Wed, Jul 25, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Trade war risk to dominate BRICS summit in S Africa


Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, walks with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during an official state visit in Pretoria yesterday.

Photo: EPA

Leaders of the BRICS emerging economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — are to meet in Johannesburg this week, with the threat of a worsening global trade war topping the agenda.

US President Donald Trump’s hardening stance has compounded fears of an all-out trade war after he slapped levies on goods from China worth tens of billions of US dollars as well as tariffs on steel and aluminum from the EU, Canada and Mexico.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are to attend the annual three-day summit opening today.

Earlier this month, China said that it would step up cooperation with other developing nations, such as the BRICS grouping, to counter “trade protectionism.”

China on Monday rejected accusations by Trump that it was manipulating the yuan to give its exporters an edge, saying Washington appeared “bent on provoking a trade war.”

Trump has said he is ready to impose tariffs on all US$500 billion of Chinese imports, adding that China’s trade surplus with the US is due to unfair currency manipulation.

“As to the US being bent on provoking a trade war, China does not want a trade war, but is not afraid,” a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said when asked about Trump’s threat to impose the across-the-board tariffs on Chinese goods.

Russian Minister for Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin last week said that “this summit is about the context — we are at a time when the US and China announce new measures almost every week.”

Much of the discussions with China would likely focus on what is happening with the US, he said.

Sreeram Chaulia, of the Jindal School of International Affairs outside Delhi, said BRICS leaders would “concur that the US has unleashed punitive trade wars that are hurting all the BRICS members.”

“They have a collective interest in promoting intra-BRICS trade. The urgency this time is greater,” he said.

“Trade agreements between associations of countries like BRICS have become increasingly important given the self-seeking, and ultimately short-sighted, barriers to trade that are being instigated by the US,” Kenneth Creamer, an economist at Johannesburg’s Wits University, told reporters.

“South Africa, and Africa more broadly, can benefit from increasing exports to fast-growing countries like India and China. BRICS has the strategic potential to re-shape world trade,” he added.

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