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BRICS nations to set up JBC to encourage free trade

The summit of BRICS nations in Durban Wednesday will set up a Joint Business Council that will seek to encourage free trade and investment in goods and services among the 5-nation grouping.

Durban: The summit of BRICS nations in Durban Wednesday will set up a Joint Business Council that will seek to encourage free trade and investment in goods and services among the 5-nation grouping.

Names of five members each from the grouping's nations will be announced in the presence of heads of government at the summit tomorrow morning, FICCI President Naina Lal Kidwai, who is also the leader of the Indian business delegation to the summit, told reporters here.

The proposed Business Council, which was functioning hitherto in the nature of a forum, will meet twice a year and the chairmanship will rotate every year in alignment with the political leadership.

A 74-member business delegation, the largest from India so far, is attending the council meetings on the sidelines of the summit this year.

The delegation includes members from other chambers of commerce and industry like CII and ASSOCHAM. Some of the names who are part of it are Apollo Tyres Chairman and Managing Director Omkar Kanwar, Murugappa group chief A Vellayan, Modi Enterprises Chairman K K Modi, Suzlon Energy Chairman Tulsi Tanti and Zen Technologies Managing Director Ashok Atluri.

Kidwai said infrastructure projects including roads, sewage management, water conservancy and energy management, food industries and healthcare will be the important areas the Joint Business Council will focus on.

Besides, representatives from SBI and EXIM bank were also part of the delegation.

A significant feature of the delegation was a representative of the Manipal group prospecting for cooperation in education and healthcare fields with proposals to start MBBS and nursing courses.

Kanwar said there was need for setting up of free trade zones in the BRICS countries easing movement of people and goods and services. For example, there could be free zones in the mining sector in Africa where cutting of diamonds could be done.

On BRICS bank, Kidwai said in India the banking sector was hardly in a position to fund the huge infrastructure projects which are struck for financing. The funding needs are tremendous but the pension sector has not been opened up yet, she said.

"What we can do is credit enhancement. There are many gaps in the funding of infrastructure," she said.

Replying to questions on the mood among foreign investors during her interactions with business delegations from BRICS nations, Kidwai said there is patience on the part of businessmen but the reversal of mood will take some time.

The Russians were complaining about how Sistema was hurt by the 2G spectrum allocation controversy, she said adding they were told that it was the case with many Indian companies too in the same case.

On the USD 500 billion set for BRICS trade in the next few years, Kidwai said achieving it was not not very difficult because already a trade of USD 340 billion has been touched for 2012. BRICS in third countries will be an agenda for the future but for the present the focus is within BRICS.

Addressing the BRICS Business Forum here, Kidwai said the setting up of the Business Council would go a long way in strengthening engagement levels amongst business communities of the five BRICS countries.

It will make suggestions and share ideas for deepening economic linkages amongst the member countries as well as provide technical support, consultative advice and facilitate implementation of multilateral business projects.

"From the Indian industry, we pledge our complete support to this effort and will enthusiastically work with our friends to get this group going and ensure dedicated deliverables under advice from the political leadership of our five countries.

"Our aim through this council should be to set for ourselves ambitious targets such as the one set last year to increase intra-BRICS trade to USD 500 billion by 2015 and then draw out a roadmap to achieve the same," she said.

Kidwai said besides the BRICS development bank and the BRICS business council, they were also looking forward to discussions amongst the government towards grater cooperation in the financial sector.

"There is ample scope to devise mechanisms that can be used to support each other in times of difficult market/liquidity situations," she said.