BRICS nations vow to stand up to unilateral protectionism

BRASILIA (Reuters) - The BRICS nations of leading emerging economies warned on Thursday that trade tensions and policy uncertainty are undermining confidence in international commerce, investment and economic growth.

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At an annual summit, China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa urged the world to keep markets open with fair and non-discriminatory trade rules in the face of rising protectionism.

The five countries represent about a third of global output.

President Xi Jinping of China, which is engaged in a bruising trade war with the United States, said on Wednesday he was concerned by “bullying” protectionism and unilateralism in the trade policies of some developed nations.

He warned the summit on Thursday of setbacks to economic globalization, urging his peers to stand up to protectionism and uphold the multilateral system of the World Trade Organization.

The host, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who ran a nationalist campaign last year inspired by U.S. President Donald Trump, said his government had become more realistic and adopted pragmatic policy on international trade.

He told the closing session the BRICS group had emerged stronger from the summit and cited its advance toward a common customs agreement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called on the BRICS’ New Development Bank to extend more loans in rubles, part of a move by the group to decrease it dependence on the U.S. dollar while trying to use their national currencies in mutual trade.

A Russian official said the five nations back the idea of developing a common payment system using national currencies.

The presidents recognized in their joint statement progress made by the BRICS bank set up in 2014 to expand its membership to other nations to increase the funds available for investing in infrastructure and sustainable development. No details were given on which countries were interested in joining.

The risk of an arms race in outer space worries the BRICS leaders, they said, stressing the need to carry out exploration and peaceful uses of outer space in accordance with international law and the United Nations charter.

The BRICS nations said they remained committed to implementing the Paris accord on climate change, and called on developed nations to expand financial and technical assistance to help developing countries mitigate its effects.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin,; Jake Spring, Anthony Boadle and Lisandra Paraguassu; Editing by Tom Brown