Reflecting on the greater influence of the BRICS, recently, in global forums, the always-interesting Alan Beattie asks:
“Is this a pivot point such as the second world war, where the confident, innovative US muscled aside the weakened, debt-laden economies of Europe and remade the global financial architecture? ” Extract from FT.com
His guess? “No, not yet”. He points out the BRICS are dominated by one country, China, that is still dependent on foreign demand for its economic strength rather than on its domestic resources.
“A decade of rapid growth is not enough for the Brics to seize the baton of global economic leadership from the US and western Europe. The grouping, or some of them, may have astonished the world with their progress over the past 10 years. But it will require a qualitative improvement as well as more growth to consolidate that shift of power.”
In an accompanying article he argues:
“…Aside from the long-running debate about giving developing countries more votes in the IMF, it has proved hard to hammer out a substantive set of subjects on which the disparate Bric countries have the same interests.” Extract from FT.com
Beattie points out that for all their capacity jointly to wield influence in global forums, the BRICS do not have much in common in their domestic policy approaches and few common external interests. This has been evident in the Doha negotiations where India and Brazil, especially, have opposing interests in matters such as agricultural trade liberalization, and at Copenhagen where China’s interests were not apparently those of many developing countries; effectivelly sui generis. Beattie concludes that:
“In diplomacy, as in economics, the power wielded by the Bric countries may end up being distinctly weighted towards the wishes of Beijing.”
I think all this is pretty sound. But…in my view we are witnessing, nonetheless, a secular change in global governance, to be marked by confusion, delay and irrelevance for global institutions such as WTO that cling to a mode of “explicit consensus” (as the Doha Declaration puts it) in decision-making. Such presumptive unanimity or compliance is no longer likely except where the decisions concerned are inescapable—like those on the global ‘stimulus’ (or otherwise trivial in a policy sense, such as humanitarian aid). The future seems, for now, to belong rather to plurilateral decision-making and institutions in different forms.