BRICS Push for Political Clout

Brazil, Russia, India and China have become powerful engines of global economic growth over the past decade.  The economist who first named these diverse emerging economies the "BRIC" nations, says their growth will continue, and may spread to some other emerging economies.

Leaders of the BRICS are gathering in India on March 28 for a summit that one expert says will "make or break" their efforts to build political clout to match their economic power.

Brazil and three other large developing nations caught the atttention of a Goldman Sachs economists more than a decade ago, prompting him to preeict they had the key ingredients for powerful economic growth.

These so-called BIRC nations - Russia, India and China are the others - are now joined by South Africa.

That Goldman Sachs economist, Jim O’Neill, says the BRICS grew even faster than he expected.  He says they far outpaced the rate of expansion in Europe and the United States.

"These guys [nations] have come to be the marginal, critical player of virtually everything in the world economy," he said.  "They were not so important collectively, and other than China, hardly relevant individually; today they are nearly 25 percent of global GDP about 10 percent more than I thought would have been likely 11 years ago."

While the rate of growth is slowing in China and Brazil, O’Neill says BRIC expansion is nowhere near finished.

The head of a company that operates more than 37,000 restaurants in 117 nations, David Novak agrees.  His firm runs Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants around the globe.

"Look at China for example. There are 300 million people in the consuming class in China. Most experts say in eight years it will be 600 million," Novak said.  "So there is a tremendous tail wind just in terms of population growth in these countries."

Novak says his company is also placing "big bets" on India and Russia, while working to expand in Brazil, Vietnam and some African nations, even though some other analysts say there may be faster economic growth in smaller emerging nations like Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey.

While BRIC countries have the respect and attention of business leaders, the co-director of the BRICS Research Group, University of Toronto Professor John Kirton, says these major emerging nations want to convert their economic gains into greater political influence.

"This is really a wake-up call for the West and Japan," he said.  "I think we will see from Delhi, this is not just an idle threat."

Kirton says the BRICS are fed up with Europeans and Americans always taking the top post at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.  He says the major emerging nations have the financial clout to start their own global financial institutions and pick a new generation of leaders.

Skeptics say the BRICS may share skills in manufacturing and exporting, but are so diverse in culture, language and politics that it will be difficult for them to unite and form effective international institutions.  But Kirton says they are united by their annoyance at an established order that gives them too little respect.

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