BRICS expresses interests of global majority

BRICS has already surpassed the Group of Seven in terms of purchasing power parity: the group accounts for 35.6% of the global GDP, while the G7 accounts for 30.3%.

Russia took the rotating presidency of the BRICS group in 2024. Yury Ushakov, Russian presidential foreign policy aide, has granted TASS an interview in which he previewed Moscow’s priorities, prospects for BRICS development and expansion, and commented on the West’s attempts to impede the association’s activities. Main points:

– First of all, I would like to say that cooperation within BRICS is undoubtedly one of the key features of Russia’s long-term foreign policy. Interaction with the association’s members meets the fundamental national interests of our country and fits in well with our systematic policy of forming a fair multipolar world order and creating equal opportunities for all countries to develop.

– As the Russian president said in his message published on January 1 on the occasion of the beginning of Russia’s BRICS Presidency, in 2024 we will focus our efforts on promoting the entire range of partnership and cooperation within the framework of the association on three key tracks – politics and security, the economy and finance, and cultural and humanitarian ties. All these three guidelines are of fundamental and equal importance. They have been identified as the priorities of the Russian Presidency, which will be held under the common motto: “Strengthening Multilateralism for Equitable Global Development and Security.”

– Let me emphasize that Russia is approaching the BRICS Presidency with great enthusiasm and diligence. A comprehensive Concept of the Russian Presidency has been approved. To implement it, an interdepartmental Steering Committee for Preparing and Ensuring Russia’s BRICS Presidency in 2024 has been established under a presidential decree. This body, which I have been assigned to head, is responsible for coordinating the participation of Russian federal and regional authorities, parliamentary, business and non-governmental organizations in the BRICS mechanisms, and, in general, all issues related to the Russian Presidency, including the preparation of meetings at various levels and, of course, the BRICS summit.

– In December 2023, the Steering Committee approved a large-scale plan for events under the auspices of the Russian Presidency. There are about 250 such events to be held in a dozen Russian cities. It is noteworthy that ever more requests are pouring in for hosting additional events in important areas of cooperation within the BRICS framework. Up-to-date information on what exactly is being implemented and planned is regularly uploaded to the website of our Presidency:

– The BRICS summit in Kazan on October 22-24 will be the key event of the Russian Presidency, of course. Moreover, it will be the first BRICS summit following the group’s enlargement. Let me remind you that at the meeting of BRICS leaders in Johannesburg last August a decision was made to invite new members to the association. Starting from January 1 it includes 10 countries. The twofold increase in the number of BRICS members undoubtedly opens up vast prospects for the further strengthening of the role and authority of our association internationally. At the same time, of course, Russia, as the current president of the organization, has a special responsibility to ensure the fastest and smoothest integration of the new members into the operation of all BRICS mechanisms. This is undoubtedly a cornerstone and high priority task of our Presidency.

– Now, back to the program of Russia’s BRICS Presidency. I would like to mention that many events have already taken place. In particular, the BRICS finance ministers and central bank governors’ meeting, the BRICS senior officials committee meeting on energy, expert consultations on information security, anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism, the youth volunteer conference, and the BRICS nuclear medicine working group session have already taken place. The sherpas and sous-sherpas from the member states responsible for the substantive content of the BRICS cooperation agenda maintain regular communication. At the end of January and beginning of February they met in Moscow.

– By the way, BRICS has already surpassed the Group of Seven in terms of purchasing power parity: the group accounts for 35.6% of the global GDP, while the G7 accounts for 30.3%. By 2028, the situation will evolve further in BRICS favor: 36.6% versus 27.8%.

– It is no coincidence that our president drew attention to this in his Address to the Federal Assembly. The collective share of the member states in the global economy is $58.9 trillion. BRICS accounts for more than one-third of the Earth’s dry land (36%), 45% of the world’s population (3.6 billion), over 40% of all oil production, and about a quarter of the world’s exports of goods.

– Such a high prestige and a really serious constructive role of BRICS in the world economy and politics naturally attract the attention of other countries, which have begun to show a desire to join the association’s activities in one way or another. Many perceive BRICS as a prototype of multipolarity, a structure uniting the Global South and East on the principles of equality, sovereignty and mutual respect. BRICS approached last year’s 15th Summit in Johannesburg with a whole package of applications for accession from more than twenty countries. Therefore, the summit made a fundamental political decision to expand the association. Thorough work was carried out to determine the range of countries to be admitted in the first place. As a result, an agreement was reached to invite six countries – Egypt, Iran, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Argentina – to enter BRICS as full members starting from January 1. By the way, it was also agreed at that time to keep unchanged the name BRICS, which is well-recognized in the world, even after the enlargement. This allows us, among other things, to further emphasize the continuity of our work in the association, as well as the key role of the founding countries.

– Given the expansion that has taken place, Russia’s BRICS Presidency this year has a special mission: to ensure a smooth incorporation of all new members of the association, while at the same time preserving and enhancing all the achievements accumulated over years and preserving and developing the experience of effective cooperation. For this purpose, first of all, we will focus on the organic integration of “new-comers” into the architecture of partnership mechanisms, and on familiarizing them with “BRICS culture” that has been established over 15 years. Federal executive authorities have a clear task: in close coordination with the Russian Foreign Ministry to actively and proactively involve the five new countries in the BRICS processes, to brief them on how cooperation in the association is organized in practice.

– This is the case with the new BRICS members that have already been admitted. However, the number of those wishing to establish some cooperation with our association continues to grow. Whereas by the Johannesburg summit, as I mentioned above, there were just over twenty of them, today we have received a number of new applications. Although it is premature to speculate about a second “wave” of expansion, all the countries of the association agree that the interest toward BRICS, displayed by many countries can only be welcomed and encouraged. This clearly demonstrates that the principles on which our association operates are very close to a wide range of countries, in fact, to the global majority.

– Throughout its presidency, Russia shall be working on the criteria for selecting and nominating such partner countries. Both these yardsticks and a specific list of likely partners are to be agreed upon by all BRICS members and submitted to the Kazan summit for approval. It is quite logical that in the future, as partner countries gain experience of cooperation within the framework of various BRICS mechanisms, their applications for full membership will also be considered. In discussing specific candidates, of course, the political and economic weight of this or that candidate country and its place not only in its region, but also in the international arena as a whole will be borne in mind. Support for the principles of multipolarity and a greater role of developing countries in global governance, as well as the fundamental values of the BRICS group, such as the spirit of equality, mutual respect, openness, inclusiveness and constructive cooperation, is an indispensable condition.

– The Western countries are certainly not delighted to see the BRICS growing authority and influence. Let us be honest – they are outspokenly jealous about its expansion, as well as about the fact that the countries of the Global Majority would like to unite more closely for cooperation on the BRICS platform. We have seen considerable evidence of the Western opponents trying to hamstring and weaken our association.

– To put it in a nutshell, BRICS, as well as the very objective process of creating a new world order, have irreconcilable opponents who are determined to impede this process and prevent the establishment of new, independent centers of development and influence in the world. BRICS does not compete with anyone. Nor does it challenge anyone. It is not an anti-Western association. By the way, our President has stressed this many a time.

– As for the economic track, the Russian Presidency will focus on issues related to further strengthening strategic partnership between member states in the fields of trade, investment, innovative technologies and social affairs. The common goal is to create conditions for the steady economic growth of all BRICS nations. To achieve that, we will need to step up multifaceted cooperation between our countries’ business circles and expand business ties, particularly between small and medium entrepreneurs. We will search for the best ways to increase mutual trade and investment, as well as to address ways to ensure financial stability.  We will also explore the possibility of unhindered cooperation amid risks related to growing unilateral sanctions and protectionist measures.

– We see increasing the role of BRICS counties in the international currency and financial system as a specific task for this year. In the 2023 Johannesburg Declaration, the leaders enshrined our countries’ determination to boost transactions in national currencies and strengthen correspondent banking networks to secure international transactions. Work will continue to develop the Contingent Reserve Arrangement, primarily regarding the use of currencies different from the US dollar. We believe that creating an independent BRICS payment system is an important goal for the future, which would be based on state-of-the-art tools such as digital technologies and blockchain. The main thing is to make sure it is convenient for governments, common people and businesses, as well as cost-effective and free of politics.

– Together with our partners, we are also working on initiatives concerning pressing issues such as the safety and sustainability of global transport chains, ways to improve transport efficiency and reduce logistics costs. It is particularly about the accelerated development of the North-South transcontinental corridor. It is a major thoroughfare that will connect Russia’s northern and Baltic ports to sea terminals on the coast of the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean and will be able to secure the annual transit of up to 30 mln tons of cargo in the future. Besides, Russia has suggested establishing a permanent BRICS commission on transport, which would not only work on the North-South project but will also address a wider range of issues related to the development of logistics and transport corridors, both regional and global.

– As for science and innovation, measures will be taken to implement the Cooperation Agreement on the BRICS Remote Sensing Satellite Constellation and promote the Russia-developed Code of Ethics for Artificial Intelligence. We plan to do everything possible to facilitate cooperation between our countries’ science parks and business incubators based on the iBRICS Innovation Network. We are certainly interested in expanding ties between academic and science centers, research and higher education facilities in member states, including through the BRICS Network University. Member states’ joint work aimed at ensuring the mutual recognition of academic qualifications and improving university rankings systems is also part of these efforts.

– We seek to work closely with our BRICS partners to deepen cooperation in the field of digital economy, information and communication technologies and innovations. It is an extensive set of goals, which includes efforts to develop digital trade, introduce artificial intelligence, process Big Data, manage the Internet of Things and help organize technology startups. Dialogue between tax, customs and anti-monopoly authorities is being stepped up at Russia’s initiative, as well as interaction on the BRICS Energy Research Cooperation Platform. We expect that member states will support our idea of creating a BRICS contact group on climate and sustainable development.

– Let me specifically highlight that the Russian Presidency is seeking to deepen the entire range of humanitarian ties, particularly in the fields of culture, youth exchanges, sports and tourism. There are plans to hold BRICS cultural and film festivals, the Academic and Civic forums, the Youth Forum and the Youth Camp, as well as the Forum of Young Diplomats. The BRICS Plus International Municipal Forum and the traditional Forum of Sister Cities and Municipalities will also take place. The open-door BRICS Games will be held in June, to which athletes from over 60 countries have been invited. Competitions in 29 sports are included in the program.

– Russia’s BRICS Presidency does feature quite a broad agenda addressing political and security cooperation. There has never been a military aspect to cooperation within our group. I do not think I will reveal a secret if I say that BRICS does not have plans to build such cooperation, including military drills.

– Now, to our specific goals for the year. We plan to continue holding regular meetings of foreign ministers and high representatives for security issues. We will also contribute to enhancing ties between representatives of BRICS countries within the United Nations and on other key multilateral platforms. There are also plans to boost the practice of meetings between heads of the member states’ diplomatic missions in third countries. All this will allow us to make a useful and much-needed contribution to resolving pressing global and regional issues and establish sustainable mechanisms for the group’s cooperation with interested developing countries.

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