BRICS leaders push for trade unity at Johannesburg summit

Leaders of BRICS have gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa for the 10th annual summit. It is their first meeting since the Trump administration imposed tough trade tariffs against a number of countries, including China and India.

At a plenary session of the summit on Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that they should "unlock the enormous potential of economic cooperation by stepping up trade, investment, economic, financial, and connectivity cooperation to make this pie still bigger," according to Xinhua.

Xi urged the five major emerging national economies that make up BRICS, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, to build a network of closer partnership and safeguard multilateralism under the framework of the UN, WTO and G20.

In a declaration signed by China's Xi, Brazilian President Michel Temer, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the five leaders agreed to jointly protect free trade, launch a BRICS partnership on new industrial revolution and strengthen ties ranging from trade and security to cultural exchanges.

The bloc's unity pledge came after the US reached a deal with the European Union (EU) on Wednesday to suspend new tariffs and expand Europe's imports of US goods.

On July 17, Japan and the EU also signed a major free trade deal which is expected to remove 99 percent of the tariffs imposed by each other.

"The European Union and Japan have signed a sweeping free trade deal. If Europe and the US also reach such a kind of agreement, then the BRICS nations will be excluded. The bloc should come up with their own concrete cooperation results during this summit," said Chen Fengying, a former senior expert at the research organisation China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. – gbtimes