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The IBSA Dialogue Forum ten years on: examining IBSA cooperation on trade

The emergence of new forms of South-South cooperation is reflected most notably in the growing importance of South-South trade and investment flows and the increasing prominence of various alliances and coalitions of large developing and emerging economies, such as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) grouping and the India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum (IBSA Forum).

Borne out of frustration at the limited scope for participation available to their countries in global governance, in 2003, representatives from the governments of  India, Brazil and South Africa met to discuss the possibility of forging closer ties between their nations.  This led to the Brasilia Declaration and  formalised IBSA cooperation through the creation of the IBSA Forum.

Ten years on, however, the commitment of the IBSA governments to the IBSA Forum appears to have waned somewhat. This paper aims to provide an examination of IBSA cooperation on trade-related issues, and, in particular to assess the degree to which the IBSA countries have been successful in using the IBSA Forum to:

  • advance their interests at the WTO
  • boost intra-IBSA trade flows
  • establish a trilateral trade agreement involving the three IBSA countries

The paper provides insight into the various opportunities and challenges faced by today’s emerging economies as they seek to cooperate with one another in order to integrate into the global economy on terms more favourable to their particular needs and circumstances.

The author concludes that:

  • overall the IBSA Forum has been quite successful in promoting IBSA cooperation within multilateral fora, even if this cooperation itself has not yet yielded many of the specific benefits that the IBSA countries hoped it would
  • while intra-IBSA trade has certainly grown significantly since the establishment of the IBSA Forum, it would be difficult to make the claim that increased intra-IBSA trade has come about because of the IBSA Forum, especially given the failure of the IBSA countries to conclude a trilateral trade agreement