BRIC Countries Hold First Stand-Alone Talks

YEKATERINBURG -- The world's biggest emerging market economies -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- agreed Friday to formalize their "BRIC" club for the first time to affirm their global economic clout.

The four countries, which account for more than one-tenth of the world's gross domestic product, said they would boost cooperation on a range of fronts and work on ways to ease the burden of soaring global food prices.

"Building a more democratic international system founded on the rule of law and multilateral diplomacy is an imperative of our time," foreign ministers from the BRIC countries said in a joint statement after talks in Yekaterinburg.

They "confirmed the aspirations of the BRIC countries to work together with each other and other states in the interests of strengthening international security and stability."

The term BRIC was coined by Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs to describe how the four swiftly growing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China are likely to rival and then overtake many of the West's leading economies in the next half century.

The Yekaterinburg meeting was the first stand-alone meeting of BRIC foreign ministers.

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the BRIC countries had cushioned the developed world from a bigger slowdown over recent years.

"[Large developing countries] have prevented the world from facing a worsening situation. This is a different situation from the past, when there was a global slowdown," said Mukherjee. "In this area, it is clear BRIC can increasingly play a key role," he said.

The four countries, which account for 40 percent of the world's population, discussed soaring food prices and criticized developing countries for subsidizing their farmers.

Mukherjee blasted "inefficient producers" in developed countries for subsidizing their farmers, which he said was stifling attempts by developing states to feed their populations, hit hardest by rising global food prices.

"The main problem with the food crisis is overproduction in developing countries," said Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, adding that BRIC finance ministers would meet later in the year in Brazil to tighten links.

China called for more cooperation between energy producers and consumers to reduce volatility on world oil markets. Russia is the world's second-biggest oil exporter, while China is the world's second-biggest oil importer.

"Speculation in world markets has led to soaring world oil prices. The international community should step up energy efficiency and enhance dialogue between oil producers and oil consumers," Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said.

Analysts say that while BRIC countries have swift growth and geopolitical ambitions, their cooperation is hampered by mutual distrust.

"Russia is groping for a new place in the world. Russia has learned how to be a difficult partner for the West, but hasn't learned how to turn it towards its own benefit," Heritage Centre political analyst Masha Lippman said of the BRIC meeting.

"It's far from clear if anything can come out of it," she said.