The BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – have agreed to smooth the path for e-commerce and trade in services.
India, host of this year's BRICS summit, describes the bloc as "A pillar of hope for this world full of political challenges, safety-related challenges, and economic challenges". Hyperbole aside, the bloc represents over 40 per cent of the world's population, more than 20 per cent of its land mass, and the world's second, sixth, eleventh, twelfth, and forty-first largest economies measured by GDP*.
The bloc is not a formal alliance, but its members enjoy the chance to show the world they can act in concert, at scale, when it suits them to do so.
Late last week, the bloc's trade ministers announced initiatives aimed at improving trade among members.
One item of interest to the ministers was trade in services.
"The individual circumstances and strategies of BRICS members in regulating and promoting professional services may be diverse," states a newly issued framework [PDF] for intra-bloc services trade. But the members want their services sectors to have more access to each other's markets, with recognition of qualifications across the bloc seen as an important starting point.
Doing so will make it easier for – say – Indian IT pros that work for outsourcers to work in Russia, or Brazil. If similar scenarios come about throughout the bloc, the ministers see it "leading to greater contribution to economic development and job creation".
On the e-commerce front, the bloc's trade ministers agreed to pursue shared consumer protection measures.
Members are open to "consider elaborating on the steps undertaken … to address issues of consumer protection and at the same time, seek measures to control the sale of counterfeit products, catalogue rogue/fake portals, and adopt appropriate measures to support offline retailers and neighbourhood stores".
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The e-commerce plan also has obvious potential to create markets for China's giant e-tailers – the likes of JD.com and Alibaba – while avoiding the kind of situation that has emerged in Indonesia, where local e-commerce giants have become the dominant suppliers to small retailers.
The bloc has previously said it wants to develop e-commerce consumer protections and share them with the world. And if over 40 per cent of the world's population uses those rules, what's to stop the rest of us adopting them?
No targets were set for delivery on these ambitions. But they clearly have the potential to allow some BRICS members' pet industries to flourish within the bloc, and therefore to grow to a point at which they can also compete more effectively anywhere. ®
*China, India, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa respectively.