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EDITORIAL - Building with the BRICS

Published:Wednesday | October 15, 2014 | 10:00 AM

Brian Pengelley last week urged Jamaican manufacturers to seek to sell to countries to which they might not normally pay attention, but where they are now likely to find lucrative markets for the niche products they have to offer. Mr Pengelley specifically mentioned the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa).

We agree with Mr Pengelley, the president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA), especially about the BRICS - and about more than trade. We believe that Jamaica should be engaging this group of countries in a deeper political and economic engagement.

That, however, requires more than off-the-cuff speeches by persons like Mr Pengelley, or others, in the private and public sectors, but a strategic partnership between the two, with clearly defined goals and realistic expectations. But that comes first from knowing what these countries have on offer that may be of value to Jamaica and, perhaps, its partners in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), for which Kingston has responsibility for international relations.

NO VISIBLE EFFORT

We, however, do not sense that Jamaica's, and the region's, officials, despite their occasional fluttering recognition of the opportunities, are embarked on that kind of effort. Yet the BRICS are among the world's largest and fastest-growing economies and of increasing geopolitical importance.

China, for instance, is nominally the world's second largest economy, with gross domestic product of more than US$$10.3 trillion and exports exceeding US$2.2 trillion. Brazil is the seventh largest economy, Russia the eighth, India the 10th, and South Africa the 28th. Combined, their GDP is more than US$17 trillion and their exports value approximately US$3.5 trillion. They import more than US$3.2 trillion, although more than 60 per cent of that is to feed the hunger of China's factories for raw materials.

In any event, as Mr Pengelley pointed out, Jamaica's - or, for that matter, the Caribbean's - producers need only grab a minuscule fraction of these markets for their factories to run at capacity. Recognising this fact is one thing. It is quite another to make it happen. That requires serious work to determine what this country has to sell on a continuous basis, and what of these products they want to buy and at what price, then go and sell them.

LENDING FACILITIES

It makes sense, too, for other reasons for Jamaica and CARICOM to seek deepened, respectful, but genuinely non-aligned relations with the BRICS, which are beginning to carve a route out of the unipolar encirclement in which the world has largely been trapped since the end of the Cold War. In the post-Cold War environment, small countries like Jamaica had less leverage for independence.

In July, the BRICS formalised their agreement to launch the so-called New Development Bank, with an eventual capital of US$100 billion, as well as a contingent reserve fund of US$100 billion. The development bank will lend for infrastructure projects in the BRICS and other emerging economies, while the reserve fund will help countries that develop balance-of-payments/liquidity problems. They will not, at this juncture, challenge the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, but suggest a possibility for the start of a shift to a more equitable global power relationship.

That should be of interest to Jamaica. It is, however, for our Government and other stakeholders to first note the possibilities.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.