CHINA'S VOICE: Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the BRICS Summit in Durban on March 27 (LAN HONGGUANG)
Along with the bank agreement, China and Brazil signed a three-year currency exchange agreement of up to $30 billion in bilateral trade, ostensibly to prevent collateral damage of commercial ties from any future banking crisis.
A positive outlook
Aside from the BRICS Development Bank, and the Consortium of Think Tanks, to assist members with innovation, another notable launch at the summit was the BRICS Business Council. South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said the council would be a permanent structure of business leaders from the five countries, with South Africa as host for the first year, promoting intra-BRICS cooperation. Speaking at the breakfast launch, business leaders stressed that the business council serves to support BRICS small and medium-sized enterprises.
It would also assist in training—South Africa has 3.2 million youth in need of skill improvement, according to President Zuma, who is keen to learn how other BRICS members are tackling this problem.
In tune with the summit's theme, Brazil's Minister of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade, Fernando Pimentel, emphasized the importance of scaling up trade with Africa, while Anand Sharma, India's Minister of Commerce, Industry and Textiles, confirmed India's decision to share IT facilities with Africa.
Widely respected South African business tycoon Patrice Motsepe will chair the business council.
The energy at the summit clearly indicates that there is a positive outlook for BRICS moving forward. Members want to make things happen at their own pace of development, in spirit at least, and are committed to recognizing the importance of BRICS and shed the summits "talk shop" image.
China's President Xi Jinping emphasized this by including the summit in his first visit abroad. He said the potential of BRICS is infinite, and that the "real potential of BRICS cooperation is yet to be realized," adding that cooperation can improve global economic development.
The summit proceedings concluded with BRICS leaders meeting African heads of state in the BRICS Leaders-Africa Dialogue Forum to discuss cooperation in infrastructure development and alternative trade opportunities for the continent, especially with China.
South Africa has an emotional history with each of the other BRICS countries. Davies said that the summit's success would not be measured just on the quantity of increased BRICS trade, but also in the number of partnerships that BRICS members will develop in supporting productive capacity. After the doors of the Durban International Convention Center have closed and members departed to prepare for next year's gathering in Brazil, it is people-to-people connections, more than economic benefits, that will take BRICS to the next cooperative level.
(Reporting from Durban, South Africa)
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