Xi Backs BRICS Expansion, Talks Up Chinese Economy

(Bloomberg) — Chinese President Xi Jinping publicly backed expansion of the BRICS bloc, though his remarks were delivered on his behalf by one of his ministers at an event in Johannesburg which Xi opted to skip.

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“Whatever resistance there may be, BRICS as a positive and stable force for good will continue to grow,” said Chinese Commerce Secretary Wang Wentao, reading Xi’s prepared statement. “We will forge a stronger BRICS strategic partnership, expand the BRICS Plus model and actively advance membership expansion,” he told a BRICS Business Forum.

It was not immediately clear why Xi changed his plans. He attended a lunch hosted by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa shortly before the forum. BRICS leaders are expected to discuss expansion of the bloc during their summit, though there is some disagreement on how it should be done. While South Africa and Russia back the addition of new members, India is wary of the group becoming a mouthpiece for China, and Brazil is worried about alienating the West.

Xi Talks Up Chinese Economy (6:30 p.m.)

Xi’s statement to the forum also sounded an upbeat note on the Chinese economy, which has become an object of concern in global financial markets amid flagging growth, a heavily-leveraged property market and risks of deflation.

“The Chinese economy has strong resilience, tremendous potential and great vitality,” Wang said on Xi’s behalf. “The fundamentals sustaining China’s long-term growth will remain unchanged. The giant ship of the Chinese economy will continue to part waves and sail ahead.”

The statement also said that China will remain an “important opportunity for the world’s development,” and that the country will expand market access and improve the climate for foreign businesses.

Lula Urges BRICS to Accelerate Steps Toward De-Dollarization (5:46 p.m.)

Lula said BRICS countries should seek a reference unit in order to accelerate the de-dollarization process.

“I have defended the idea of adopting a reference unit of account for trade, which will not replace our national currencies,” he told a BRICS business forum on Tuesday in Johannesburg, adding that the Global South had already overtaking the weight of the G-7 in terms of purchasing power.

Xi Says China to Buy More From South Africa (2:37 p.m.)

Xi said at a joint briefing with Ramaphosa in Pretoria following a state visit that China is ready to import more “quality products” from South Africa and that it would deepen bilateral cooperation in electricity, new energy and innovation, while encouraging Chinese companies to invest in Africa’s most industrialized nation.

“We believe our countries should be strategic partners, we should deepen political mutual trust,” Xi told his host. “We support substantive progress in G20 and support South Africa employing a greater role. Under current circumstances it is important to step up,” he said.

Saudi Foreign Minister to Attend Summit (1 p.m.)

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud is traveling to South Africa on Tuesday on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to a statement issued by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. The prince is expected to hold a number of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit with members of participating countries.

The statement didn’t mention Saudi Arabia’s potential membership of BRICS, something which several countries in the bloc have been pushing as part of the expansion discussions.

German Foreign Minister Questions BRICS Accommodation of Putin (12:40 p.m.)

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock questioned how BRICS could accommodate Russian President Vladimir Putin, given his decision to halt grain exports via the Black Sea.

“It’s pointless to have a close cooperation within BRICS with a Russian president who has at the same time bombed the grain deal,” she said, while dismissing the notion that a more assertive BRICS could sow global divisions.

“In these times all nations in the world see the importance of cooperation and partnership,” she told reporters in Berlin. “We support freedom of cooperation and partnership. So all nations of the world are free to choose with whom they want to work. It’s completely right that more countries demand a voice. It can’t only be the big countries of the world who decide how the global international order is designed.”

–With assistance from Simone Iglesias, S’thembile Cele, Colleen Goko, Paul Vecchiatto, Ilya Arkhipov, Sudhi Ranjan Sen and Iain Rogers.

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