BRICS leaders back multilateral trading system under WTO rules

Leaders of the BRICS bloc of emerging economies signed a declaration supporting an open and inclusive multilateral trading system under WTO rules at their summit in South Africa.

From left: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Brazilian President Michel Temer pose for a group picture at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, yesterday.

Leaders of the BRICS bloc of emerging economies, meeting in the wake of tariff threats by US President Donald Trump, signed a declaration supporting an open and inclusive multilateral trading system under World Trade Organization rules at their summit in South Africa yesterday.

Five of the biggest emerging economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — agreed at the three-day meeting to fight unilateralism and protectionism.

“We reaffirm the centrality of the rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system, as embodied in the World Trade Organization, that promotes a predictable trade environment and the centrality of the WTO,” the declaration signed by the five leaders said. 

“We recognize that the multilateral trading system is facing unprecedented challenges. We underscore the importance of an open world economy. They called on all WTO members to abide by WTO rules.”

The meeting of BRICS leaders is the first since the US administration launched a push to rebalance trade multilateralism that Trump has deemed unfair — relationships that the United States once championed.

Earlier yesterday, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for a concerted effort by global institutions such as the United Nations and the WTO to fight unilateralism and protectionism.

Xi, who leads the world’s second-biggest economy, also called for dialogue to settle disputes on global trade, underlining remarks he made at the opening of the summit the previous day.

“We should stay committed to multilateralism,” Xi said on the second day of the Johannesburg talks. 

“The escalation of protectionism and unilateralism are directly affecting... emerging markets,” he said in a statement in the day’s opening session.

“Closer economic cooperation for shared prosperity is the original purpose and priority of BRICS.”

“We must work together ... to safeguard the rule-based multilateral trading regime, promote trade and investment, globalization and facilitation, and reject protectionism outright,” Xi said.

On Wednesday, Xi said there would be no winner in a global trade war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called for more trade within the BRICS bloc.

“BRICS has a unique place in the global economy — this is the largest market in the world, the joint GDP is 42 percent of the global GDP and it keeps growing,” Putin said.

“In 2017, the trade with our BRICS countries has grown 30 percent, and we are aiming at further developing this kind of partnership.

“We should work to reduce administrative barriers to stimulate trade between our countries,” Putin said.

He supported the idea of opening regional branches of the New Development Bank for BRICS. 

“We are negotiating with Brazil on this matter, starting from the fact that after the completion of the issue, the opening of the office in Russia will begin,” he said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for the bloc’s members to harness technology to develop their economies.

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