From left to right, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,Chinese President Hu Jintao and South African President Jacob Zuma join hands during the group picture for the BRICS 2012 Summit in New Delhi, India, Thursday, March 29, 2012. Heads of States of the five nations are meeting in the Indian capital Thursday. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)
NEW DELHI (AP) — The leaders of five of the world's fast-rising powers agreed Thursday to move toward creating a new development bank that would improve access to capital for poor nations.
Accusing current international institutions of failing to lift up poor countries, the BRICS group — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — asked their finance ministers to investigate setting up a development bank like the World Bank or Asian Development Bank that they would back. The also agreed to boost business and trade in their own local currencies.
"Institutions of global political and economic governance created more than six decades ago have not kept pace with the changing world," India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the gathering. "Developing countries need access to capital."
The five countries represent 45 percent of the world's population, a quarter of its land mass and a quarter of its economy at $13.5 trillion. World Bank President Robert Zoellick, underscoring the importance of the emerging world's biggest economies with his own trip to India, welcomed the idea of a new development bank.
"We will be looking forward to working with it to see how we can leverage one another's strength," he said while traveling in the eastern state of Orissa, according to the Press Trust of India. "It will complement the type of work we do."
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma said the bank could "help us create good jobs." The countries will look at the proposal again during next year's summit in South Africa.
Experts have questioned whether the bloc represents no more than just promising markets and financial opportunities. They have no common security platform and vast differences in foreign policy.
But the leaders insisted on the grouping's importance in shifting the global dialogue on international politics and finance.
Within the bloc "we have a place where we feel Africa is treated with respect," Zuma said. "There's no feeling that people are looking down upon the continent."
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff said in an opinion piece in the Times of India that it had changed "the axis of international politics."
Their arguments for more inclusive finance policies might be making an impact. President Barack Obama's nominee for the next World Bank president, American physician Jim Yong Kim, said the bank needs to be "more inclusive" and receptive to hearing poor countries' ideas for solving their own problems.
The five nations suggested in their closing statement that they might back Kim's competition from Nigeria and Colombia, and said the new leader "must commit to transform the bank into a multilateral institution that truly reflects the vision of all its members."
Concerning the International Monetary Fund, which is largely involved in bailing countries out of crisis, they voiced concern about slow reforms and called on the fund to make its surveillance framework "more integrated and even-handed."
To bolster business, they agreed to do deals in their local currencies — a move that would help insulate from U.S. dollar fluctuations while helping to lift trade between them from last year's $230 billion to $500 billion by 2015.
Easing visa restrictions is also a priority, Singh said, as is helping one another develop renewable energies and secure supplies of food, water and energy.
"Each of our countries is grappling with how to pursue 'green' growth without compromising on current needs," Singh said. "At the core of this complex issue is the use of fossil energy and the impact that it has on the environment."
China is now the world's No. 1 carbon polluter, while India has the world's fourth-highest emissions of greenhouse gases thought to cause climate change, and Russia is fifth.
The leaders also hit out at rich nations for distorting trade and jeopardizing food security through agricultural subsidies, with a statement from the five trade ministers Wednesday saying they "emphasized the need to resist protectionist tendencies."
Facing pressure to show more political leadership, the five offered statements calling for an immediate end to violence and rights abuses in Syria, and resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through direct negotiations. They said they backed efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.
On global worries that Iran is seeking to arm itself with nuclear bombs, they said they "recognize Iran's right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy" and urged diplomatic dialogue to assuage concerns.
While split on whether the U.N. should impose sanctions on Tehran, the five agreed the situation "cannot be allowed to escalate into conflict." India and Brazil have both been criticized for importing Iranian crude.
The summit came as the Indian capital remained under a heavy security umbrella after a Tibetan exile lit himself on fire at an anti-China protest Monday. He died from his burns Wednesday.
Chinese President Hu Jintao's hotel was under virtual lock down, while Tibetan neighborhoods were sealed. Police manned road barricades, with some carrying blankets soaked in water to quickly smother the flames of any protesters who try to set themselves alight.
At least 10 activists were taken into custody after unfurling a banner from a pedestrian overpass proclaiming: "Hu Jintao Failed Leader" and "Free Tibet Now."
Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said most of the hundreds of Tibetan protesters detained in recent days would be released without charge in a few hours.
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