* Ministers fail to agree on funding, location for bank
* This may rob Durban summit of concrete cooperation prize
* China, Brazil agree to trade in own currencies
* Leaders of BRICS also to focus on ties with Africa
By Agnieszka Flak and Marina Lopes
DURBAN, South Africa, March 26 BRICS nations
failed on Tuesday to resolve differences over funding for and
the location of a proposed joint development bank, indicating
the emerging powers group would not achieve the goal at a summit
in South Africa.
Agreeing on the share of funding contributions for the BRICS
bank from each of the members - Brazil, Russia, India, China and
South Africa - had already been a thorny issue for a group which
brings together vastly disparate economies and governments.
They want to set up their own development bank to reduce
their reliance on Western financial institutions.
"There is positive movement, but there is no decision on the
creation of the bank," Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov
said after finance ministers met before a formal summit of the
BRICS heads of state in the port of Durban.
BRICS leaders would seek to maintain momentum by including a
reference to the bank in their final summit communique.
"Instructions will be given to speed up the process,"
Siluanov said, adding the finance ministers would tackle the
issues again in April at a G20 meeting.
The five countries represent a fifth of global GDP and share
high growth and geopolitical importance in their separate
regions, but have struggled to find common ground that would
convert their economic weight into joint political clout.
The two biggest economies of the group, China and Brazil,
marked their determination to make changes in the world's trade
and financial architecture by signing a three-year currency swap
agreement covering up to $30 billion a year in bilateral trade.
Brazilian officials said the aim was to ensure their
fast-growing commercial ties would not suffer if a new banking
crisis caused dollar trade finance to dry up.
"Our interest is not to establish new relations with China,
but to expand relations to be used in the case of turbulence in
financial markets," Brazilian Central Bank Governor Alexandre
Tombini told reporters after the signing.
Brazil's mineral resources and farm products have helped
fuel China's industrial growth and feed its people while
bringing prosperity to the Latin American giant.
Bilateral trade totalled around $75 billion last year, with
Brazil selling iron ore, soy products and crude oil, and buying
Chinese machinery, electronics and manufactured goods.
RESERVES POOL PLANS
Brazilian officials have said they hope to have the trade
and currency deal operating in the second half of 2013.
"If there were shocks to the global financial market, with
credit running short, we'd have credit from our biggest
international partner, so there would be no interruption of
trade," said Economy Minister Guido Mantega.
At the Durban summit, the group's fifth since 2009, the
BRICS leaders were also expected to endorse plans to create a
joint foreign exchange reserves pool.
The proposed development bank and reserves pool reflect
frustration among emerging nations at having to rely on the
World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which some see as
reflecting the interests of rich nations.
The reserves pool of central bank money would be available
to emerging economies facing balance of payments difficulties or
could be tapped to stabilise economies during crises, according
to documents obtained by Reuters outlining it.
Officials had said BRICS states aimed to inject an initial
$50 billion into a new infrastructure bank, but there was
disagreement over whether each should contribute $10 billion or
if contributions should vary by the size of their economies.
China's economy is about 20 times the size of South Africa's
and four times as big as Russia's or India's.
The bank would support financing needs in emerging and
developing nations for roads, ports, power and rail services.
The BRICS leaders were also due to discuss economic ties
with Africa, at a time when many on the continent are seeking
more balance and a different focus in trade and investment,
especially from China.
New Chinese President Xi Jinping is attending on his first
visit as head of state to Africa. In Tanzania on Monday, Xi told
Africans he wanted a relationship of equals that would help the
continent develop, responding to concerns that Beijing is only
interested in its raw materials.