Q&A: “IBSA is a Beacon for Political Strategising and South-South Cooperation”

Posted on 28 June 2011 by admin

Mario Osava interviews CELSO AMORIM, former foreign minister of Brazil

Celso Amorim

Celso Amorim, one of the founding fathers of IBSA. Credit: Monika Flueckiger/WEF

BRASILIA, 28 Jun (IPS) — Celso Amorim, one of the fathers of the IBSA Forum (India, Brazil, and South Africa) says in this interview that for this alliance of three major emerging powers, “Helping the poorest countries is clearly one of its callings. This gives it both its uniqueness and its international legitimacy.”

As Brazil’s head diplomat during the government of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2003-2010), Amorim led international negotiations, like the Doha Round of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the South American integration process, and the broadening of the G8 from the club of the most powerful countries into the G20, a forum dedicated to the coordination of the global economic strategies while incorporating the emerging nations.

Amorim’s achievements led American David Rothkopf in an October 2009 article for Foreign Policy journal to designate him “the best foreign minister in the world”, arguing that it was “hard to think of another foreign minister who has so effectively orchestrated such a meaningful transformation of his country’s international role”

Foreign minister from 1993-1995 as well, Amorim is a diplomat and university professor of political science and international relations.

Q: What was the reason for creating IBSA?

A: IBSA was created as a lighthouse for policy formulation and South-South cooperation between India, Brazil, and South Africa, three countries with much in common, three large, vibrant, multi-cultural democracies, each located in a different developing continent. The four summits and innumerable ministerial meetings and the intense activity in civil society show that there is great potential for cooperation and mutual learning that we are starting to explore.

Q: Is there a danger that IBSA is diluting certain functions of the BRICS group (which also includes Russia and China), for example, reforming the world financial system, or the International Monetary Fund, or WTC negotiations? In short, how are these groups different, and what do they share?

A: The commonalities of the IBSA countries are more evident than for the BRICS countries. For a start, two are permanent members of the UN Security Council and thus less interested in reform of global governance in security and peace. This doesn’t prevent BRICS from finding common ground on financial issues efficiently and with greater impact. But on other issues, like Palestine and Iran, it is hard to find a common position for all IBSA members.

Q: How could IBSA contribute to a new structure of international trade, considering the leading role it played in important processes in the Doha Round of trade negotiations to defend the interests of the developing world as well as the divergences between India and Brazil on agricultural policy?

A: Trade is a good area to demonstrate how cooperation between the IBSA countries can move more quickly. For a start, Russia is not a member of the WTO. On the other hand, the competitiveness of China given the currency and labour standards imbalance, among other factors, triggers a defensiveness that does not exist, at least to the same degree, among the IBSA countries.

The IBSA Forum, joined with other nations like Argentina, was the motor behind the creation of the G20 in the World Trade Organisation, which played a decisive role in changing the negotiating model of the organisation. Though there are differences between India and Brazil regarding access to agricultural markets, both countries share a desire to reduce or eliminate the agricultural subsidies of the richest countries.

Q: How do you see the future of relations between IBSA, or its individual members, and China? Will they move towards greater cooperation or more conflict given China’s aggressiveness in trade, its voraciousness for natural resources, and its disputes in Asia?

A: I don’t think that relations with China will become antagonistic. However, as a major developing country, China would make a major contribution towards strengthening its cooperation with the IBSA Forum if it took a more positive attitude towards UN Security Council reform.

Q: What influence might IBSA have in effecting climate change? What common positions does it share with other groups that might contribute towards an agreement?

A: In this area IBSA is in agreement with China inside the BASIC group (Brazil, South Africa, India, and China), which played an important part in negotiations. Beyond official debate, elements of IBSA civil society are in a better position to work out a coordinated plan of action. In this as in other areas, including as part of larger groups, IBSA must not lose its personality.

Q: What role does IBSA play in strengthening the position of the least developed countries in international negotiations, whether in trade, the environment, security, or development assistance for these countries?

A: Providing assistance to the poorest countries, like Haiti, Guinea Bissau, Burundi, and Palestine, has clearly been one of the callings of IBSA. It is very important that the forum continue to demonstrate its ability to act in solidarity, even in areas of trade and finance, taking advantage of its membership in groups like the G20 (industrial and emerging countries) to defend not only its interests but also those of the poorest. This is what gives IBSA its uniqueness and gives it international legitimacy. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

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