[Viewpoint] Make a building block of BRICK

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[Viewpoint] Make a building block of BRICK

If a nation were human, would it be male or female?

In the Western world, the German word for the state is “der Staat,” and in French it’s “l’etat” - both masculine.

And in the history of international relations, nations have constantly sought mates with which to form new alliances beyond existing friendships and unions.

Lately, nations have been busy “mating” on an international level.

The European Union, the African Union and the Union of South American Nations are all regional alliances.

However, some unions are based on economic common denominators.

One such solidarity is the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China, which held their second summit meeting in Brasilia, Brazil, on April 15.

The four BRIC countries hold the top four spots, outside of the developed countries, in terms of the size of their gross domestic product.

The quartet makes up 40 percent of the world’s population and 15 percent of the global GDP, and is leading the global economy in the post-financial crisis era.

As a potential threat to the hegemony of the United States, the BRICs are a force that can be considered “anti-American” in principle.

At their first summit meeting in Yekaterinburg, Russia, in June 2009, the BRICs claimed to pursue a “multipolar world order.” They are asking for democracy from the “authoritarianism” of the United States.

However, that does not mean that the BRICs are planning to overthrow world capitalism.

Rather, they’re pro-capitalism, pursuing the stability of the international financial order and opposing trade protectionism.

At the summit meeting, the four heads of state agreed to establish a new global order and demanded that the World Bank expand the representation and voting rights of developing countries.

But the meeting is generally considered less productive than the buzz. Most economists think the BRIC countries do not have the power to change the international financial order.

Their two official summit meetings certainly have had symbolic significance, but their declaration is ambiguous and lacks mutual objectives.

Still, the United States is not going to sit back and watch what the fledgling BRICs are up to.

Some analysts see the formation of the G-20 meeting itself as a strategy to lay siege to and incapacitate the BRICs.

The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based policy research think tank that advocates conservative principles, took on the “myths” about the BRICs in a memorandum published on April 16, examining them one at a time: “The BRIC Economies are eclipsing the U.S.” and “A multipolar world will enhance global security.”

The last sentence of the memo is telling: “The American people cannot blindly cede global leadership on critical issues like trade, democracy and Iranian nuclear weapons.”

This warns that the response of the United States would become more specific and obvious if the influence of the BRIC nations grows.

Then how should Korea react to the BRICs?

First of all, Seoul needs to display diplomacy at the G-20 Summit meeting in November, when the BRIC nations are scheduled to demand reform in the international financial order.

We also need to consider getting involved in the BRIC meeting, perhaps as an observer.

Goldman Sachs, the prestigious U.S. investment bank that first came up with the concept of BRICs, argued in early 2007 that the group should include Korea and be renamed the BRICKs.

Along with Mexico, Korea is often mentioned as a potential member if the BRICs expand.

Since China and Russia can influence the unification of the two Koreas, the BRIC meeting could be a ground for unification diplomacy.

Therefore, it might be beneficial were Korea to persuade Washington or obtain consent in order to actively participate in the BRICs.

As Korea and the United States are traditionally very close allies, Seoul could argue that Korea’s participation with the BRICs could dilute the group’s anti-American tendencies.

In contrast, Seoul can also convince the BRICs that Korea’s participation would help ease the United States’ and Western Europe’s suspicions of the group’s activities.

There are no eternal friends or enemies in the international community, and having an “affair” is not a bad thing. The latest mating panorama in the international scene is so unusual that we cannot just sit back and relax.

*The writer is senior reporter at the JoongAng Sunday.
Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

By Kim Whan-yung
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