Arbitration and Constitutional Law.

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The power of symbolism: Mexico’s Foreign Policy

Lisdey Espinoza Pedraza

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A few weeks ago, the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) took the decision to grant asylum to Evo Morales after he fled the country amidst allegations of vote tampering and electoral fraud. The decision of Morales to flee Bolivia clashed with several internal crisis in other Latin American countries. This has made the region highly unstable and harder to predict:  Argentina is struggling with a power transition; massive demonstrations that have led to widespread violence in Chile, Colombia and Ecuador; the unlikely possibility to restore democracy in Venezuela; and an early rift between the Argentinean and Brazilian presidents that may deteriorate soon. Polarisation seems to be taking its toll on the region.

AMLO’s decision should not come as a surprise. Mexico has a long tradition of providing asylum to leftist leaders that can be traced back to the 1930s: Leon Trotsky, José Martí,  Fidel Castro, Spanish refugees fleeing the 1936-1939 civil war; Mohammed Reza, Rigoberta Menchu, among others. So, what made the situation of Evo Morales different?

Mexico’s asylum tradition goes hand in hand with a doctrine of non-intervention: The Estrada Doctrine that means that Mexico should take no position on another’s government legitimacy. AMLO violated this precept by being vocal about his support to Evo Morales and his regime in Bolivia. Secondly, while in Mexico, Morales, far from keeping quiet on politics, he simply felt at home and openly urged his supporters to boycott the new administration of Jeanine Añez.

What happened in Bolivia and the subsequent diplomatic conflict between Mexico and the new interim administration only served to further divide an already highly fragmented Latin America: There are two sides on the same matter: Uruguay, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela have backed up the idea of a coup d’état; while Perú, Brazil, Colombia and the United States have endorsed the idea that it was an electoral fraud. The decision of the current administration to go to such lengths for Evo Morales contrasts sharply with the questionable treatment migrants have received in the southern and northern border of the country. Morales was soon to abandon Mexico: After just a few days in Mexico, he left for Argentina, a move that should not be taken as a surprise: Argentina is swerving away from the foreign policy the former president Mauricio Macri endorsed. This change is thought to be product of the influence of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, vice-president of Alberto Fernández, the current president. Fernández de Kirchner was known for having a close relationship with Evo Morales. His sudden departure could also be the result of a subtle order from the United States.

The way Mexico dealt with the Morales issue highlights an important change in Mexican foreign policy if compared to the one followed by previous administrations. While AMLO has taken a decidedly non-interventionist stance towards Nicaragua, Venezuela and more recently he declined to comment on the American attack on Iran, he was very eager to make his stance clear in the Bolivian crisis.

AMLO is a president that has relied on symbolic acts to keep his electoral base satisfied. Starting from his presidential campaign, he repeatedly stated that the best foreign policy is domestic policy, and he has, since the start of his administration, stuck to this principle. AMLO has focused on numerous domestic trips that aimed at strengthening his fourth transformation project. Domestically, he has sold his presidency as transformative, however, when it comes to his stance on foreign policy, he is stuck on al old fashioned 1930s principle: The Estrada Doctrine.

If we went by what he promised during his electoral campaign, one would expect a much more aggressive foreign policy towards the United States, and specifically towards Trump. He is, however, focused on symbolic issues which will not translate unto economic or safety improvements to keep his high approval ratings. Apart from the very specific case of Bolivia, AMLO’s foreign policy has remained muted and isolated. We should not confuse his sudden support for Morales as AMLO embracing a leftist foreign policy. He has never had such an inclination. By offering asylum to Morales, he tried to give the impression that Mexico was an inclusive and supportive state that has open doors. Nonetheless, with the US next door, Mexico cannot really remain completely sovereign. This asylum process was more a symbolic action than a real shift in foreign policy.

Just last week, AMLO also declared that he has reoriented his foreign policy towards gender equality. Again, another power of symbolism if one looks at Mexico’s feminicide  and gender-violence statistics, they are shaming. Such a foreign policy would prioritise gender equality, protect human rights of women and marginalised groups along with equal pay, and gender parity. Domestic policies again fail to provide such a framework for Mexican women. It’s hardly likely this will go beyond what it is: another symbolic promise that aims to appease those critical of his administration.

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George Washington’s Advice to Us Now

Eric Zuesse

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U.S. President George Washington’s final words to his fellow Americans, upon leaving office, are now even more timely than when he spoke them, but have been ignored in practise for many decades; and the most recently published popular book about that speech ignores the most enduringly important part, so this part of Washington’s Farewell Address will be quoted from here, and will be placed into its historical context, so as to make clear what the central meaning in that speech is for our times, and for all times.

John Avlon (former speechwriter for Rudolf Giuliani, and before that, schooled at Milton Academy and then Yale) was recently the Editor-in-Chief of the rabidly anti-Russian — or “neoconservative” — ‘news’ (or propaganda) site “The Daily Beast.” He issued on 10 January 2017, right before the neoconservative Donald Trump became President, Washington’s Farewell: The Founding Father’s Warning to Future Generations, which book is an extended essay on President George Washington’s famous Farewell Address. That work wins 4.5 out of 5 stars at Amazon, but I am not linking to it, because that book ignores what will be discussed in this brief article, which is the core of the speech that Avlon devotes 368 pages to butchering.

Here, then, is the key passage from Washington’s Farewell Address, in which our first (and — along with Lincoln and FDR, one of our three greatest) President actually had warned us against the neoconservative path, which our nation has been on ever since 24 February 1990 and the end of the USSR and its communism and its Warsaw Pact military alliance. That’s the path of wars (such as in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine) (which some wags call “perpetual war for perpetual peace”) to conquer, first, all of Russia’s allies, and then finally (once Russia is thus thoroughly isolated), to conquer Russia itself — in other words, George Washington, when retiring from public life, warned us against Mr. Avlon’s own neoconservative foreign-affairs obsession: eternal enmity against Russia (President Washington warned us, instead, to avoid eternal enmity against any nation, including Russia, as is indicated in this passage, which Avlon’s trashy book ignores): 

Nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils. Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Such “temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies” includes The Allies (England, Soviet Union and U.S.) during World War II, but certainly nothing after the Soviet Union and its communism and Warsaw Pact ended in 1991. The entire ‘Western Alliance’ — basically NATO plus Japan — is anti-American policies by the American aristocracy (controlling the U.S. Government) after 1991, and should therefore promptly terminate, and U.S. armed forces be withdrawn from all foreign countries, in accord with the will and intention of America’s democratic Founders including President Washington. Using the U.S. Defense Department, and the U.S. Treasury Department, as (which neoconservatives do) a vast welfare program for the super-wealthy owners of U.S. weapons-manufacturers and for U.S. and other mercenaries, is unauthorized by America’s Founders, and was explicitly condemned by George Washington.

If any U.S.-based international corporations need those foreign U.S. military bases, then they should pick up all of the government’s tab to pay for them, because that kind of ‘capitalism’ is mere imperialism, which is nothing that any of our Founding Fathers advocated — it’s un-American, in terms of the U.S. Constitution, and the men who wrote it.

AsAlexander Hamilton wrote on 9 January 1796, in defending the new Constitution, and especially its Treaty Clause: “I aver, that it was understood by all to be the intent of the provision [the Treaty Clause] to give to that power the most ample latitude to render it competent to all the stipulations, which the exigencies of National Affairs might require—competent to the making of Treaties of Alliance, Treaties of Commerce, Treaties of Peace and every other species of Convention usual among nations and competent in the course of its exercise to controul & bind the legislative power of Congress. And it was emphatically for this reason that it was so carefully guarded; the cooperation of two thirds of the Senate with the President being required to make a Treaty. I appeal for this with confidence.”

He went further: “It will not be disputed that the words ‘Treaties and alliances’ are of equivalent import and of no greater force than the single word Treaties. An alliance is only a species of Treaty, a particular of a general. And the power of ‘entering into Treaties,’ which terms confer the authority under which the former Government acted, will not be pretended to be stronger than the power ‘to make Treaties,’ which are the terms constituting the authority under which the present Government acts.” So: there can be no doubt that the term “treaty” refers to any and all types of international agreements. This was the Founders’ clear and unequivocal intent. No court under this Constitution possesses any power to change that, because they can’t change history.

Furthermore, the third President Thomas Jefferson said in his likewise-famous Inaugural Address, that there should be “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.” Jefferson’s comment there was also a succinct tip-of-the-hat to yet another major concern that the Founders had regarding treaties — that by discriminating in favor of the treaty-partners, they also discriminate against  non-partner nations, and so endanger “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations,” which was the Founders’ chief goal in their foreign policies. But, the Founders’ chief concern was the mere recognition that treaties tend to be far more “permanent” and “entangling” than any purely national laws. This was the main reason why treaties need to be made much more difficult to become laws, and so the two-thirds-of-Senate requirement for passing-into-law any treaty was instituted as the Treaty-Clause, Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2

Though this thinking — avoidance of favoritism in America’s foreign policies — was pervasive amongst the creators of America’s democracy (or people’s republic), America’s newly developed aristocracy subsequently in the 20th Century targeted elimination of the two-thirds-of-Senate requirement, because it’s an impediment toward their re-establishing the aristocracy that the American Revolution itself had overthrown and replaced by this people’s republic. And, the big chance for the aristocracy to restore its position via an imperial President, and so to extend their empire beyond our own shores, came almost two hundred years after America’s founding; it came in 1974, which was when a law finally became passed by Congress allowing some treaties to emerge as U.S. law with only the normal 50%+1 majority in the Senate (unConstitutional though that is). Without that Nixonian law, George Herbert Walker Bush’s NAFTA wouldn’t have been able to become law under Bill Clinton in 1993, and Barack Obama’s TPP with Asia and TTIP with Europe wouldn’t have stood even a chance of becoming law in 2016. Both of Obama’s proposed mega-treaties were designed to isolate and weaken both Russia and China in international trade, but all that Obama ended up with, before his leaving office, was economic sanctions against Russia for its having accepted the desire of the vast majority of Crimeans to rejoin with Russia after Obama’s Ukrainian coup overthrew the democratically elected President of next-door Ukraine, who had received 75% of the vote within Crimea.

Avlon’s website, as a mainstream neoconservative ‘news’ site, opposed Donald Trump as being insufficiently against Russia. They actually urged punishing Russia for Trump’s election! What would George Washington think about having a person (Avlon) so partisan against George Washington’s vision for our country as that, becoming the popular modern ‘interpreter’ of his famous Farewell Address? Would he like that? What would George Washington, and America’s other early Presidents, think of a country which advances such a person as that, to be a commentator and host at CNN, Editor-in-Chief at The Daily Beast, and a favorably received ‘historian’ of the United States? 

This is certainly not the nation that they founded. This ship — now become the wrecker of nations and aspiring global dictator — abandoned its home port in 1945, and hasn’t returned ever since.

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Trump defender Dershowitz: the ‘torture warrant’ guy

Iveta Cherneva

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Alan Dershowitz is joining Trump’s legal impeachment team, with the impeachment trial starting in Senate on Tuesday. Leave aside the string of his questionable former clients — Dershowitz is the “torture warrant” guy.

Not long ago, he used to argue that US judges should be able to authorize torture by the US government. The prohibition of torture was and remains a universal jus cogens norm of the highest order among international human rights norms from which no derogation can be made. This is a legal constant universally known by lawyers and something you can’t mess with, irrespective of the circumstances.

It is not a surprise then that someone with that kind of tortured reading of the law will be defending Trump. Only a tortured reading of the US Constitution can exonerate Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump showing up in Davos is a well-coordinated PR trick. By coincidence, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnel starts the impeachment trial exactly on Tuesday when Davos begins and Mr. Trump will be addressing the World Economic Forum. Whether Davos will outshine the US President’s impeachment trial start is questionable.

This all shows how eager Mr. Trump is to show that his international reputation has not suffered, for suffered it has.

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