Russia to fully support Indian presidency of BRICS

India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj (L) and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hold bilateral talks as part of the 14th Russia-India-China (RIC) meeting of foreign ministers.

India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj (L) and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hold bilateral talks as part of the 14th Russia-India-China (RIC) meeting of foreign ministers.

Alexander Shcherbak/TASS
After foreign ministers of Russia, India and China (RIC), the “core of BRICS” met in Moscow on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced support for the Indian presidency of BRICS. India’s Exim Bank, meanwhile, announced an annual Economic Research Award for the BRICS emerging economies, the first of which will be given at the summit in Goa in October.

On a day when Russia said it would “in every way” support programmes outlined by the Indian presidency of the emerging economies of BRICS, the Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank), which is the nominated member development bank from India under the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism, instituted an annual BRICS Economic Research Award.

The objective of the Award is to encourage and stimulate advanced research on economics - related topics of relevance to BRICS member states. The Award, comprising 1.5 million Indian Rupees prize money and a citation, would encourage scholars to conduct focused research studies on topics of contemporary relevance to BRICS nations. The Award will be presented at the annual BRICS Summit in Goa in October this year in the presence of Heads of States of the five BRICS nations. Entries for the Award are open till June 15, 2016.

New Delhi assumed the rotating Chair of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) from Moscow on February 15. At the same time, India’s Exim Bank assumed the Chairmanship of the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism. The nodal development Bank marked the occasion by setting up the annual BRICS Economic Research Award.

“We are very happy to announce the BRICS Economic Research Annual Award under the guidance of the Government of India. As India’s premier financial institution in promoting the country’s international trade, Exim Bank takes pride in recognising intelligent and meaningful research in the areas of international economics. The award will recognise and felicitate one of the best researchers in the field of international economics during the BRICS Annual Summit,” said Yaduvendra Mathur, Chairman and Managing Director of Exim Bank.

Doctoral theses written by nationals of any of the five member nations of BRICS will be eligible for the Award. The eligible entrants must have been awarded a Doctorate or accepted for award of a Doctorate from any recognized nationally accredited University or academic institution globally, between January 2011 and December 2015. The broad focus of the eligible theses could be International Economics, Trade, Development, and related aspects of Financing.

Cooperation in services

India is also planning to initiate greater cooperation among the five BRICS member countries in the services sector and on ways to deal with non-tariff measures (NTMs). According to the Indian Commerce Ministry’s action plan, the exercise will kick off with two seminars, comprising senior officials from all five countries in the identified areas of NTMs and services, on April 21 this year.

“The seminars will be an exploratory exercise to see how the countries can cooperate in boosting services trade and also addressing NTMs, such as onerous standards and procedures, to boost flow of goods and services,” a government official told ‘Business Line’, the business newspaper of the ‘Hindu’ group of publications.

Trade Ministers from BRICS will meet in the middle of 2016, to take forward ideas generated by their officials in these exploratory meetings.

“We hope that some ideas on cooperation in services and NTMs would be incorporated in the ministerial declaration,” the official said.

The final action plan, which is being envisaged as a document, is likely to be finalised at the last meeting to be held simultaneously with the BRICS Summit to be hosted by India and attended by five heads of states. The BRICS bloc together accounted for a GDP of over $16 trillion in 2014.

“Right now we do not know how much appetite there is in member-countries to cooperate in the areas of services and NTMs. We will have a better idea after the first set of seminars in April,” the official said.

India is planning to urge BRICS nations to look at intensifying cooperation in various mutually-beneficial sectors like education, travel and tourism, and health.

“A number of studies carried out by various institutes have underlined the need to encourage cooperation and trade in services, as it will also have a positive impact on overall productivity and efficiency of the economy,” the official said.

In the area of NTMs, India has both offensive and defensive interests. “While we want other countries to address NTMs in areas like food, we are defensive in sectors such as steel and electronics, where we have some NTMs of our own. The approach has to be balanced,” the official said.

Interestingly, when Russia initiated a proposal for cooperation in e-commerce during its presidency last year, India held back as it did not want to take on commitments in the area.

NDB announces release of funds for first projects

Meanwhile, the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) has approved its first package of loans worth some $811 million. The four projects in Brazil, China, South Africa and India are all in the renewal energy development sphere.

The decision to approve the first loans, which will be handed out in parts, was approved by the NDB at the board of governors meeting on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank spring meetings in Washington, earlier this week.

Asked why no project from Russia had been approved, the NDB spokesman said, “There are many more new projects in the pipeline including projects from Russia. They are at various stages of consideration or appraisal.”

The NDB, which started its operations in July, 2015 in Shanghai, with an initial authorized capital fund of $100 billion, was set up to fund infrastructure projects in emerging economies for sustainable development.

For these first projects, the NDB has decided to provide $300 million to Brazil, $81 million to China, $250 million to India and $180 million to South Africa. The bank estimates that these projects in the renewable energy sector, with a combined capacity of 2.37MW, can together help reduce the amount of harmful emissions by four million tons annually.

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