Investment facilitation, e-commerce to top BRICS meet agenda
Single window for trade facilitation to be taken up
BRICS nations will soon consider a proposal to frame ‘guiding principles’ for investment policymaking to boost investment flows into Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa as well as take steps to promote e-commerce among the five leading emerging economies.
In addition, the BRICS Contact Group on Economic and Trade Issues (CGETI) meeting – slated for early next week in Beijing – will also discuss measures for closer cooperation among the BRICS countries for developing their respective national single window for trade facilitation, official sources told The Hindu.
China, the current BRICS chair, wants to push ‘investment facilitation’ and ‘e-commerce’-related issues, the sources said. Beijing’s proposal for ‘Guiding Principles for BRICS Investment Policymaking’ is similar to ‘Guiding Principles’ agreed by the G20 (group of 20 major economies of the world) Trade Ministers at Shanghai in July 2016 under the Chinese G20 Presidency, they said. India was part of that meeting.
China has also been at the forefront of a proposal for a global pact on ‘investment facilitation and promotion’ at the World Trade Organisation (WTO)-level, and is making efforts to ensure that the proposal on a global investment pact gains traction before the WTO Ministerial Conference (MC) meeting in December 2017 in Buenos Aires (Argentina). The MC meeting is the WTO’s highest decision-taking body.
The ‘G20 Guiding Principles for Global Investment Policymaking’, among other things, states that, “Governments should avoid protectionism in relation to cross-border investment” and that “investment policies should establish open, non-discriminatory, transparent and predictable conditions for investment.”
It adds that, “dispute settlement procedures should be fair, open and transparent, with appropriate safeguards to prevent abuse.” China, driving this year’s BRICS agenda, now wants the BRICS nations to separately adopt these principles and enter into an ‘investment facilitation’ agreement.
India had recently rejected a proposal by the European Union and Canada at the WTO-level for a global investment pact that incorporates the contentious Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism. The ISDS mechanism allows firms to drag governments to international arbitration without waiting to exhaust the available local remedies and seek huge compensation citing ‘losses’ they incur due to reasons, including policy changes.
China has also been leading the discussions on e-commerce at the global level. In November 2016, the WTO said China had proposed that discussions at the global trade body should focus on the promotion and facilitation of cross-border trade in goods enabled by the Internet. The WTO further said stated that, “It (China) said discussions (on e-commerce) could also include services directly supporting this, such as payment and logistic services.”
Incidentally, there is a proposal for setting up a common payment gateway to promote e-commerce in BRICS. The BRICS Trade Ministers Communiqué, after their meeting in October 2016, had sought strong intra-BRICS cooperation in e-commerce.