Five of the biggest emerging economies railed against protectionism on Thursday as they vowed to overcome “significant challenges” facing multilateralism, in a swipe at US tariffs and unilateral action.
The joint declaration by BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - came on the second day of the annual gathering, which Brazilian host President Jair Bolsonaro used to boost ties with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
Trade tensions and policy uncertainty have taken a toll on confidence, trade, investment and growth in the global economy, said Bolsonaro, as he read out the declaration that also touched on global conflicts, including Syria, and the Paris climate pact.
It is critical that all WTO members avoid unilateral and protectionist measures, he said.
We reiterate the fundamental importance of a rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open, free and inclusive international trade.
And the BRICS reaffirm our commitment to helping overcome the significant challenges currently facing multilateralism.
The United States is locked in a protracted trade war with BRICS titan China, while it also has sanctions on Venezuela, whose president Nicolas Maduro is backed by Beijing and Moscow.
The 20-page statement made no mention of the economic and political crisis raging in Venezuela - an issue that has divided the emerging markets group - or unrest in Hong Kong, which Xi warned on Thursday was threatening the one country, two systems principle governing the semi-autonomous city.
More than 50 countries, including Brazil, recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as acting president earlier this year after rejecting Maduro's re-election as fraudulent. The other BRICS back Maduro.
Guaido supporters partially occupied the country's embassy in Brasilia on Wednesday, a few kilometers from where the BRICS were holding talks.
The standoff with Maduro backers ended after Guaido's appointed ambassador Teresa Belandria ordered them to leave for security reasons.
Xi and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have repeatedly slammed protectionism during the BRICS meeting, also attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Mounting protectionism and bullyism have eroded international trade and investment and are weighing down the world economy, Xi told business leaders on Wednesday.
Putin said protectionism was thriving amid the use of unilateral sanctions.”