BRIC Nations Meet to Formalize Relationship – and Flex Muscles

20 May 2008

YEKATERINBURG: It may be mere coincidence that this city – forever associated with the execution in 1918 of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their five children – was chosen as the locale for the first ever formal meeting of the four so-called BRIC nations: Brazil, Russia, India and China. 

Coincidence or otherwise, Yekaterinburg's links to the ending of an epoch are eerily symbolic.

The quartet, which met last weekend, agreed to formalize their association and affirm their growing global economic clout. Western sources acknowledge that the four accelerating  economies will in the next half century rival, then overtake, most of the today's leading economies.

A communiqué issues by the foursome "confirmed the aspirations of the BRIC countries to work together with each other and other states in the interests of strengthening international security and stability."

But underlying the honeyed words was the unmistakeable flexing of newly-found muscles.

India's Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee opined that the BRIC countries had cushioned the developed world from an even more serious slowdown over recent years.

"[The BRIC bloc have] prevented the world from facing a worsening situation. This is a different situation from the past, when there was a global slowdown," said Mukherjee. "In this area, it is clear BRIC can increasingly play a key role."

Between them the four giant nations account for 40% of the planet's population. In the context of today's soaring food prices, they slammed developing the developed world for subsidizing their farmers.

Such subsidies, said Mukherjee, were constraining attempts by developing states – the hardest hit by rising global food prices – to feed their populations.

Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim agreed. "The main problem with the food crisis is overproduction in developed countries."

As to the rampant inflation in energy prices, China called for more cooperation between energy producers and consumers to reduce volatility on world oil markets.

Said foreign minister Yang Jiechi: "Speculation in world markets has led to soaring world oil prices. The international community should step up energy efficiency and enhance dialogue between oil producers and oil consumers."

Yang may well have been staring at his Russian counterpart as he spoke. Russia is the world's second-biggest oil exporter, while China is the world's second-biggest oil importer.

Did the meeting of the global titans-in-waiting achieve its ends?

In the opinion of Heritage Centre political analyst Masha Lippman: "It's far from clear if anything can come out of it."

As to Russia's oil and gas supremacy, she was equally non-committal: "Russia is groping for a new place in the world. [It] has learned how to be a difficult partner for the West, but hasn't learned how to turn it towards its own benefit.

Data sourced from Moscow Times; additional content by WARC staff