The five-nation grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) meeting in the Russian city of Ufa on Thursday agreed to consider a simplified business visa regime and easier customs procedures to push intra-group trade.
Addressing the BRICS Business Council, at the 7th annual BRICS summit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India expected to sign an intra-BRICS customs agreement to facilitate trade.
He called on the country's BRICS partners to reduce customs barriers that are in place at the moment to facilitate trade.
Modi also suggested that the BRICS countries host an annual trade fair. ''I will propose an annual BRICS trade fair,'' Modi said, adding, ''India will be happy to host the first BRICS trade fair.''
Members of the BRICS Business Council spoke of difficulties in obtaining visas and said this was among the barriers to greater trade within the grouping.
South African President Jacob Zuma told the BRICS Business Council that his country has initiated measures to facilitate visas for businesspeople.
South Africa suggested development of a BRICS business pass on the lines of the APEC Business Travel Card, where a holder does not need a visa to visit an APEC member country.
While Brazil follows a strictly reciprocal visa policy, India's new electronic visa system simplifies the entry procedure for casual business visitors and tourists. Citizens from all BRICS nations can use the facility to obtain a one-month visa twice in a year.
Russia has proposed a roadmap for investment cooperation with other BRICS nations. "We have consulted with our businesses, and have included about 50 projects and initiatives, including the establishment of an energy association, the creation of an international energy research centre, as well as founding an industry union,'' President Vladimir Putin said at the plenary session.
Bureaucratic hurdles and lengthy customs procedures remain a common complaint among BRICS members.
India hopes to ease customs and procedural hurdles to trade with a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union. However this would not offer a solution for the BRICS grouping as a whole.
Prime Minister Modi, while addressing the plenary session of the BRICS summit, called for cooperation in renewable energy and the development of digital technologies. He also called for greater interaction between states and provinces in BRICS member countries and a common approach towards meeting food and water shortages.
The BRICS countries have a combined population of almost 3 billion people and a total GDP of around $16 trillion.
While the international media carried several reports over the last few years about BRICS expansion with countries as diverse as Indonesia, Argentina and Egypt being mentioned as potential candidates, the grouping has decided not to expand at the moment.
Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters that the BRICS grouping was in no hurry to expand, but said it may in the future think of adding new members.
''BRICS is not an organisation, it is a collection of countries that are united by national interests,'' Rybakov said, according to Sputnik News.
''We think that the current format is an optimal one… After South Africa became a participating state, the leaders decided to declare a moratorium for accepting new members. We do not exclude anything. What will happen, should be driven by national interest.''
The BRICS Business Council is composed of 25 prominent entrepreneurs from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, representing various industries and sectors in the grouping.