Tuesday, May 20, 2008

BRIC Club to Boost Ties, Seek to Fight Food Crisis

BRIC Club to Boost Ties, Seek to Fight Food Crisis
(Reuters – Conor Sweeney)

The world's biggest emerging market economies – Brazil, Russia, India and China – agreed on Friday to formalise their "BRIC" club for the first time to affirm their global economic clout.

The four BRIC countries, which account for more than one tenth of the world's gross domestic product, said they would boost cooperation on a range of fronts and work on ways to ease the burden of soaring global food prices.

"Building a more democratic international system founded on the rule of law and multilateral diplomacy is an imperative of our time," foreign ministers from the BRIC countries said in a joint communique after talks in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.

They "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."

The term BRIC was coined by Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs to describe how the four swiftly growing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China are likely to rival and then overtake many of the West's leading economies in the next half century.

The Yekaterinburg meeting was the first stand-alone meeting of BRIC foreign ministers.

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the BRIC countries had cushioned the developed world from a bigger economic slowdown over recent years. "They (large developing countries) 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," he said.

Food Crisis

The four countries, which account for 40% of the world's population, discussed soaring food prices and criticised developing countries for subsidising their farmers.

Mukherjee criticised "inefficient producers" in developed countries for subsidising their farmers, which he said was stifling attempts by developing states to feed their populations, hit hardest by rising global food prices.

"The main problem with the food crisis is overproduction in developing countries," said Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, adding that BRIC finance ministers would meet later in the year in Brazil to tighten links.

China called for more cooperation between energy producers and consumers to reduce volatility on world oil markets. Russia is the world's second biggest oil exporter while China is the world's second biggest oil importer.

"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," said Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

Analysts say that while BRIC countries have swift growth and geopolitical ambitions their cooperation is hampered by mutual distrust.

"Russia is groping for a new place in the world. Russia has learned how to be a difficult partner for the West, but hasn't learned how to turn it towards its own benefit," Heritage Centre political analyst Masha Lippman said of the BRIC meeting. "Russia is looking for ways, if not to form an alliance then at least to diversify its foreign policy. It's far from clear if anything can come out of it," she said.

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