March 27 - BRICS nations failed to resolve their differences over the funding for and the location of a proposed joint development bank at their summit in Durban. But they did launch a business council, aimed at increasing trade and investment ties between members, as the nations look to covert their economic power into political clout. Joanna Partridge reports
A group of nations with economic power - looking to gain political importance on the world stage. The BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - launched a business council at their fifth annual summit in Durban, which the leaders hope will increase trade and investment ties between the five countries. SOUNDBITE: Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying (Russian): "The BRICS hold a unique place in the global economy, the largest market in the world. Our countries have 40 percent of the global population. BRICS nations have large natural resources and have well-prepared industrial bases and well-trained personnel - we create about 30 percent of global gross profit." The council is expected to focus on infrastructure projects. It intends to meet twice a year, and have a rotating chairman. The BRICS group of emerging economies represent a fifth of global GDP, have high growth rates and play an important role in their own regions. But the five members have struggled to find the common ground that will allow them to convert their economic power into political clout. The two biggest economies, China and Brazil, have already signaled their intentions by signing a three-year currency swap agreement covering up to $30 billion a year in bilateral trade. Business analyst Abdullah Verachia says the council is a step in the right direction. SOUNDBITE: BUSINESS ANALYST, ABDULLAH VERACHIA, SAYING (English): "Effectively that business council will be able to meet in between the various summits and look at how we advance trade and investment in and amongst the various BRICS economies. Today, total intra-emerging trade between the five BRICS economies that is 390 billion US dollars. The target is to take that by 2015 to 500 billion US dollars, and so this BRICS business council is the key factor in in terms of the growth factor in and amongst the BRICS countries." The nations weren't able to resolve their differences over another proposal - a joint development bank. That had been a major goal for their South African summit, but they couldn't agree on funding for the bank or where it would be located. Agreeing on the share of funding contributions for the bank had already been an obstacle, due to the members' vastly differing economies and governments. The BRICS want to reduce their reliance on Western financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank. The leaders will tackle the issues again at a G20 meeting in April.