But in the world of FDI, their performance is quite uneven. Take inward investment. The share of the BRICs in FDI inflows into all emerging markets more than doubled from 16% in 1984 to 34% in 2004 – roughly equivalent to their share in the total GDP of all emerging markets (38%). But this improvement was largely due to China.

What about outward FDI (OFDI) – an important source of the international competitiveness of firms? The BRICs’ performance is even further below their potential. They account for only 18% of the OFDI flows and 16% of the OFDI stock by all emerging markets.

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The rising share of inward FDI going to the BRICs poses a challenge for IPAs in the rest of the world. Moreover, each of the BRICs can easily absorb much more FDI – even in China, the value of inward FDI per capita is still quite low. And each of them is actively working to get more FDI.

India has established an Investment Commission, to identify ways of attracting $150bn of FDI over the next 10 years. If Brazil and India are only half as successful as China in attracting FDI – and Russia enters the fray – the rest of the emerging markets face a real challenge to get their share of the FDI cake.

But it is also an opportunity for other IPAs. Three of the BRICs are promoting OFDI by their own firms. Brazil’s government wants to see 10 Brazilian global players emerge by the end of this president’s term. India has liberalised its OFDI policy. China has been pursuing a “Go Global” strategy since 2000. And Russian firms are increasingly going abroad, even without systematic government support.

Karl P Sauvant, Director, Division on Investment, Technology and Enterprise Development