On the sidelines of the fourth BRICS summit, Rob Davies, South Africa’s minister for trade and industry, tells Nayanima Basu the primary agenda of the next summit, which his country would host, would be to bring issues of the entire African continent to the forefront. Edited excerpts:
In the fifth BRICS summit, what are the development issues you plan to highlight, apart from the general concerns of the entire group?
Decisions on the logistics part have to be worked out. We are already preparing for it. This is going to be an opportunity for us to bring to the fore the African continent and see to it that it is treated with respect. We are going to emphasise on infrastructure development and regional developmental issues of the African continent.
Do you think we would see some success on the creation of a BRICS-led development bank at the next summit, as mentioned in the Delhi Declaration? President Jacob Zuma had emphasised on its need.
Yes, we strongly advocate a BRICS-led development bank. But a lot of technical work has to be done. There would be several discussions between financial institutions. We would try to see that such an institution is a significant financial one, based on the lines of several other regional development banks. This would be important in raising capital for developmental projects in BRICS countries. We have to also work out its location and capital base.
One of the significant outcomes of the fourth BRICS summit had been the agreement on extending credit facility in local currencies. Do you think this would help boost intra-regional trade from $212 billion to the target of $500 billion by 2015?
Overcoming one of the blockages to convert currencies is a big step. But more needs to be done to boost trade within BRICS countries. There has to be more cooperation in boosting capacity and creating a favourable business environment, in terms of greater market access in each other’s countries within BRICS.
President Zuma was extremely vocal about the current impasse at the Doha round of global trade talks under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and developing countries being under pressure to give unreciprocated market access to rich countries. He also pointed to the “unfair treatment” towards emerging economies.
Yes, I support his views. We stand by the Doha development agenda and strongly believe there is a need to address the distortions in agricultural subsidies. There cannot be a plurilateral arrangement, which some countries are planning, as it distracts members from WTO’s multilateral programme. We are also working towards a beneficial package for the LDCs (least developed countries).
India-South Africa bilateral trade is targeted at $15 billion by 2015. India is also seeking a preferential trade agreement (PTA) with the South African Customs Union. What is the progress on this?
First, I think we will be able to cross the $15-billion trade target by 2015 if we go by the Indian figures. However, we have a different set of numbers, and we are exchanging our views on this. On the PTA negotiations, we had some sticky points on tariff structures, but that has been sorted. We hope the differences would be ironed out in the next round of talks.