The gridlock in the Doha round of international trade negotiations in the WTO since 2001 has led developing countries to pursue different strategies to boost trade and investment among various partners. One of these mechanisms is the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) forum created in 2003. The IBSA forum emerged in a context of the rise of emerging powers on the global scene and fits in their respective strategies of assertion and gaining status as global powers beyond their regions. Historically non-traditional trade partners, IBSA also allows the three countries to re-explore opportunities for trade and investment in each others’ growing markets. This paper will question the strategic aims of these southern-led cooperation mechanisms by looking at the forum’s activities related to the increase of south-south cooperation. The IBSA forum has often been criticized for not delivering results and being rendered redundant by the rise of similar groupings like the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) forum. I argue that beyond publicly stated aim of promoting south-south cooperation, the IBSA forum allows its members to pursue three underlying strategic aims: autonomization through the increase of strategic partnerships with emerging non-traditional partners; socialization through the creation of transgovernmental and transnational networks; and greater visibility on the international stage, which increases political leverage.
Folashade Soule-kohndou is a research associate at the Global Economic Governance programme, Oxford University. Her research focus on emerging powers groupings, the evolution of South-South cooperation and emerging powers in francophone Africa. This working paper is the result of empirical field work, including interviews with policy makers and data collection in New Delhi, Brasilia, Johannesburg and Pretoria.