Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at a meeting of the Business Council under the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Moscow, December 18, 2017

Monday, 18 December 2017 12:07

Good afternoon, colleagues,

And so we begin the Business Council meeting.

I think these meetings are mutually beneficial for the executive authorities and our business circles.

We have a fairly important and wide-reaching topic, which is the goals and prospects for strengthening economic cooperation within the BRICS, on today’s agenda.

There has been quantitative and, more importantly, qualitative growth in the activities of this association in recent years. The Big Five has entered its second decade of activity. We can safely state that it has evolved from a club into a full-fledged strategic partnership mechanism covering many areas. Two BRICS leaders’ summits are held annually - the main one and a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 meeting, plus about 100 official events, of which about 20 are ministerial meetings. These figures translate into a wide network of concrete interactions between the five countries, contacts and cooperation between business circles, scientists and representatives of civil society.

Deepening the strategic partnership within BRICS is among Russia's foreign policy priorities. More and more countries are listening to the voice of the Big Five, especially since the planet is not getting any more peaceful or safer. In this situation, it is important for us to promote polycentric and multilateral approaches to addressing international challenges. It is a natural process which reflects the objective redistribution of the global balance of power in favour of emerging markets. This found its reflection in the emergence of formats such as BRICS and the G20, the existence of which, by the way, means recognition by Western countries of their inability to independently address international monetary issues without the participation of emerging economies as new centres of economic power and financial influence, which, of course, paves the way to political influence.

Clearly, a new world order, which should be democratic, has yet to be won. The stumbling blocks include the attempts by a number of states to cling to outdated approaches, to maintain domination, to impose their own development models on other nations, and to promote their private interests unilaterally using forceful methods.

In contrast, BRICS is a vivid and positive example of strengthening multilateral and collective principles in international affairs. These states with various cultural and civilisational foundations rely in their relations on the principles of equality, mutual respect, the supremacy of international law and strict consideration of each other's interests. We have identical or similar approaches to the key issues facing humankind. We focus on forming an equitable global governance system that takes into account the interests of all key countries, including emerging and developing economies. We firmly uphold the basic principles of the UN Charter. This really constitutes the foundation of the world order, in particular, the sovereign equality of states, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, and the resolution of disputes by peaceful means. Together with our BRICS partners, we are promoting a unifying agenda for international relations, and are looking for opportunities to achieve connectivity of approaches in the areas where they do not yet fully reflect the consensus.

The comprehensive cooperation within BRICS follows three main and closely intertwined tracks, such as politics and security, economy and finance, and culture and humanitarian exchanges.

Economic interaction remains the most solid foundation for unification among the three, because the growing economic influence of the participating states, and their importance as the main driving force behind the global economy, remains the basis for the Big Five’s influence on the international arena. The fact that India and China are record holders in terms of growth rates for several years now is a known fact. We also take into account such factors as the population size, vast potential for innovation and rich natural resources of the Big Five.

We are united in our assessments of the current state of affairs in the global economy and finance. We joined efforts in our search for new sources of economic growth. We operate on the premise that the scale and nature of modern economic challenges suggest that it is only possible to develop in collaboration, building up cooperation ties which can be most effectively done as part of transparent multilateral institutions.

BRICS is working to reform the global financial and economic architecture, which has become obsolete. We are working at the UN, the G20 and the IMF, where the BRICS countries have 14.75 per cent of votes. We need another 0.25 per cent to have a blocking stake. We stand for an open, equal and mutually beneficial multilateral trade system and the WTO’s role as its foundation. We continue to look for alternatives to the current domination of the global economy by a limited number of “old” reserve currencies. This is why we have created the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement with an aggregate nominal capital of $200 billion.

Of course, we want our companies to receive practical benefits from Russia’s involvement in the BRICS’ strategic partnership and the five countries’ mechanisms that have been established in a number of industries that are of vital importance for our business.

I hope that today we will discuss some better and more effective ways to use the institutions and tools created within the BRICS framework, including in the interests of the Russian business community. What reserves are available? What do we need additionally? These issues should be discussed with due regard for the specific approaches of each of the five countries.

The Ninth BRICS Summit, which was held in Xiamen, China, three months ago, produced very good results. It has shown that the group is entering its second decade with a major package of concrete and useful initiatives. At our meeting in Xiamen, we reported major progress in implementing the BRICS Strategy for Economic Partnership, which was adopted at the Ufa Summit in 2015 and which defines the points of economic connectivity for years ahead. Today we will discuss not only the implementation of our decisions but also ways to promote the new Russian initiatives during South Africa’s BRICS presidency in 2018.

I would like to say that we highly value the role of our relevant agencies, primarily the Economic Development Ministry and the Finance Ministry. The Russian members of the BRICS Business Council led by President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sergey Katyrin are making a major contribution to cooperation between the five BRICS countries.

As I have said, I would like to focus on multilateral projects today. We maintain extensive and intense contacts with each of the BRICS countries, but in this context we would like to discuss projects that involve three, four, or better still, all the five BRICS countries.

In conclusion, I would like to say that BRICS and its economic dimension continue to enjoy demand in any global economic situation. Its main goal is to enhance the living standards in the G5 countries. Of critical importance in this connection is the work of the Russian business community, which can make efficient use of the mutually complementary BRICS economies in the interests of their sustainable development.

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