BRICS leaders, Presidents Dilma Rousseff, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Jacob Zuma and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Thursday met business representatives from the five countries in the Russian city of Ufa.
Russian President Putin used a speech at the meet to urge BRICS leaders to begin preparations for settling more trade in national currencies, cutting out the dollar.
“We expect to pursue the same policy in currency cooperation with other BRICS countries as Russia has in place with China,” Putin said.
Russia signed a massive currency swap deal for three years with China worth $24.4 billion in December. China and Brazil also have a swap line of about $30 billion in place following a 3-year agreement signed between the central banks.
The Russian President, beleaguered by Western sanctions, greeted his BRICS counterparts with a warm welcome in Ufa, originally a fortress built under the orders of former Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible.
The heads of state met business representatives, including national chiefs of the BRICS Business Council.
The BRICS Business Council is reviewing proposals from the business community from the five countries on cooperation with the New Development Bank that began official operations on Tuesday.
Putin met with representatives of the BRICS trade unions ahead of the summit and vowed that “BRICS leaders would consider the suggestions prepared by the trade union organisations for this summit”.
He also noted that the “BRICS nations are the world leaders in unemployment reduction rates”.
South African President Jacob Zuma, the third leader to speak at the business meet on Thursday, urged the five countries to step up visa harmonization to aid business and trade flow.
South Africa is already providing business people from BRICS easier access to the country.
Zuma said on Thursday Pretoria wants the emerging powers to play a bigger role in world affairs.
“I am happy to reiterate my support for BRICS , which I believe is reinforcing our rightful space in global forums amongst developed economies,” said the South African President.
Trade between the five countries reached $291 billion in 2014.
The share of BRICS countries in global GDP has reached 30 per cent.
Zuma also pointed out that “reducing inequality in standards of living and economic growth are challenges for BRICS”.
Both Zuma and Chinese President Xi Jinping who spoke before him, agreed that with slowing growth, BRICS are facing challenges.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also urged BRICS leaders at the Summit to focus on manufacturing supply chains across BRICS.
“The BRICS Business Council is the most important addition to the BRICS format. BRICS reinsurance pool is also a welcome step,” said Modi.
The Indian leader also proposed trade fairs to be included under the BRICS umbrella programmes.
“India will be happy to host the first BRICS trade fair,” said Modi.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff also concurred with Modi saying the BRICS Business Council has pushed BRICS cooperation forward.
“I am happy to note that new BRICS institutions are ready to begin operations. BRICS bank will focus first on our countries and later in other developing countries,” said Rousseff.
She also mentioned the China-led AIIB as an important addition to multilateral institutions that could fund the infrastructure gap in developing countries.
The BRICS Business Council submitted the results of their work over the past year, that also mapped out priorities for the near future, to the five leaders on Thursday.
Established in 2013, the BRICS Business Council serves as a platform for boosting economic, trade, business and investment ties among business communities in the five member states.
Putin, Modi, Xi, Zuma and Rousseff will hold marathon rounds of talks in both restricted and expanded formats on Thursday before signing of a package of documents and releasing the Ufa Communique.