ISSN 2330-717X

2015 BRICS-SCO Summits In Ufa: New Developments In Multilateralism – Analysis

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In mid-July 2015 the Russian city of Ufa was the venue for the 7th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Summit and the 15th SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) Summit.1 The convergence of the BRICS and SCO Summits at Ufa was due to the coincidental timing of the rotating leaderships of the BRICS and SCO falling to Russia this year.2 Both the BRICS and the SCO are multilateral forums that exist for emerging economies from the developing world, and they offer alternative multilateral venues for developing nations to pursue practical cooperation outside of the Euro-American sphere.3 While the SCO, unlike the BRICS, was originally focused on security cooperation, economic concerns for the SCO members have risen in importance in recent years, and the BRICS-SCO Summits in Ufa have highlighted the convergence in issues of economic cooperation among both the BRICS and SCO member states.

BRICS

Despite the current economic difficulties faced by the BRICS member states, Chinese President Xi Jinping noted at the BRICS Summit in Ufa that these nations still have significant potential for economic growth, and deeper cooperation within the BRICS framework and with other economic powers will help unlock this growth potential. After all, the BRICS economies currently have a combined GDP that has grown to be almost the same size as that of the US; just 8 years ago the US GDP was double that of the BRICS economies. One strategy to unlock this growth potential would be to deploy the BRICS Economic Partnership Strategy to align each BRICS member state’s individual development plan with that of the others. Such strategic alignment is expected to increase the overall competitiveness of the BRICS economies.4

In the run-up to the BRICS Summit, the member states ratified their participation in the BRICS US dollar currency reserve, which will become operational by the end of July 2015. The currency reserve, which will offer its members 100 billion worth of US dollars in emergency funding for liquidity crises, will primarily be funded by China, which will contribute 41 billion USD, followed by Brazil, India, and Russia, which will each contribute 18 billion USD, and South Africa, which will contribute 5 billion USD.5

Apart from the currency reserve, the Ufa Summit also established the groundwork for an eventual free trade agreement for the BRICS economies.6 However, it was the launch of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) that was the major achievement of the Ufa Summit. The NDB is not intended to replace existing international financial institutions (IFIs) like the IMF or World Bank, but is instead intended to supplement them by offering financing that the existing IFIs are unwilling or unable to provide. While the NDB will focus on offering financing to projects within the BRICS member states, projects in other developing countries will also be considered. The BRICS member states will select the first projects to be financed by the NDB by the end of 2015, and the bank is expected to issue its first loans by April 2016. The NDB will focus on financing large-scale projects in the areas of industrialization as well as energy and transportation infrastructure. As this fits with the focus of China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the NDB is expected to collaborate with the AIIB when both IFIs begin operation.7

While governments may establish frameworks for economic development and other forms of practical cooperation, it is the business community that has to take advantage of these opportunities. The leaders of the BRICS member states hence took the opportunity of the Ufa Summit to call on their entrepreneurs and business leaders to pursue trade and investment opportunities in the framework of BRICS cooperation, especially in the key economic sectors of infrastructure development, green energy, and industrial manufacturing. Russian President Vladimir Putin, for example, invited Chinese enterprises to explore business, trade and investment opportunities in Siberia and the Russian Far East. Such intensification of business activity can help stimulate an economic recovery in the BRICS member states.8

In the case of China, President Xi used the opportunity afforded by the BRICS Summit to advance his country’s “Belt and Road” development framework, as well as the initiative’s primary financing instrument, the AIIB.9 Apart from the AIIB and the NDB, China is also involved with two other IFI initiatives: the Silk Road Fund, which has already selected its first project—the Karot hydropower plant in Pakistan—and the proposed SCO Development Bank, which will be discussed in the following section.10

China’s practical cooperation with fellow BRICS member Brazil through the BRICS framework, the AIIB, and bilateral projects, highlights China’s interest in practical cooperation beyond the Eurasian landmass. Chinese engagement in Latin America has attracted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to seek Venezuelan membership in the BRICS, and also to recommend the Latin American regional grouping of leftist nations, the Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América, to participate in the NDB.11 Apart from Latin America, Africa will also be targeted for cooperation with the BRICS, and China has called on the BRICS to establish a regional center on the African continent. BRICS development projects in Africa will complement Chinese projects there that have been established through bilateral agreements as well as under the framework of China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road development plan.12

SCO

The SCO Summit at Ufa saw the expansion of the SCO’s development strategy to include greater practical cooperation including deeper security cooperation and economic integration between the organization’s member states: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The acceleration of economic cooperation was established during the Ufa Summit as a key goal for the SCO’s official development strategy for the next decade. By 2025 the SCO member states will be expected to have accelerated their economic development through greater practical cooperation and increased trade. China also has a long-term vision for a SCO free trade area, which, when it comes to fruition, will provide a boost for trade between the SCO economies.13 In the case of Russia, deeper economic cooperation through the SCO and BRICS can help alleviate the economic and social challenges of Euro-American sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.14

In the field of economic integration, the SCO offers a useful framework for China and Russia to connect their respective regional development initiatives: the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), in particular through the construction of key energy and transportation infrastructure like high-speed rail. China and the EEU will also pursue an economic partnership agreement through the SCO framework.15 Indeed, President Xi has called for greater collaboration between the SCO, BRICS, and the EEU to accelerate common development between their member states.16 A good example of regional economic integration would be the proposed China-Russia-Mongolia economic corridor project which would connect China’s Silk Road Economic Belt, Russia’s transcontinental rail project, and Mongolia’s Prairie Road development plan.17

While the focus of the SCO has primarily been security cooperation, its members have long used the multilateral forum to facilitate economic cooperation. In 2005, for example, the SCO Inter-Bank Association was established, and by 2007 had helped its members agree on an estimated 2 billion USD in loans and business deals, including a Tajik-Uzbek highway and a Kazakh hydropower plant.18 This inter-bank mechanism was the first stage of the process that will eventually lead to the establishment of the SCO Development Bank, which could serve as a secondary source of financing for China’s Central and South Asian partners in the Silk Road Economic Belt projects.19 In 2007 Russia started delivering oil to China through the Sino-Kazakh pipeline, an example of energy cooperation which was negotiated through the SCO framework.20

The Ufa Summit also saw the expansion of the SCO into South Asia, with the organization initiating the accession process for India and Pakistan, both of which currently have observer status at the SCO. The longer term vision for the grouping will see the SCO include more countries from South Asia and the Middle East, including Iran.21 India’s and Pakistan’s accession into the SCO will not only provide these South Asian powers with an additional forum for dialogue concerning their troubled bilateral relationship, it will also offer them access to the experience of the SCO’s member states in combatting the “three evil forces” of extremism, separatism and terrorism that both nations currently face.22 Indeed, the meeting of the Indian and Pakistani leaders at the SCO Summit has already triggered greater bilateral dialogue and exchanges.23

Pakistan’s coming accession to the SCO is particularly important to China given their long-standing bilateral cooperation, including the recently announced China-Pakistan Economic Corridor infrastructure megaproject.24 India’s accession is also of great importance to China, as China recognizes India as being a strategic link in the planned integration between the Silk Road Economic Belt and the EEU. China and India are already cooperating on the AIIB and NDB finance initiatives, and both countries are already exploring the proposed BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar) Economic Corridor infrastructure megaproject. Further cooperation to link China’s “Belt and Road” projects with India’s development projects can also be expected in the future.25

References

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Notes:
1. “BRICS, SCO set to yield pragmatic results,” Global Times, July 7, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-07/172067.shtml.

2 “Ufa ready to host BRICS and SCO summits – republic’s head to RT,” RT, June 26, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.rt.com/business/269677-hamitov-ufa-brics-summit/. “SCO heads of state to hold summit in Ufa,” TASS, July 10, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://tass.ru/en/russia/807528.

3 “Just-concluded BRICS, SCO summits in Ufa highlight China’s constructive role,” Xinhua, July 12, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-12/172787.shtml.

4 “Xi voices confidence in BRICS future, proposes deepening partnership,” Xinhua, July 10, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-10/172579.shtml. Anders Borg, “The crack in the BRICS,” World Economic Forum Agenda, July 9, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, https://agenda.weforum.org/2015/07/the-crack-in-the-brics/. Malcolm Scott, “Here’s the $17 Trillion Reason Why the BRICS Summit This Week Is a Big Deal,” Bloomberg, July 7, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-06/here-s-the-17-trillion-reason-why-the-brics-summit-this-week-is-a-big-deal.

5 “BRICS Contingency Fund expected to be operational in 30 days,” Xinhua, July 1, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-01/171463.shtml. “China to inject $41 bln to BRICS FX pool,” China Daily, July 8, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/business/2015/07-08/172394.shtml.

6 Samir Saran, “From Cold War to Hot Peace: Why BRICS matters,” The Interpreter, July 13, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2015/07/13/Cold-War-to-Hot-Peace-The-Russian-Presidency-and-BRICS.aspx.

7 “First Loans from BRICS Bank Expected in April 2016: Kamath,” IANS, July 9, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.newindianexpress.com/business/news/First-Loans-from-BRICS-Bank-Expected-in-April-2016-Kamath/2015/07/09/article2910869.ece. “New bank will not compete with other agencies, expert says,” China Daily, July 9, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/business/2015/07-09/172437.shtml. “Leaders agree on partnership blueprint,” China Daily, July 10, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-10/172583.shtml.

8 “Putin expects Chinese firms to make ‘significant contribution’ to Russia’s Siberia, Far East,” Xinhua, July 11, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-11/172736.shtml. “Xi urges business community to contribute to BRICS economic development,” Xinhua, July 10, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-10/172658.shtml.

9 “BRICS, SCO set.” Alvin Cheng-Hin Lim, “China’s Transition to the ‘New Normal’: Challenges and Opportunities,” Eurasia Review, April 2, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.eurasiareview.com/02042015-chinas-transition-to-the-new-normal-challenges-and-opportunities-analysis/. Alvin Cheng-Hin Lim, “The US, China and the AIIB: From Zero-Sum Competition to Win-Win Cooperation?” Eurasia Review, April 19, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.eurasiareview.com/19042015-the-us-china-and-the-aiib-from-zero-sum-competition-to-win-win-cooperation-analysis/.

10 “New Development Bank launched in Ufa,” China Daily, July 10, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/business/2015/07-10/172614.shtml. Chen Jia, “Silk Road Fund makes first investment,” China Daily, April 22, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2015-04/22/content_20501261.htm.

11 “China-Brazil ties develop vigorously: Xi,” Xinhua, July 10, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-10/172598.shtml. Alvin Cheng-Hin Lim, “Latin America and China’s ‘New Normal,’” Eurasia Review, May 28, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.eurasiareview.com/28052015-latin-america-and-chinas-new-normal-analysis/. “Venezuela to apply for membership of BRICS group: Maduro,” Xinhua, July 9, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-09/172535.shtml.

12 “Xi voices confidence.” Alvin Cheng-Hin Lim, “Africa and China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road,” The Asia-Pacific Journal 13 (2015), accessed July 17, 2015, http://japanfocus.org/-Alvin_Cheng_Hin-Lim/4296.

13 Mirzokhid Rakhimov, “The Institutional and Political Transformation of the SCO in the Context of Geopolitical Changes in Central Asia,” in The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Eurasian Geopolitics: New Directions, Perspectives, and Challenges, ed. Michael Fredholm (Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2013): 73.

14 “BRICS, SCO set.” “Future development blueprint to lift SCO cooperation to new high,” Xinhua, July 12, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-12/172751.shtml.

15 “Xi pushes BRICS potential,” Global Times, July 9, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-09/172398.shtml. “Xi urges China, Russia to maintain high-level coordination within SCO,” Xinhua, July 9, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-09/172402.shtml. Alvin Cheng-Hin Lim, “China and the Eurasian Economic Union: Prospects for Silk Road Economic Belt,” Eurasia Review, May 14, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.eurasiareview.com/14052015-china-and-the-eurasian-economic-union-prospects-for-silk-road-economic-belt-analysis/. “China, Eurasian Economic Union to launch EPA talks: official,” Xinhua, July 12, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/business/2015/07-12/172769.shtml.

16 “Xi urges BRICS, SCO, EEU to cooperate for people’s welfare,” Xinhua, July 10, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-10/172609.shtml.

17 “Xi urges quickened construction of China-Russia-Mongolia economic corridor,” Xinhua, July 10, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/business/2015/07-10/172596.shtml.

18 Wang Zhengxu and Lim Tin Seng, The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Beijing’s Strategic Objectives in Central Asia, EAI Background Brief No. 342 (Singapore: East Asian Institute): 2-3.

19 Pan Guang, “China in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,” in China and the New International Order, ed. Wang Gungwu and Zheng Yongnian (New York: Routledge, 2008): 242.

20 Pan Guang, “The Spirit of the Silk Road: The SCO and China’s Relations with Central Asia,” in The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Eurasian Geopolitics: New Directions, Perspectives, and Challenges, ed. Michael Fredholm (Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2013): 24.

21 “BRICS, SCO set.” “Acceptance of India, Pakistan into SCO on Ufa summit agenda,” Xinhua, July 7, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-07/172113.shtml. Reid Standish, “China and Russia Lay Foundation for Massive Economic Cooperation,” Foreign Policy, July 10, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/07/10/china-russia-sco-ufa-summit-putin-xi-jinping-eurasian-union-silk-road/.

22 “SCO starts expansion, ratifies 10-year development strategy,” Xinhua, July 11, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-11/172720.shtml. “Russia hopes SCO to become international platform: Putin,” Xinhua, July 11, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-11/172730.shtml.

23 Vishnu Som and Suparna Singh, “India-Pakistan Agree Top Army Officers Will Meet in Person, PM Modi to Visit Pakistan,” NDTV, July 10, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/india-pakistan-agree-top-army-officers-will-meet-in-person-pm-modi-to-visit-pakistan-780077.

24 “Chinese president welcomes Pakistan’s entry into SCO,” CCTV.com, July 10, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://english.cntv.cn/2015/07/10/VIDE1436528646392523.shtml. Alvin Cheng-Hin Lim, “‘Iron Brothers’: Sino-Pakistani Relations and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,” Eurasia Review, May 7, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.eurasiareview.com/07052015-iron-brothers-sino-pakistani-relations-and-the-china-pakistan-economic-corridor-analysis/.

25 “SCO summit to take up India’s membership,” China Daily, July 9, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-09/172422.shtml. Pravakar Sahoo and Abhirup Bhunia, “BCIM Corridor a game changer for South Asian trade,” East Asia Forum, July 18, 2014, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2014/07/18/bcim-corridor-a-game-changer-for-south-asian-trade/. “Xi calls for joint efforts in building stronger BRICS partnership,” Xinhua, July 9, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.ecns.cn/2015/07-09/172407.shtml. Dirk van der Kley, “SCO summit marks steady rise of India in China’s worldview,” The Interpreter, July 8, 2015, accessed July 17, 2015, http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2015/07/08/SCO-summit-marks-steady-rise-of-India-in-Chinas-worldview.aspx.



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Alvin Cheng-Hin Lim

Alvin Cheng-Hin Lim

Alvin Cheng-Hin Lim is a research fellow with International Public Policy Pte. Ltd. (IPP), and is the author of Cambodia and the Politics of Aesthetics (Routledge 2013). He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and has taught at Pannasastra University of Cambodia and the American University of Nigeria. Prior to joining IPP, he was a research fellow with the Longus Institute for Development and Strategy. Email: Alvin Cheng-Hin Lim

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