Dmitry Birichevsky: the issue of national currencies is of colossal importance
The expert explained how relevant the issue of creating a new BRICS currency may be for the G20 member countries
As part of a special media project BRICS & G20. 2023 on the eve of the G20 summit, the TV BRICS International Media Network and its partners, the largest national media outlets of the BRICS countries, interviewed leading experts from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
TV BRICS is the officially accredited media of the G20 summit in New Delhi.
In an exclusive interview with TV BRICS, Dmitry Birichevsky, Director of the Department of Economic Cooperation of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spoke about the main topics of the upcoming G20 summit and what initiatives our country can offer within the framework of the G20.
Dmitry Birichevsky graduated from St. Petersburg State University and the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has held various positions at the Ministry’s headquarters and abroad. From 2011 to 2015, he served as Deputy Director of the Third Asia Department. From 2015 to 2020, he served as Counsellor to the Envoy of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Japan. Fluent in English and Japanese. Holds the diplomatic rank of second class Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.
What do you think will be the main themes of the 2023 G20 summit?
We have India chairing the group this year, and it has chosen the overarching universal theme of its G20 presidency – “One Land, One Family, One Future”. One land – these are the goals of sustainable development, these are ecology, energy, social development. One family is our humanity, providing access to quality healthcare, education. And one future is the horizons of our life, the prospects of the world monetary and financial system, the prospects for further increasing co-operation in the field of trade. This is, of course, new technologies, digital development. That’s what the leaders are going to talk about in great detail.
How important do you think world consolidation is today?
I think this kind of consolidation is needed today more than ever. It is no secret that the world is divided into some poles, and the world economy is subject to fragmentation in trade and other near-economic areas. Therefore, it is very important to unite, despite the existing objective contradictions in politics, in order to send a unifying signal to the world.
The G20 can, against all odds, find a common denominator, agree on commitments, common rules of life. In the G20, all decisions are traditionally taken by consensus, so everyone’s voice should be heard. It’s very important. If any one party is opposed, it will therefore not be possible to adopt an agreed outcome. That is why it is very important to be flexible, to find those moments that unite us rather than divide us.
And what results does Russia expect from its participation in the upcoming G20 summit? And what exactly would you like to see in the final document?
Our representatives are working on it now. They are already in New Delhi. This is the Russian Federation’s G20 Sherpa, Svetlana Lukash, and our colleagues from the Foreign Ministry. They are now in the process of agreeing on the final declaration of the leaders. The discussion is going very uneasy. You know that there has been an unprecedented series of ministerial meetings under the Indian presidency and in energy, climate, finance, technology. This year we expect to cover in detail the topic of the global monetary and financial system, settlement issues in national currencies, and the role of the developing world in general.
Of course, there will be talk about trade as well. The WTO should work on an equitable basis, to develop rules that take into account the interests of all delegations, rules that will counter protectionist tendencies. The BRICS leaders and ministers have already spoken about this. And now all this will be brought to the G20 platform as well.
What initiatives can our country propose within the framework of the G20?
Our country has traditionally taken the most active part. We are working with all delegations to promote our approaches. “The G20 is, in fact, one of the forums that deals with global governance, the processes that are taking place in the world, the elaboration of common vectors of development, rules, standards, common systemic projects in the sphere of transport, energy, ecology.
And it is very important that all of this takes place on an equal basis without discrimination. That’s the point we’re trying to make. And, of course, we have initiatives in the field of counter-terrorism and energy. We all need to conserve nature, but we need to realise that everything has to be realistic. Ensuring fair access to energy is one of the most pressing issues, and Russia is promoting it. That is, in Africa, in the global South, not everyone has the opportunity to heat their homes, to cook their food.
Russia, as a responsible supplier of energy resources, is ready to contribute to this good cause.
What do the positions of the BRICS countries look like now in the context of the G20, and how might the BRICS enlargement affect the development and agenda of the G20?
BRICS expansion is sensational news. Indeed, there is tremendous interest among developing nations in coming together, and it is no longer the Five, but 11 countries representing the developing world.
And these countries will, if not as a united front, then at least jointly promote each other’s interests in the G20 or the UN, and on other platforms. Overall, by setting an example for others through their cooperation, the role and influence of the BRICS has been seriously enhanced. This is the beginning of a new era within this association. Next year, when Russia hosts the BRICS summit in Kazan, I think this topic will be further developed.
To what extent can the issue of creating a new BRICS currency and, in general, the issue of settlements in national currencies between the world’s countries be relevant for the G20 member countries?
The issue of national currencies is of immense importance. We’ve been talking about this for a long time and have converted most of our trade with China into yuan. Settlements are proceeding apace. In India, we work with Arab countries, with their currencies. In general, this process has already become quite global. As for a single currency, of course it’s complicated. The idea is still in its infancy. We know that the idea of a BRICS currency and a Latin American currency is being actively promoted by the President of Brazil. We, too, are generally supportive of it. But, probably, at the first stage we should rather talk about a certain unit of account, about a certain standard to which national currencies will be pegged in order to understand how much one should pay in national money for this or that product or service.
A single currency is probably something that can be implemented in the future. The path is slow and uneasy. But I’m sure we’ll come to it anyway, because you can’t get attached to one thing. You have to diversify all the time.
One of the themes of the upcoming summit is the expansion of international transport logistics infrastructure. Why is this important, and how might this expansion affect international trade?
Transport arteries are the conduits of world trade, carrying goods. But it is important that it is fast, cheap, and every country is fighting for the route to be competitive and the most attractive for cargo operators, for shippers. Russia has a unique geographical position in this sense. We are promoting the North-South corridor, which will allow us to transport cargo to Azerbaijan and Iran. Further, respectively, to the Indian Ocean, to India, to all the countries of Southeast Asia, South Asia, to the countries of the Asia-Pacific region. There is an East-West corridor to China, Korea, Mongolia. That is, we send cargo there and receive masses of cargo from there. But it is important that it is reliable and safe. And the North-South corridor has huge prospects in this respect, tens, hundreds of millions of tonnes of cargo will move through it in both directions.
Therefore, we are now actively working on modernising the relevant infrastructure and optimising road transport and the development of ferries on the Caspian Sea, in cooperation with our colleagues from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. And I think globally as well, this corridor is really going to be of paramount importance.
What can you say about India’s development? What achievements of this republic could be of benefit to the world?
India is one of the largest economies in the world. There is a lot to talk about because the country is developing at a tremendous pace. India has a large foreign trade volume, about $1.7 trillion, significant labour resources, and a diverse mineral base. And, of course, India has noticeably moved to the forefront of technology in recent times.
India is trying to take its rightful place in the world and is eager to share its experiences with countries of the global South, with other developing countries that also want to participate more actively in the global economic processes and want their voices to be heard. India in that sense is helping them to do so. I think India is doing a great job in terms of promoting its own goods and services to the global markets.
We know very well how strong India is in information and communication technology. It is developing its industry, automobile and machine tools. Colleagues who travelled for the ministerial meetings were very impressed by how hospitable and welcoming they were received in India and how the country is changing before their eyes, becoming more and more attractive to tourists and investors alike.