New Delhi: Leaders of the five BRICS nations—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—on Thursday exhorted countries to abide by the rules and commitments of the multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the wake of unilateral tariff hikes imposed by US President Donald Trump, which has kick-started a trade war.

In their joint declaration at the 10th BRICS Summit at Johannesburg, leaders of the five countries said the multilateral trading system is facing “unprecedented challenges" and urged countries to keep the world economy open so that the benefits of globalization can be shared by all countries and people. The International Monetary Fund has estimated the ongoing trade war could cost the world $430 billion by 2020.

With the US blocking appointment of new appellate body members to the highest adjudicating body at the WTO, BRICS countries raised concerns holding that the impasse could paralyse the dispute settlement system and undermine the rights and obligations of member countries. “We recall that the WTO Dispute Settlement System is a cornerstone of the multilateral trading system and is designed to enhance security and predictability in international trade. We, therefore, urge all members to engage constructively to address this challenge as a matter of priority," the leaders held.

In an oblique reference to Trump’s threat to attack Iran, BRICS nations cautioned that no country should enhance its security at the expense of the security of others. “Faced with international challenges requiring our cooperative efforts, we reiterate our commitment to shaping a more fair, just and representative multipolar international order to the shared benefit of humanity, in which the general prohibition of the use of force is fully upheld and which excludes the imposition of unilateral coercive measures outside the framework of the UN Charter," they maintained.

Briefing media, T.S. Tirumurthy, secretary (economic relations) at the ministry of external affairs said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his interventions highlighted the importance of reforming multilateralism including the United Nations Security Council and proposed a global portable social security network to enable easy movement of skilled professionals across the globe.

In his plenary speech, Modi called for greater collaboration among BRICS economies on the fourth industrial revolution as it could be the biggest disrupter going forward. The fourth industrial revolution is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

“In this regard, we must share best practices and policies. Keeping in mind the technical changes happening now and anticipated in the future for BRICS countries and for the entire world, I would like to suggest that our ministers must discuss this in detail and consult with experts," Modi said.

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