BEIJING: China’s President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with India’s Minister of External Affairs Vijay Kumar Singh as he meets with foreign affairs officials from the BRICS countries at the Great Hall of the People’s Fujian Room in Beijing yesterday. —AFP

BEIJING: Climate change, trade and terrorism were high on the agenda yesterday at a Beijing meeting of foreign affairs officials from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, known collectively as the BRICS nations. The five countries are seeking to further align their views on key issues at a time when President Donald Trump is withdrawing the US from multilateral arrangements such as the Paris climate accords and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China in the coming year would look to "expand with more broad and wide-ranging cooperation in areas such as trade and commerce and investment." Together the BRICS countries account for roughly 40 percent of the world's population and 20 percent of the global economy. All five countries are members of the Group of 20 industrial and emerging-market nations, although their economic prospects have declined somewhat amid crises in

Brazil and South Africa and the impact of sanctions lodged against Russia by the West. South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane pointed to climate change as a major concern. "There is one climate and for future generations we must employ every effort at our disposal to reverse the effects of climate change," she said.

Nkoana-Mashabane also emphasized the need for joint efforts to fight terrorism, a sentiment reflected by Vijay Kumar Singh, an Indian External Affairs official.

Lot of consensus

"It is important to enhance BRICS security in counterterrorism matters," Singh said. Leaders of the five nations are to meet in the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen in September. Chinese President Xi Jinping later met with the officials at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing, saying the six hours of discussion among the nations had produced "a lot of consensus," as well as a concluding document that was not immediately released.

"At present the international situation has complexities and also factors of instability and its right for the BRICS to speak its voice, which is very good," Xi said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commended China's leadership of BRICS over the past year, saying the grouping that began taking shape more than 10 years ago is now coming into its prime. "Your chairmanship certainly contributed to the strength ... and to increasing its reputation as a factor of stability," Lavrov told Xi.--AP