Will Asean Join BRICS?

By Lito U. Gagni

With the addition of six more countries to BRICS during the group’s recently concluded summit in Johannesburg, the big question now is whether the Philippines and its Asean partners are keen on being a part of the emerging economic grouping that could alter the global economic landscape—and even realize new peace initiatives in the current conflicts happening in the world.

The group, which was initially made of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, has just accepted the entry of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina and United Arab Emirates, which will provide what CBC said as economic heft to the group. More countries are expected to join the economic bloc and the question uppermost now is whether the Association of Southeast Nations will join the economic coalition.

For the Philippines, the economic implications are huge, with the possibility of the country getting not just oil, which could come cheap, and grains as well as fertilizer at much lower prices. The savings the government can get by being part of the economic coalition, now championing the Global South, can be put to good use especially at this difficult time when the government debt is above 60 percent of GDP.

We remember how the Asean forged an oil-sharing plan in the 1970s when the price of oil hit new highs, with the Philippines getting support from Indonesia. An economic crisis that could ensue will allow the government to get help and support from the BRICS should it decide to be part of the coalition. After all, in the scheme of things, there is always the so-called Black Swan that could happen and to be part of BRICS will mean better prospects ahead for the country.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb coined the Black Swan, an outlier of an event that could happen and blow to smithereens all the profit assumptions that company financial execs have churned out in their Excel presentations. The financial crisis that happened in 2008-2009 when mortgage-backed securities burst the US housing bubble is a Black Swan. And so is the succeeding Greece deficit that roiled the European Union and then the Icelandic financial crisis.

The Covid-19 that hit the global economy and which led to Philippine debt of more than P12 trillion is another Black Swan. It hit the country’s tourism industry and many of its manufacturing companies. Thus, the country will have better economic prospects should there be a deadly combination of runaway prices for rice and gasoline and a decline in the value of the peso vis-a-vis the US dollar. There are also geopolitical concerns.

Today, the strategic partnership within the BRICS framework is gaining momentum. The association itself offers the world creative, forward-looking initiatives aimed at achieving sustainable development goals, ensuring food and energy security, healthy growth of the global economy, and conflict resolution. That is something the country should not miss.

This is the colossal difference in approach to the future of the world. Now many politicians are beginning to openly speak the truth about real events. For example, Chinese Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui, in an interview with the TASS news agency in August, called NATO the main reason for the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis. According to the ambassador, the alliance’s five eastward expansions have seriously affected the post-Cold War order and security in Europe. “For more than 30 years now, NATO has been stoking fires everywhere, destroying stability and engaging in separatism, as it did in Kosovo, Libya and Afghanistan,” he said.

Hanhui called NATO a relic of the Cold War, and said the organization should have ceased to exist with its end. However, the alliance “continues to thrive, fueled by the constant launching of wars and provoking conflicts. The facts have proven that wherever NATO stretches its devilish paws, there will be no peace.”

Those words will be dismissed by the West but the failure to implement the Minsk 1 and then the Minsk 2 peace protocols and the subsequent admission from former German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the said peace initiatives were not meant to be pursued are facts that cannot be denied.

The Philippines should be part of BRICS to forestall any economic disruption that could happen. Well, in Pangasinan, onions are now priced at P200 a kilo and the price of bangus is now at par with that in Manila. Rice has gone up by P10 and harvest time will still be in November. Now is the time for the country to join BRICS.

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