Electric atmosphere at Convention Centre before BRICS Summit

Sandton Convention Centre is bustling in the 11th hour before the curtain is raised for 10th BRICS Summit on Wednesday.

Located in the hub of the Sandton CBD along Maude Street, the centre will host the Heads of State of the BRICS bloc, namely Brazilian President Michel Temer, Russian President Vladimir Putin, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as President Cyril Ramaphosa, who made an appearance at the centre on Monday.

Outside the venue, banners depicting the dates of the summit and the image of South Africa’s first democratic President Nelson Mandela are purposefully decked out to show all and sundry that the BRICS Summit is indeed being held on African soil.

Nothing is being spared when it comes to security, as a heavy police presence is safeguarding the venue and the surrounding precinct.

Inside the venue, workers are putting the final touches to logistical arrangements. Several security metal detectors have also been strategically positioned ahead of the start of the summit.

This is the second time South Africa, which joined the bloc in 2011, hosts the summit. It is being held under the theme ‘BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution’.

In carrying out the tradition first introduced by the host of the ninth BRICS Summit, China – South Africa has extended invitations to other emerging economies.

The President of Argentina and head of the G8, Mauricio Marci and Turkish President Recep Erdogan will attend the three-day summit as representatives of emerging economies.

South Africa, which hosted the fifth BRICS Summit back in March 2013, assumed the chairmanship of the bloc from 1 January and will be chair until 31 December 2018.

Speaking at the BRICS Trade Ministers’ meeting earlier this month, South Africa’s Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said the coming together of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) is extremely important, as these countries represent about 22% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

At that meeting held in Magaliesburg, BRICS Trade Ministers affirmed their commitment to a multilateral trading system as a tool to promote greater inclusivity.

“…Unilateralism is now placing the future of the multilaterism system at risk and we reaffirmed our commitment to a multi-lateral trading system. Many of us expressed the view that a multilateral trading system needs to become the tool to promote greater inclusivity and lessen inequality in the world,” said Davies.

Readiness to host the summit

Chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on the summit and International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, said South Africa stands ready to host delegates from around the world.

“We are confident that it will be a resounding success. We are very proud of the work that has been done by the Sherpas and by everybody who has been leading the various fora,” she said.

The summit comes at a time when the world is witnessing what has been referred to as “trade wars”.

Sisulu said it is likely that the issue will come up at the summit.

“BRICS countries would obviously be very concerned about the direction that our multilateral arrangements and the world are taking, as well as the tariffs that have been placed on particular exports, especially where we are concerned but I don’t know if that will be a dominant factor at all,” said Sisulu.

South Africa’s Cabinet expressed its disappointment at the decision by the United States not to exempt South Africa from the application of steel and aluminum duties.

US President Donald Trump signed proclamations granting permanent country exemptions to a select number of countries and extended by one month the Section 232 steel and aluminium tariff duty exemptions for some.

The proclamation followed the 8 March proclamation signed by President Trump to impose a 10% ad valorem tariff on imports of aluminium articles and a 25% ad valorem tariff on imports of steel articles. This excluded select countries namely Canada, Mexico, the European Union, South Korea, Australia, Argentina and Brazil.

Sisulu’s comments come on the back of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its update of its World Economic Outlook earlier this month flagged rising risks to global growth posed by the intensifying trade wars and geopolitical tensions. However, the IMF has maintained its global GDP growth forecast at 3.9% in 2018.

The summit will conclude on Friday.