The Xiamen BRICS Summit Ushers in an Era of Pragmatic Cooperation


By staff reporter ZHANG HUI


THE Ninth BRICS Summit, themed “BRICS: Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future,” wrapped up in early September in Xiamen, Fujian Province, kicking off a second decade of BRICS cooperation. In his speech delivered at the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping attributed the rapid growth of the cooperation mechanism to the following reasons: Upholding the spirit of openness, inclusiveness, and win-win cooperation, the BRICS countries respect and help each other, and have unremittingly promoted their cooperation in economy, politics, and culture; meanwhile, advocating fairness and justice in the international community, they have worked together with other emerging economies and developing countries to create a sound international environment.


The 9th BRICS Summit is convened on September 3-5 at the Xiamen International Conference and Exhibition Center.


The summit released the BRICS Leaders Xiamen Declaration as they reached a consensus on the following aspects: BRICS countries should strengthen their communication and coordination on major issues, safeguard basic codes of international relations and join hands to cope with various global challenges, so as to quicken the process of global economic governance reform. Furthermore, they should reinforce coordination in formulating macro policies and aligning their development strategies. In addition, they will also deepen their cooperation in political security and enhance strategic mutual trust. Further, people-to-people exchanges should be regularized and institutionalized, thus deepening people’s mutual understanding and friendship. Finally, the BRICS countries will also intensify their efforts in building various mechanisms, providing solid guarantees for their cooperation in various fields. During the summit, President Xi presided over the Dialogue of Emerging Markets and Developing Countries that state leaders of Egypt, the Republic of Guinea, Mexico, Tajikistan, and Thailand attended together with the BRICS countries’ leaders. Moreover, the BRICS Business Forum was held during the summit, seeing the attendance of around 1,000 representatives from the business sector and research institutions of BRICS countries as well as other emerging economies, developing countries, and international organizations.


When looking back on the milestone Xiamen BRICS Summit, there were many things that stood out. One of the biggest highlights was the specific agreements on pragmatic cooperation, and the unanimous endorsement of the China-proposed “BRICS Plus” by state leaders attending the summit. Moreover, people-to-people exchanges were emphasized, and are poised to become a new pillar for BRICS cooperation. 


Substantial Cooperation Underway


Economic and trade cooperation constitute the ballast and propeller of the BRICS mechanism. Xi Jinping pointed out at the opening ceremony of the BRICS Business Forum that the BRICS countries’ traditional economic strengths face challenges, as their economies have reached a crucial stage, and demand greater efforts to boost.


Chen Fengying, former director of the Institute of World Economic Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, commented that the situation can be ascribed to the world anti-globalization trend, rising trade protectionism, and some internal problems of the BRICS cooperation mechanism.


The challenges that confront the BRICS countries include a relatively low mutual investment ratio, feeble service trade, and homogenized development. Chen observed, however, that the BRICS countries’ economic and trade cooperation has addressed these intractable problems.


A panel discussion on financial cooperation and development is held at the 2017 BRICS Business Forum in Xiamen on September 3.


BRICS countries’ outbound investment reached US $197 billion in 2016, among which only 5.7 percent was between them. This signifies huge untapped potential for trade and investment among the BRICS countries. In the view of Zhou Qiangwu, director of the International Economics and Finance Institute affiliated to the Ministry of Finance, investment facilitation and economic and technological cooperation will become two driving forces to advance pragmatic cooperation between the BRICS countries in the related fields.


During the summit, President Xi declared that China will launch the Economic and Technical Cooperation Plan for BRICS Countries with RMB 500 million in the first phase, to facilitate policy exchange and practical cooperation in the economic and trade fields, and that China will contribute US $4 million to the NDB (New Development Bank) Project Preparation Facility to support the business operation and long-term development of the bank.


The Xiamen Declaration promised to use all policy tools, including financial, monetary, and structural reform measures, to improve the tenacity and potential of economic development. The summit approved 40 documents on economic cooperation, laying a foundation for the BRICS cooperation mechanism to embrace another golden decade. In the trade and investment sectors, a range of documents covering such fields as investment facilitation, service trade, and E-business were formally adopted. 


“The abundance of economic cooperation outcomes is far beyond expectation,” said Bai Ming, vice director of the International Market Research Institute, Ministry of Commerce. Bai indicated that these achievements not only mapped out the development goals and direction for BRICS countries’ trade and economic cooperation, but also provided substantial support to carry out specific cooperation projects, thus substantiating BRICS cooperation.


“The summit is overtly pragmatic, as every outcome achieved is concrete, with detailed specifications, even including the deadline for completion of some specific projects. This is unprecedented,” Chen Fengying said.


BRICS Plus, a New Platform for South-South Cooperation


At the Dialogue of Emerging Markets and Developing Countries, Xi Jinping said, “We should endeavor to improve the representativeness of emerging economies and developing countries under global economic governance and provide them more say, thus advancing the formation of a more equitable and rational international economic order.”


Xi underlined that the overall rise of emerging economies and developing countries has become an irreversible trend. Over the past several years, they made great contributions to global economic growth. In 2016, for example, the contribution ratio reached as high as 80 percent. These countries are remarkable powerhouse of the world economy.


At a press conference after the summit, President Xi indicated that leaders of the BRICS countries, as well as of Egypt, Mexico, Thailand, Tajikistan, and Guinea, agreed to forge broad-based development partnerships and speed up the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, thus giving a strong signal of deepening South-South cooperation and enhancing international development cooperation. The state leaders unanimously agreed to build the BRICS Plus cooperation model, and join hands to blaze a trail in sustainable development featuring innovation, coordination, green development, opening-up, and shared benefits, thus propelling global economic growth and the common development of various countries.


BRICS Plus, as a model of expansion, was proposed by China on the basis of successful practices in previous BRICS summits. It seeks to establish widespread partnerships between BRICS member countries and other developing countries through dialogues and cooperation, expand the circle of friends, and forge the BRICS mechanism into an influential cooperation platform for South-South cooperation, so as to better reflect the common ground and collective will of developing countries. The model has been warmly received by the international community.


“I think it’s a relatively new model for cooperation among industrial countries, and most of them have vast resources, enormous economic potential, and good prospects. Most importantly, they have found a model of cooperation that can make progress and minimize risks,” said Georgian Ambassador to China David Aptsiauri, in an interview with China Today.


Nepali Ambassador to China Leela Mani Paudyal told China Today that he is very optimistic about the BRICS Plus proposal, and added, “BRICS, as an economic platform, is seeing more and more participation by developing countries. They’ll have opportunities to benefit from the economic development of the BRICS countries. That would be a good opportunity and prospect for countries like Nepal. We’ll find more markets for our products and benefit from the capability of BRICS countries. We’ll also see the opportunities to share the technological advancements they’ve made and be able to apply them to our economy.”


The BRICS Leaders’ Xiamen Declaration encourages the New Development Bank to fully play its role and strengthen its cooperation with such multilateral development institutions as the World Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as well as the BRICS Business Council, to promote infrastructure construction in BRICS countries and their sustainable development. Before that, NDB set up its first regional office in South Africa.


In an interview with China Today, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the New Development Bank Leslie Maasdorp said, “The New Development Bank has been seeking to become a global institution. So our governor at the last meeting indicated that the criteria and conditions for new members to join will be improved. But the process whereby new members officially join the bank will take some time.”


Enhancing People-to-People Exchanges


After taking over the BRICS presidency this year, while advancing BRICS cooperation in economy and political security, China has attached great importance to building a platform for people-to-people exchanges so as to consolidate public support for BRICS cooperation. Thus, the BRICS mechanism entered a new stage focusing on three main points. This year has seen a range of colorful people-to-people exchange events, like the BRICS Games, film festival, cultural festival, high-level meeting on traditional medicines, young diplomats forum, and media forum. All these activities have made peoples of the five countries aware of the charm and vitality of the BRICS cooperation mechanism, enhancing their mutual understanding and friendship. These people-to-people exchanges are bound to lay a solid foundation for the steady and dynamic long-term development of the cooperation mechanism.


During the summit, Xi Jinping stressed, “Amity between the people holds the key to sound state-to-state relations. Only with intensive care can the tree of friendship and cooperation grow luxuriant. Enhancing the exchanges among our peoples and seeing the spirit of partnership embraced by all is a worthy cause that deserves our enduring commitment. A job well done in this regard will keep BRICS cooperation vibrant.”


Looking at the outcome documents approved by the Xiamen Summit, as many as 20 are about people-to-people exchanges, signaling the strong intention of the BRICS countries to enhance people-to-people exchanges and provide a powerful driving force to the BRICS cooperation.


Lu Jing, a professor with the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University, said that the BRICS Xiamen Summit started the institutionalization of people-to-people exchanges that promise to become a regular practice. The BRICS cooperation framework, with the three driving forces of economy, political security, and people-to-people exchanges, will be more balanced and forge ahead steadily in the future.