Brics Nations Take Steps on Currency Trade, Bank

Brazil and China Set Currency Swap, but Bloc’s Idea for Development Bank Encounters Some Obstacles

By PATRICK MCGROARTY in Durban and DEVON MAYLIE in Pretoria, The Wall Street Journal
[image]ReutersSouth Africa’s first lady Bongi Ngema toasts China’s first lady Peng Liyuan as President Jacob Zuma looks on.

Members of the Brics group of emerging markets took steps to trade their currencies more freely and to establish a joint development bank, seeking to counter the influence that developed countries exert over the global economy.

Brazil and China agreed Tuesday at a summit of Brics leaders in Durban, South Africa, to use their central banks to swap up to $30 billion in Brazilian real and Chinese yuan over the next three years, allowing businesses to trade between the two countries without converting earnings and investments to U.S. dollars, the standard conduit of global trade.

Brazil’s finance minister, Guido Mantega, said the arrangement, which the countries have been working toward since this past June, would give them a means to exchange currencies “independent of the conditions of financial markets.” He also said the Brics countriesBrazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—were close to an agreement to pool some foreign-currency reserves in case of a balance-of-payments crisis.

The bloc’s move to create a new development bank, however, was weighed down by disagreements over funding and management, said Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov. “On the whole, we agreed that we will continue to work on creating a Brics bank once the unresolved questions are answered,” the Interfax news agency quoted Mr. Siluanov as saying.

South Africa’s finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, added that he was pleased with the negotiations. “We’re on track,” he said.

South African officials want a new development bank to fund infrastructure projects that the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have overlooked. Larger Brics members, such as China and India, are eager to establish an institution that could extend their influence deeper into Africa and other emerging markets where their economic interests are expanding.

The Brics’ slow march toward establishing their own bank illustrates their struggle to move past populist rhetoric to true cooperation between powerful and sometimes adversarial nations. Each is eager to reap the benefits of a larger trade group—and all are fearful of being flooded with products from the others, particularly China.

“What we now seek to address jointly is to find the means towards a more equitable balance of trade,” South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma told reporters in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, after meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping. “Africa is counting on the People’s Republic of China for support in the continent’s development.”

Mr. Xi acknowledged China is pursuing its own commercial interests in Africa. “We each see the other side as an opportunity for our own development,” he said.

According to the proposals discussed Tuesday, each country would likely contribute up to $10 billion to the bank, an official said, speaking before plans were to be approved by the national leaders gathering Wednesday. The bank would focus on infrastructure development, he said, both in the five-nation group and in emerging markets where they want to do business.

But economists and business leaders said an initial pool of $50 billion wouldn’t be enough for the bank to make its mark in Africa or elsewhere.

“At this point it’s somewhat symbolic,” said Anthony Thunström, chief operating officer for accounting firm KPMG LLP‘s Africa investment program. “Its potential will only be realized when it’s better capitalized, and I think that’s going to be a longer-term project.”

More specific decisions—including which country will host the bank and where it will invest—will be postponed at least until the bloc’s next summit meeting in Brazil in 2014, he said.

“There is general agreement that there is a need for this,” said the official involved in the negotiations. “Creating a multilateral institution takes quite a long time from being an idea to being set up.”

 

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About Alexander Gordin
An international merchant banking professional with over twenty years of business operating and advisory experience in the areas of export finance, international project finance, risk mitigation and cross-border business development. Clients include foreign governments, municipalities and state enterprises as well as Fortune 500 and small/medium enterprises. Strong entrepreneurial instincts, combined with leadership and strategic skills. Transactional and negotiations experience in over thirty five countries. Author of the highly acclaimed "Fluent in Foreign Business" book and creator of the "Fluent in OPIC", "Fluent in EXIM","Fluent In Foreign Franchising", "Fluent in FCPA",and "Fluent in USTDA" seminar/webinar series. Currently developing "Fluent In ......" seminars and publications. Co-author of the Fi3 Country Business Appeal Indices. Extensive international business development and project finance transaction experience in healthcare, aerospace, ICT, conventional and alternative energy infrastructure, distribution and hospitality industries. Experience managing international public and private corporations. Co-Founded three companies abroad. Strong Emerging and Frontier Market expertise. Published and featured in numerous publications including: The Wall Street Journal, Knowledge@Wharton, NBC.com, The Chicago Tribune, Industry Week, Industry Today, Business Finance, Wharton Magazine Blog, NY Enterprise Report, Success magazine, Kyiv Post and on a number of radio and television programs including: Voice of America, CNBC, CNNfn, and Bloomberg. Frequent speaker on strategy, cross-border finance and international business development. Executive MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. B.S. in Management of Information Systems from the Polytechnic Institute of NYU. Specialties Strategic Management Advisory, Export Finance, International Project Finance & Risk Management, Cross-border Negotiations, Structured Finance transactions, Senior Government and Corporate officials liason

One Response to Brics Nations Take Steps on Currency Trade, Bank

  1. Pingback: A Win-Win In Infrastructure – The Durban BRICS Summit | Allana Potash Blog

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