Meeting in a narrow format, we have just noted – and I would like to recall this now again at the beginning – that during these days we are jointly marking the 100th birth anniversary of South Africa’s outstanding statesman Nelson Mandela. Throughout his life, he was promoting and defending the principles of equality, openness and justice.
I think we really have a right to say that Nelson Mandela’s ideas are reflected in the activities of our association. It is these principles that underlie cooperation between the BRICS states and it has acquired the nature of a truly strategic partnership.
The BRICS countries have been jointly opposing the strongest challenges and threats to peace and stability. They are cooperating on such matters as the fight against terrorism and extremism, illegal drug trafficking, and trans-border crime.
Let me point out that the association is uniquely positioned in the global economy. This is the world’s biggest market. Its combined GDP has reached 22.3 percent of the world figure and continues to grow.
In the economic sphere, the Five collectively tackle a number of important objectives, such as modernising industry, developing high technology, enhancing competitiveness, and improving living standards.
The South African BRICS Chairmanship has included the above lines in cooperation among its priorities, and these priorities have been taken into account by the BRICS countries in the course of their joint work this year. This work has undoubtedly been a success.
This also concerns the topic suggested for discussion at the current meeting.
The fourth industrial revolution, or digital revolution, now underway is indeed having a great impact on the development of all countries, including the BRICS.
Digitalisation encompasses almost all spheres of society, enables the emergence of new branches of the economy, reduces costs, and significantly increases labour productivity and efficiency. Our countries now need to create comfortable conditions for attracting investment in the advanced branches of the economy, stimulating the development of new technology and its active implementation.
I would like to point out that digitalisation is one of our country’s economic policy priorities. Russia has adopted and is implementing the National Technology Initiative – a package of measures to ensure the country’s technological development until 2035.
We expect that the Digital Economy of the Russian Federation programme we have launched will increase the productivity of labour 30 percent by 2024. New sectors of the Russian economy will contribute more than 10 percent of Russia's GDP.
The digital reality makes it especially important to ensure the safety and security of society, business and citizens. We are taking the necessary legislative measures and making every effort to ensure the development of an open, reliable and secure internet environment with strict observance of guarantees for the protection of personal data and privacy in the digital environment.
We believe that closer partner cooperation between the BRICS countries in building the digital economy will help improve the quality as well as the quantity of our cumulative interaction.
Strengthening trade and investment ties with the BRICS partners is one of Russia’s priorities. At the end of 2017, our trade with the other BRICS members grew by almost 30 percent, exceeding $102 billion.
We are determined to make every effort to further increase trade within the BRICS. We also give priority to matters related to the establishment of direct contacts between entrepreneurs of our countries.
We welcome the new initiatives proposed by the BRICS Business Council, particularly those in electronic commerce, small and medium-sized businesses, as well as the proposal to simplify administrative barriers to stimulate trade exchanges.
We view positively the activities of the Council to implement joint multilateral projects. It is necessary to conduct these activities in close cooperation with the New Development Bank. It is important that the business community should help enhance the Bank’s loan portfolio.
The New Development Bank has considerably expanded its operations as of late. Members of the Board of Directors have approved 21 projects worth over $1 billion, including five that will be implemented in Russia.
We support the idea of opening regional offices of the Bank. Talks are underway with Brazil on this issue. Hopefully, the possibility of opening the Russian office will be discussed after the talks.
The establishment of the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement deserves praise, and this has become an important mechanism for the prompt financing of our countries’ banking sector to collect and process economic statistics on Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
In 2017, we met in Xiamen and decided to establish the BRICS Local Currency Bond Fund. This is very important for the development of the financial systems of our states. Therefore, the Fund’s timely initial operations, due to commence in 2019, serve the interests of BRICS.
We are grateful to BRICS partners for supporting the Russian proposal to establish the BRICS Centre of Energy Studies. I am confident that it will be able to offer some tough competition to leading global analytical energy agencies in terms of its high-quality surveys and forecasts.
I would also like to draw the colleagues’ attention to the Russian bid for holding the EXPO 2025 exhibition in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. There are no Brazilian, Indian, Chinese and South African cities among our rivals. Dear friends, we are counting very much on the support of the BRICS countries.
In conclusion, I would like to thank our South African friends and President of South Africa Mr Cyril Ramaphosa for their substantial contribution to expanding practical intra-BRICS cooperation.
And, of course, I am grateful to the colleagues for taking note of our proposal to expand cultural and humanitarian cooperation, especially in the area of sport and the film industry and, maybe, in other areas.
Thank you very much.