‘Bullying’: China, Russia lead BRICS revolt over protectionism

Brasilia: Chinese President Xi Jinping and leaders of the BRICS group of emerging economies have criticised what they view as politically motivated protectionism during a global slowdown and said their countries were doing their best to counter the trend.

At their annual summit, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa called for greater inter-BRICS trade and investment and urged the group's New Development Bank to pump more funding into infrastructure and sustainable growth.

"Protectionist and bullying counter-currents bring shocks to international trade, adding to downward pressure on the world economy," Xi, whose country is locked in a trade war with the United States said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, shake hands at a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 11th BRICS Summit, in Brasília, Brazil.Credit:AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin said global growth rates have been declining without interruption since the beginning of 2018 and will reach the lowest point in 10 years, citing International Monetary Fund forecasts.

"The BRICS countries are making considerable contributions to support growth," Putin said.

"The global economy has been influenced by the wide usage of unfair competition in trade, unilateral sanctions, including those that are politically motivated, and protectionism is flourishing," Putin said.

He said he also supported more cooperation in information and computing.

"We would like the other countries to look at our advances in those areas to participate with us, including in anti-virus programs that are fundamental for the information sector," Putin said.

Speaking at an event for business executives, Putin also told his fellow leaders that Russia has proposed a data-exchange network to help small and medium-size companies in their nations to find suppliers more efficiently.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the BRICS Business Council prior the 11th edition of the BRICS Summit, in Brasilia.Credit:AP

China is in the midst of a trade fight with the US that has caused economic forecasts to slide. Part of that fight are accusations by the US that China stole American intellectual property and that companies like Huawei present national security risks to the US. Australia rejected Huawei's participation in the National Broadband Network also on national security grounds.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his country aimed to be a $US5 trillion ($7.6 trillion) economy by 2024, up from $US2.6 trillion in 2018. He said that BRICS targets for investment and trade must be more ambitious and welcomed suggestions to further reduce trade costs.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Brazil was recovering international confidence but needed more economic reforms to create a more attractive business atmosphere for investors.

A meeting between Bolsonaro and Xi earlier in the day showcased how far relations have come since last year. Bolsonaro repeatedly bashed China in the lead up to last October's elections in Brazil, creating concerns that he could disrupt BRICS, one of the world's biggest trading partnerships.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the BRICS Summit in Brazil.Credit:AP

China's growing presence had made it a target for Bolsonaro's nationalist rhetoric, including a repeated complaint: "The Chinese are not buying in Brazil. They are buying Brazil."

Since he took office, diplomats and business leaders in both countries have persuaded Bolsonaro to tone down his anti-China rhetoric.

"We want to more than expand, we want to diversify our trade relationship," Bolsonaro said at the event with Xi.

While diplomatic ceremonies highlighted common ground, not far across town a dispute over the Venezuelan embassy dredged up differences on one of Latin America's most pressing issues.

China and Russia back Venezuela's leftist President Nicolas Maduro, but Bolsonaro sees opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's legitimate leader.

Supporters of Maduro and Guaido came to blows on Wednesday after representatives for Guaido entered the embassy in Brasilia in what Venezuela’s Foreign Minister called a forceful invasion. The Brazilian government persuaded them to leave after 11 hours.


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