Promoting Services Trade

By Zhou Xiaoyan

A services trade cooperation roadmap was adopted at the trade ministers’ meeting to boost economic complementarities and diversification. With the trade in services becoming a new driver for global economic and trade growth, the ministers decided to intensify cooperation on information exchange, capacity building and coordination within BRICS to make services trade a new highlight of BRICS trade growth.

Although the group’s combined GDP accounts for nearly one fourth of the global total, its export of services accounted for only 11.3 percent of the world total in 2015, according to data from the World Trade OrganiSation.

“Services trade is not only a strong driving force of global economic and trade cooperation, but also a precious opportunity for countries to balance their trade structure. It will also push forward the development of China’s services industry and supply-side structural reform,” Xu Hongcai, Deputy Chief Economist with China Center for International Economic Exchanges, told Beijing Review.

Zhang Shaogang, Director General of the Department of International Trade and Economic Affairs at China’s Ministry of Commerce, said services trade covers a wide range of sectors and BRICS countries have demand for cooperation in every one of those sectors.

“As the first step in implementing the roadmap, we will carry out cooperation in the prioritized areas,” Zhang said at the press conference on August 1. “The first prioritized area would be tourism, with Russia being a hotspot travel destination for Chinese, and tourist visits to India, South Africa and Brazil gaining more popularity.”

An Yongming, a retiree living in Haikou, capital of south China’s Hainan Province, recently had an eight-day trip to Moscow and Saint Petersburg, which cost him a little more than 10,000 yuan ($1,500).

“People of my generation have a very deep fascination with Russia and deep memories of the former Soviet Union. We grew up listening to stories about the Soviet Union and reading Russian novels. Russian, instead of English, was the foreign language some of the people of my generation acquired,” An told Beijing Review. “Our minds are full of Russian names and places. I’d always wanted to visit the country.”

However, An thinks the local government has much to do to improve the tourist experience in Russia.

“Most Russians don’t serve their customers. Drivers don’t help passengers carry their luggage. There’s no Chinese language service on the flight, although the plane is full of Chinese. There are no Chinese signs or even English signs in most tourist spots,” An said. While he would still recommend people of his age to visit Russia, he thinks younger generations should visit countries with better tourist services.

In addition to the tourism industry, Zhang said other prioritized areas include healthcare, computer and related services, research and development, business services, construction services, distribution and education.

As the first achievement of the trade ministers’ meeting, China and Brazil signed a two-year action plan on August 1, pledging to bolster collaboration in services trade. It would include project consultation, project construction, information technology, automation of banking services, travel, culture and traditional Chinese medicine.

Read more about strengthening e-commerce cooperation within BRICS here.

This article was originally posted on Beijing Review.

Moving from health challenges to collaborations

[In association with BRICS Journal and the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences]

Access to affordable healthcare is a priority for all the BRICS countries. Dr Aquina Thulare looks at how BRICS is faring and how further collaboration would benefit everyone involved.

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Good health is an indispensable prerequisite for poverty reduction, sustained economic growth and socio-economic development.

Placing  health within a globalised, market-based capitalist system results in a dialectical interplay between social classes and the exact nature of whichever social force is best able to set the agenda differs from country to country. These conditions explain why differential exposure and vulnerabilities have an impact on health and wellness and how these have distinctive consequences on populations. These are the “causes of the causes” of common health challenges.

BRICS is home to 42% of the world’s population and contributes 29.5% to global GDP. Notwithstanding the general economic prosperity and improvements in demographic and epidemiological profile since 1990, profound socio-economic inequalities and public health challenges persist within BRICS countries. Over the years, the different BRICS countries have followed diverse evolutionary trajectories in improving the performance of their health systems.

Health has been placed on the BRICS agenda through the social justice, sustainable development and quality of life dimensions as a key area of development and co-operation. Moreover, BRICS ministers of health are mandated to pursue the agenda of ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being of populations in their countries by reaffirming public health financing as an essential element for socio-economic development.

They have committed to:

  • Ending epidemics of communicable diseases;
  • Prevention and relevant treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCDs);
  • Prevention and treatement of substance abuse;
  • Decreasing the number of injuries and deaths from road traffic accidents; and
  • Achieving universal health coverage (UHC) and high-quality healthcare systems.

BRICS would also focus on social determinants of health (SDHs) while also introducing UHC strategies that are appropriate for each country’s context. The concept of “health as a human right” and “health in all policies” pervades much of BRICS’ engagement in contributing towards better global health underpinned by several United Nations (UN) frameworks.

Written by: Dr Aquina Thulare
This is an extract of the full article Moving From Health Challenges to Collaborations, found in Issue 3 of BRICS Journal.

Economist: BRICS exceeds expectations

The economic performance of the five leading emerging economies of the BRICS group exceeds expectations of the man who first came up with the acronym, the inventor of the term told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill coined the acronym BRIC in 2001 to cover the nations Brazil, Russia, India and China (South Africa later joined to make the term BRICS) as economies which would blossom in the 21st century and take the lead in global business.

“Sixteen years later the BRICS share of global GDP (gross domestic product) is bigger than every scenario I projected,” O’Neill said.

His comments came weeks ahead of the ninth BRICS summit which is to be held in the Chinese city of Xiamen early next month.

O’Neill predicted in his 2001 paper “Building Better Global Economic BRICS” that the BRICS nations by now would have a combined economic worth of about 11.6 trillion US dollars. Their actual worth is about 16.6 trillion dollars this year.

The first decade of this century was a period in which the group reached and then more than fulfilled the potential that O’Neill foresaw in 2001, and which has made the world sit up and take notice.

Average annual growth rates for the BRICS nations from 2001-2011 were, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – Brazil 3.8 percent, Russia 4.8 percent, India 7.8 percent, China about 10.7 percent and South Africa 3.7 percent.

The second decade has seen less stellar progress for the nations, as the world economy recovers from the financial crisis and nations like China are embarking on a different phase of development.

The nations have collaborated and now meet regularly as a group. They have set up a development bank called the New Development Bank, based in Shanghai.

O’Neill also noted a very recent development in bilateral trade between China and Germany, one of Europe’s leading economies.

In 2016, China became Germany’s largest trade partner, with trade between the two nations surpassing 150 billion dollars.

“It’s good. A lot of these forces are happening. Here’s an important statistic about global trade – China became Germany’s largest trading partner. Hugely symbolic for BRICS countries,” said O’Neill, who believed the BRICS success story is for the long term.

O’Neill hits back at those who have said that the BRICS is losing its shine.

To focus merely on a slowdown in the combined growth of the economies is missing the point, said O’Neill.

China’s economy continued its steady expansion in the first half of this year with its GDP up 6.9 percent year-on-year to about 38.2 trillion yuan (5.6 trillion dollars), according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics.

Russia and Brazil suffered recessions in recent years, but Brazil’s economy grew again in the first quarter of this year after a protracted recession and Russia achieved a growth rate of 2.5 percent year-on-year in the second quarter.

“The fact they have slowed down is an irrelevance if they are still way bigger than I thought 16 years ago – primarily because of China but also because of India, and not withstanding the problems that Brazil and Russia have had.”

“So these people that say it is not so important because they have grown less, it is ridiculous,” he said.

What’s more, O’Neill has his eyes set on other nations that could also surprise the world in the coming decades.

“I would say going to 50 years in the future, there are probably four countries with potential to be as big as Russia or Brazil,” said O’Neill.

“Definitely Indonesia, possibly Mexico, possibly Turkey and, excitingly, possibly Nigeria. But let us see – just because they have the potential it does not mean it will happen.”

“The BRICS countries have already said they are open to other members. But I would not do that any time soon until we see clear evidence of any of those four becoming a lot bigger,” he said.

They are an unequal group in economic volumes, with China leading the way and South Africa being the smallest economically.

O’Neill had always had misgivings about South Africa being in the group, but thinks it should be there, despite its economy being the smallest at about 300 billion dollars a year.

“China creates another South Africa (economically) every six months, how on earth can South Africa be economically in the same class?” the economist said.

– China Daily/Repubhub

Indian politicians vote to elect new president

Politicians from both houses of India’s parliament have cast their ballots to elect the country’s next president, with two candidates from the lowest rank of the Hindu caste system – Dalits – vying for the largely ceremonial post.

The candidate from the ruling BJP, Ram Nath Kovind, a 71-year-old lawyer turned politician who was until recently governor of the eastern state of Bihar, is predicted to win.

Kovind is also backed by several regional parties.

His main rival is Meira Kumar, 72, who was India’s first female speaker of the parliament and a former federal minister. She is backed by the main opposition Congress party.

The new president – India’s 14th – will take over from Pranab Mukherjee, a veteran Congress politician, who completes his five-year term on July 24.

The day-long polling was being held simultaneously in the national and state capitals, according to India’s Election Commission.

The votes will be counted on July 20.

Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, was among the first to cast his vote at a booth in Parliament.

“The presidential poll this time is historic. Probably for the first time no party has made any undignified or unwarranted comment on the rival candidate,” Modi said on Twitter on the eve of the poll.

“Every political party has kept in mind the dignity of this election.”

Against the odds

Sonia Gandhi, the Congress party leader,  acknowledged on  Sunday  that the odds were stacked against the opposition’s candidate.

The president is chosen by an electoral college of two houses of parliament and state assemblies.

The BJP has over two-thirds majority in the Lok Sabha, or lower house of parliament, and runs governments by itself or in alliance with other parties in 17 of India’s 29 states.

The winner of Monday’s contest will be India’s second president belonging to the Dalit community, after KR Narayanan, who was president between 1997-2002.

Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, are on the lowest rank of India’s tradition social system based on caste.

India’s president is the head of the state, but executive powers are vested in the prime minister.

The president, however, has an important role to play when elections produce hung parliaments, state governments are dissolved and during other political crises.

BRICS members embrace open economy

An Baijie in Hamburg
Displayed with permission from China Daily

Xi tells leaders a multilateral trade system will bear fruit for all people

The leaders of the BRICS countries reached important consensus on building an open world economy and improving global economic governance during their informal meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, on Friday.

President Xi Jinping presided over the meeting, since China holds the rotating presidency of the BRICS bloc this year.

The BRICS Summit will be held from September 3 to 5 in Xiamen, Fujian province.

Xi said in his speech that there are currently positive signs for the world’s economy, with a promising future for the development of BRICS countries, and at the same time, there are also challenges ahead for the BRICS members.

He called on the member countries to establish an open world economy, maintain a multilateral trade system and push forward open, inclusive, beneficial, balanced and win-win economic globalization, thus making the fruits of economic growth accessible for all people.

The BRICS countries should unswervingly stick to the principle of multilateralism in addressing conflicts and disputes, strive to achieve peace and cooperation, and make full use of multilateral mechanisms such as the United Nations to discuss international rules, he said.

In his speech, Xi highlighted the importance of the G20 in boosting international economic cooperation and improving global economic governance.

The consensuses reached at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou last year and other G20 summits should be implemented to create a good environment for the development of emerging economies and developing countries, Xi said.

Xi also encouraged the BRICS countries to play a leading role in supporting developing countries, especially African nations, to help them to improve development capacity.

Saying that preparations for the BRICS Summit in Xiamen are going smoothly, Xi added that he expected to make joint efforts with the other BRICS members to achieve fruitful outcomes, deepen BRICS cooperation, offer new solutions to improve global governance and contribute to global economic growth.

South African President Jacob Zuma, Brazilian President Michel Temer, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the meeting and agreed that the BRICS countries should keep the good momentum of cooperation on politics, economy and people-to-people exchanges to push forward practical cooperation of the BRICS members, according to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry.

They also agreed to work together to send positive messages in the G20, to push the international order to develop in the direction of being more just and reasonable, and to create a better environment for the development of emerging markets, the statement said.

-Repubhub/ China Daily

World Day Against Child Labour to focus on effects of conflict

Displayed with permission from The Jordan Times

AMMAN — Today marks the World Day Against Child Labour, launched in 2002 by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), in order to focus global attention on the extent of child labour and the efforts needed to eliminate it.

This year’s theme “In conflicts and disasters, protect children from child labour” seeks to shed light on the impact of conflicts and disasters on child labour, according to the UN website.

The Sisterhood Is Global Institute (SIGI) said that the 2016 survey of child labour in the Kingdom showed that the number of working children between the ages of five and 17 totalled 75,982, of whom 8,868 were female, constituting 11.7 per cent, according to a SIGI statement.

Regarding nationality, 60,787 working children were Jordanians, 11,098 were Syrian and 4,096 were from other nationalities.

The survey — issued by the University of Jordan’s Centre for Strategic Studies, in cooperation with the ILO, the Labour Ministry and the Department of Statistics — showed that 44,917 children (2,393 of whom were female) work in hazardous jobs.

Of the 2,393 girls who worked, SIGI said the survey revealed that 586 girls were aged between five and 11 years, 687 between 12 and 14 years old, while 1,120 girls were aged between 15 and 17.

Leaving school increases the chances for children to stay out of the labour market in the future, SIGI said, noting that the survey estimated that 38 per cent of children who left school before the age of 15 are unemployed.

The survey also concluded that 41 per cent of these children will go longer before securing their first job, the SIGI statement added.

Globally, over 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by conflict, violence and fragility. At the same time, around 200 million people are affected by disasters every year, a third of whom are children, according to

A significant proportion of the 168 million children engaged in child labour live in areas affected by conflict and disaster. The 2017 World Day against Child Labour focuses on the impact of conflicts and disasters on child labour.

“Conflicts and disasters have a devastating impact on people’s lives. They kill, maim, injure, force people to flee their homes, destroy livelihoods, push people into poverty and starvation and trap people in situations where their basic human rights are violated,” the website stated.

“Children are often the first to suffer as schools are destroyed and basic services are disrupted. Many children are internally displaced or become refugees in other countries, and are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and child labour,”the site continued.

“Ultimately, millions of children are pushed into child labour by conflicts and disasters,”the website concluded.

-Repubhub/Jordan Times

Indian Prime Minister Modi launches the country’s longest bridge

The 9.15 km long Dhola-Sadiya bridge launched today by India Prime Minister, Narendra Modi,  will shorten the distance between Rupai on NH- 37 in Assam to Meka/Roing on NH-52 in Arunachal Pradesh by 165 KM and reduce travel time from between the two places from six hours to just one hour.
At the launch of India’s longest bridge, Modi said Dhola-Sadiya bridge opens the door for economic development in the eastern and north-eastern parts of the country.
He said the enhanced connectivity between the North-East and other parts of the country continues to be a priority for his government and good connectivity in the North-East would also link the region with the economy of South-East Asia.
The bridge has been named after renowned Indian musician and poet Bhupen Hazarika who died in 2011.
Minister of Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Shri Nitin Gadkari revealed there were also highways and inland waterways projects currently being implemented in the North Eastern states.
He said there were major highway of about 3000 kms projects  in the eight North Eastern states under construction.
The occasion also marked three year anniversary of Modi’s rule in the country.


India and Africa to tighten foreign and economic relations

The Africa-India trade cooperation is expected to grow even further as the country has put the continent as its top priority in its foreign and economics policies.

This was revealed by India Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 52nd African Development Bank meeting in Ahmedabad, India earlier today.

Bilateral trade between India and Africa has jumped from $11.9 billion in 2006 to $56.7 billion in 2016.

The Times of India quoted Modi saying:”Africa is a top priority for India’s foreign and economic policy and there isn’t a single African country which hasn’t been visited by an Indian minister.”

He said India’s partnership with Africa is based on a model of cooperation which is responsive to the needs of African countries.

“India has had strong ties with Africa for centuries and the rich Swahili language includes some Hindi words.

I am proud to say that there is no country in Africa that hasn’t been visited by an Indian minister in the last three years,” Modi said. The paper reported that Modi and senior government officials have together visited 16 African countries in the last few years.

“After assuming office in 2014, I have made Africa a top priority for India’s foreign and economic policy,” he said.

Indian Administrative Services (IAS) Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Manoj Dwivedi identified four missing links in India-Africa trade and investment that needed to be addressed:

He listed these as an inability of African countries to exploit the preferential trade agreements provided by India, the need for capacity building of small enterprises in Africa, the use of technology to develop crucial sectors such as education and the inability of Indian financial
institutions to push credit facilities to banks in Africa.

-Times of India

Emerging Market Equity Funds Attract Most Money Since 2006

Rupert Hargreaves
Displayed with permission from Value Walk

Emerging market funds have seen a huge spike in interest from investors so far this year, thanks to renewed confidence in the global economy. Emerging market equity funds are big winners, as flows are so robust in fact that total inflows are now at a post-2006 peak according to UBS’s equity market strategist Geoff Dennis.

In a research report published at the end of last week, Dennis noted that for the week ending 28 April, global emerging market equity funds attracted $2.4 billion inflows, the seventh consecutive week of inflows recorded for the sector. Over this period total inflows are $14.5 billion. Across all emerging markets, India and China reported the largest flows for the third week in a row, followed by Taiwan, Korea, and Brazil.

Emerging Market Equity Funds Attract Most Money Since 2006

Equity flows may have been positive for the past seven weeks, but all classes of dedicated global emerging market funds have registered inflows for 17 consecutive weeks. Surprisingly, flows have bucked the wider allocation trend with both active and passive mandates attracting investor attention. Since the start of the year, emerging market ETFs have reported inflows of $15.9 billion, equivalent to 6% of assets under management while long-only funds have attracted $4.5 billion or 0.8% of assets under management. In recent weeks, however, the distribution of flows has become relatively more favourable for long only funds according to the UBS report. Of the $14.5 billion in equity flows over the past seven weeks, long-only funds have attracted around one-third of the total. For the week ending 28 April, inflows into long-only funds hit $948 million, compared to the ETF inflows of $1.4 billion.


Indian govt connects more that 2m households to the Internet

The Indian government is ensuring that all its citizens regardless of their financial status stay connected to the Internet, as more than two million families will be provided wih free internet connection while others would be charged at lower rates at the Indian state of Kerala.

This comes as the country rolls out it’s “smart villages” plan. Minister of Finance of the Indian state of Kerala, Thomas Isaac says the plan would ensure access to Internet services since it is the right of every citizen of the state.

The Indian Express reported that Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan presented the draft Information Technology policy framework in the Assembly.

According to the paper, the new policy’s aim is to create single portal for citizen interactions, enable mobile services for ease of access to e-governance services, create “Smart Villages” and attract investments in the information technology sector.

-Indian Express