THE BLOG

Russia's Initiatives for the BRICS

27/03/2013 17:58 GMT | Updated 27/05/2013 10:12 BST

This week South Africa hosts the fifth Brics summit, completing the first 'cycle' of summits that began in Yekaterinburg in 2008.

Individually no-one disputes the group has flourished since then. Our respective economies have each grown apace in what have been very difficult circumstances.

There is also growing political cohesion amongst the five emerging international heavyweights.

Yet there has always been scepticism about the internal cohesion of the group, in particular in some G8 countries but also elsewhere in the world.

I believe these persistent doubts can be largely explained by the huge media buzz Jim O'Neil's Brics label has been able to create.

This unquestionably has had fantastic benefits, economically and politically. But it has also led to very high expectations, which frankly were never going to be met in just a handful of years. Brics is however far more than a label.

That global economic influence is shifting is undeniable. I am certainly not alone in saying this is a structural development and will continue. It is also true that global governance structures are tilted towards the G8. Historically this is understandable - in the previous century these countries formed the world's economic heart. But it creates a need for change.

Scratch off the Brics label and you won't just find empty space. What you find is burgeoning national economic strength in search of some form of international organisation and co-operation. And there is progress to report.

The summit this year will see a new phase in the group's institutional development, with the launch of a range of new mechanisms to augment multilateral cooperation.

These include a scientific research centre and, most importantly, a 'virtual secretariat' which will allow country leaders to better discuss important issues, reducing reliance on traditional financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank.

This is all in the spirit of the five members helping each other advance in the shifting global economic system and it is happening as the Brics' role on the international stage is growing.

We are also going to make efforts to encourage greater mutual trade between our economies. That's why this year we are launching a Brics Business Council, another new step.

First proposed by Dmitry Medvedev, now Russian prime minister, in 2011, it will provide a platform for strengthening ties among the Brics business communities and increase trade and investment between them.

Russia's own economic success has been bolstered by trade amongst the Brics, as evidenced by increased Russian trade with China up to $87.5bn and India up to $11bn in 2012.

Meanwhile the prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, visited Brazil in February to complete major deals in metallurgy, medicine and hi-tech. Russia's target is to grow bilateral trade turnover with Brazil to $10 billion annually, also creating a broader alliance in tech. Trade reached $7.2bn in 2011, more than 50% up from the previous year, meaning Brazil remains one of Russia's leading trade partners, and a major supplier of agricultural products.

Trade with South Africa is still lower, currently at just under $1bn, but presents a great opportunity, not in the least by using the country's stable business environment as a spring board to develop commerce in all of Africa.

Now is the perfect time to affirm Brics economic engagement with the whole continent. And Brics countries will both cooperate and compete for African trade share, which is as it should be. Competition based on fair principles benefits all Brics economies as well as African nations.

More broadly, with the eurozone economies in the doldrums and global growth increasingly coming from the Brics, there is strong potential for increased cooperation, in particular in energy, agriculture and infrastructure, which we should look to tap into. Formed by the Chambers of Commerce of the five Brics, this is precisely what the new Brics Business Council will be set up to help with.

Our focus will be on promoting technology transfer and development, tapping business opportunities in third countries and cooperation in manufacturing, infrastructure, banking and financial services. This will not in itself achieve our ultimate goals, but it's another important brick in the building that will host our cooperation.