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’South-south cooperation a viable strategy’

Business Standard, India

’South-south cooperation a viable strategy’

OPINION: Pranab Mukherjee

19 October 2008

New Delhi. Developing countries have talked of the philosophy of South-south cooperation for development for a very long time. A number of initiatives was launched during the 1960s and 1970s. However, progress was modest because of lack of resources and institutional weaknesses in developing countries. With the emergence of countries like Brazil, India and South Africa in this millennium with considerable capabilities and collective development experiences that South-south cooperation has begun to be seen as a viable strategy. Recent trends suggest that developing countries are revitalising South-south cooperation as a new engine of growth. Developing countries in different regions are also establishing their own schemes of regional economic integration, e.g. Mercosur, Comesa and SACU, AFTA, SAFTA and BIMSTEC. The Bangkok Agreement and the GSTP are being revitalised. The South-south trade is growing rapidly. With the emergence of new dynamic enterprises in these countries even South-south investments and technology transfers have begun to increase.

4. IBSA is among the latest developments with respect to South-south cooperation set up to explore the possibilities for closer economic cooperation in a Trilateral Dialogue for mutual benefit and for international development.

5. India, Brazil and South Africa share common economic and political history and have stood together in different multilateral fora on more than one occasion for the cause of developing world. India’s contribution to South Africa’s struggle against apartheid has been widely acknowledged. India and Brazil, though separated by geographical distance, are close to each other on various issues of concern for the developing countries and worked together in the GATT/WTO negotiations for many years. Three of us were instrumental in setting up of the G-20 group of developing countries in the WTO at Cancun Ministerial Conference in 2003 that has since become an important coalition of developing countries to articulate collective interests of the South in a critical area of negotiations viz agriculture.

6. Apart from shared political and economic history there are significant synergies between these countries that offer fertile ground for economic cooperation. Over the years these countries have built up substantial capability in different spheres. The capabilities of these countries in different spheres could be shared among them and fully utilised for the development of the South in general.

7. I believe that our trilateral cooperation has much potential for reinforcing the economic strengths of each other by synergising their complementarities in areas of industry, services, trade and technology. We are moving towards a comprehensive economic cooperation arrangement bringing together members of South African Customs Union - India and members of MERCOSUR countries. Such an arrangement would create a large and expanding economic space and provide a framework to exploit our synergies in trade, technology and industrialisation for our mutual advantage. In a number of sectors of industry and services, IBSA countries have developed considerable expertise which can be shared for mutual benefit. Studies conducted by think tanks such as RIS point to fruitful opportunities for cooperation in many areas such as energy, agriculture and food processing, tourism, transport infrastructure, mining, ICT, among others. We can also benefit from each other’s development experiences such as in development and promotion of small and medium enterprises, or expanding universal education as in Brazil, empowerment of weaker sections in South Africa, or Indian experiences in e-governance, among others. IBSA partnership will help in exploitation of this potential.

(Excerpts from External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s address on IBSA Partnership for Shared Prosperity and Inclusive Globalisation on October 13, 2008, New Delhi)