Goldman’s O’Neill to Developed World: Don’t Fear the BRICs

Best hope for U.S. exports is demand from Brazil, Russia, India and China, says GS Asset Management’s chairman

'The Growth Map,' a new book from Goldman Sachs' Jim O'Neill, describes how he originated the BRIC acronym. 'The Growth Map,' a new book from Goldman Sachs' Jim O'Neill, describes how he originated the BRIC acronym.

China creates another Greece every four months in terms of GDP growth, so markets in developed countries would be well advised to embrace the BRICs, said economist Jim O’Neill on Tuesday at Goldman Sachs’ headquarters in New York.

O’Neill, who invented the BRIC acronym in 2001 when writing about the growth he was seeing in Brazil, Russia, India and China, asserted that he has not changed his opinion about those countries’ strength despite recent fears that inflation and higher interest rates have broken the BRICs' stride.

In fact, said the chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, the BRICs show every sign of having an even greater influence on the world economy, and market participants in the developed world needn’t fear that strength.

“China doing well and the BRICS doing well is good for the United States,” he said, adding that the best hope for U.S. export growth is BRIC demand. “By 2015, the BRIC countries will be collectively bigger than the U.S.”

Based in London, O’Neill was in New York to promote his new book, “The Growth Map,” which details his personal account of the BRIC phenomenon. In the book’s introduction, he notes that the BRIC countries have exceeded the expectations he had of them in 2001.

“All four of the BRIC countries have exceeded the expectations I had of them back in 2001,” he writes. “The aggregate GDP has close to quadrupled since 2001, from around $3 trillion to between $11 and $12 trillion. The world economy has doubled in size since 2001, and a third of that growth has come from the BRICs.”

Nevertheless, during Tuesday’s media breakfast at the Goldman headquarters, many reporters’ questions focused on the emerging markets’ current slump and fears of contagion from Europe’s debt crisis. Also on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page story reporting that China's GDP growth slowed to 8.9% in the last quarter of 2011 compared with a year earlier. (Separately, on Dec. 26 Bloomberg reported how O’Neill’s new book had come out just as economic growth in China and India was slowing.)

O’Neill acknowledged that emerging market leaders appear to be more concerned now that the Euro contagion will infect them, yet he said growth above 8% is still strong and much higher than GDP growth seen recently in the developed world. He also pointed to signs that the BRIC nations are being proactive in countering these negative market trends. China, for example, is accelerating its reforms of its renminbi currency, he said.

Read Emerging Markets’ Growing Middle Class a Boon for U.S. Investors: Outlook 2012 at AdvisorOne.com

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