Cross-border terror, Trump’s trade policy on agenda as BRICS summit begins at Johannesburg

By Elton Gomes

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Johannesburg to participate in the 10th BRICS summit starting on Wednesday. At the summit, Modi will be accompanied by state heads of Russia, Brazil, China, and Russia. The summit comes at a time when United States President Trump’s trade policies have caused significant uncertainty around the world. Cross-border terror issues are likely to dominate Modi’s agenda at the summit.

What issues will be discussed at the summit?

The inevitable trade war between Beijing and Washington will be the major issue to be discussed at the summit. From threatening to discard current trade deals to imposing steel and aluminum tariffs, the Trump administration’s move towards a more protectionist agenda has left the world on the verge of a trade war. South Africa also seems to be facing barriers in exporting steel, aluminum, and automobiles to the US. Responding to Trump’s restrictive trade policies, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said, “We are against unilateralism – we are in favour of free trade,” as per a Reuters report.

The report cited a diplomat involved in drafting the summit’s final statement, and mentioned that although the US will not be condemned, BRICS’ leaders will vehemently defend multilateralism and organisations like the World Trade Organisation. Officials and analysts added that trade flows between BRICS members will also be facilitated. These efforts would include bolstering the groups’ financial institution, the New Development Bank.

Business Standard reported the nations might also discuss the BRICS Investment Facilitation – a mechanism to facilitate investments among member nations. Some heated debates on the services trade might take place wherein India favours liberal norms to leverage its strengths while other nations might be a little cautious about opening up their markets.

China said that it will look to enhance coordination on macroeconomic policies with fellow BRICS nations in response to the “challenges posed by the changing policies of certain developed countries,” said foreign minister Zhang Jun.

India-China talks

Senior sources have revealed that talks between India and China on trade could also take place. Both nations will look to discuss trade policies, as China looks to renew ties with India amidst severe trade restrictions from the US. China has reduced import duties for numerous Indian products, while India is yet to reciprocate fully. India is, however, threatening to impose safeguard duties on solar cell imports from China.

News agency ANI reported that Prime Minister Modi will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the BRICS summit to discuss bilateral relations and cooperation.

What is expected to be on PM Modi’s agenda?

Cross-border terrorism is likely to be on top of Modi’s agenda at the summit. India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval attended a BRICS security summit last week wherein he emphasised that sufficient steps had not been taken to check cross-border and state-sponsored terrorism.

In addition, India will look to push fellow BRICS nations to define terrorism. However, doing so would not be easy. “The definition of terrorism is not an easy issue. The UN itself is yet to define it. We need to wait and see which way the discussion will progress what we come up with at the end,” a BRICS diplomat said, as reported by Hindustan Times.

Furthermore, India seems eager to set up a BRICS rating agency, as it feels that the methodology of S&P, Fitch, and Moody’s is biased against developing nations. Although India presented a feasibility study in the 2016 summit, other member nations did not seem interested, and India is likely to make a push for it again.

Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius