BRICS Gets More Byte

By Zhou Xiaoyan

Wang Kexiang, a 65-year-old retiree living in Beijing, is addicted to nuts. Since he has a heart problem and the doctor has told him eating nuts is good for his heart, he eats them every day. What’s more, he has also persuaded his entire family to join him in his munching habit. Now the household spends almost 500 yuan ($75) a month on nuts, around one sixth of his monthly pension.

Among the various kinds of nuts available, Wang loves pine nuts imported from Brazil the most, saying they are bigger and better-tasting than domestic ones. That’s why Wang was excited when he heard the news that there would be closer e-commerce cooperation among BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

“Currently, Brazilian pine nuts are sold here at a very high price. A very small bag could easily cost up to 50 yuan ($7.5). I am hoping I can buy more cheaper types in the future,” Wang told Beijing Review. “That would be one of the concrete benefits for us ordinary people from closer ties among BRICS nations.”

Strengthening e-commerce cooperation was one of the eight major consensuses reached at the Seventh Meeting of the BRICS Trade Ministers in Shanghai on 1-2August. Others included more cooperation on digital networks at ports, services trade, intellectual property rights, investment facilitation and opposing protectionism.

The consensuses cover every aspect of BRICS economic and trade ties, said Bai Ming, Deputy Director of the International Market Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation. “They are interconnected and support each other, opening the next decade of BRICS cooperation,” Bai told Beijing Review.

A virtual feast

As more and more consumers choose to make purchases online, e-commerce is enjoying mushrooming growth around the world.

In China, cross-border e-commerce imports reached 1.2 trillion yuan ($179.3 billion) in 2016, up 33.3 percent from 2015, and the figure is expected to reach 1.85 trillion yuan ($276.4 billion) this year. The number of cross-border online shoppers surged 82.6 percent to 42 million in 2016, and is anticipated to hit 59 million this year, according to data from, an e-commerce research institute.

“E-commerce offers small and medium-sized enterprises an opportunity to directly participate in global trade with more diverse customers and tailored products,” Bai said.

“Presently, China’s cross-border e-commerce platforms are growing by building warehouses as well as collection and distribution centers in foreign countries. But that’s far from enough in terms of BRICS e-commerce cooperation,” Bai said. “The domestic cross-border e-commerce network should be linked with the networks of other BRICS nations to create a larger cross-border network. China could use its experience to help them build their own cross-border e-commerce networks and then realise network linkage.”

Zhong Shan, China’s Minister of Commerce, said Chinese people will soon see more food on their dining tables from Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa, following the e-commerce cooperation initiative adopted at the Seventh Meeting of the BRICS Trade Ministers.

“BRICS ministers all think strengthening cooperation on e-commerce will boost trade, promote industrial upgrading, create jobs and help developing countries as well as small and medium-sized companies integrate into the global value chain,” Zhong said at a press conference following the meeting. “Therefore, we decided to establish the BRICS e-commerce work group to start comprehensive cooperation and strengthen pragmatic cooperation in policy sharing and capacity building. It’s expected that e-commerce will become the new momentum for BRICS trade and economic cooperation.”

This article was originally posted on Beijing Review.


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