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BRICS should strengthen cross-border payment cooperation: China

BRICS Summit in Johannesburg

BEIJING/JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -BRICS nations should strengthen cooperation on cross-border payment, a Chinese foreign ministry official said on Thursday, the final day of a three-day BRICS summit in South Africa, while India's foreign secretary said it was a promising area.

BRICS members should also study local currency cooperation payment tools and platforms, and promote local currency settlement, said Li Kexin, Director-General of the Department of International Economic Affairs of the Foreign Ministry of China.

The leaders of BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - agreed at the summit in Johannesburg to encourage more local currency usage in trade and financial transactions, as they seek to shift away from dependence on the U.S. dollar.

Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, attending the summit in place of President Vladimir Putin, said earlier on Thursday that the BRICS bloc planned to set up an alternative international payments system to SWIFT.

"This is necessary … because we do have a large volume and increasing volume of trade between the five (current BRICS members)," Li told a press briefing on the sidelines of the summit.

"So it's important to have a more sophisticated payment system... This is not only the Russians' idea."

Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra told a separate press briefing that an alternative payment system was "an area of promise".

Many of Russia's top banks were cut off from the SWIFT messaging system last year under sweeping Western sanctions following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Russia subsequently created its own alternative.

A spokesperson for SWIFT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called on Wednesday at the summit for a BRICS common currency for trade and investment between members.

Li said BRICS finance ministers and central bank governors "will also further explore this idea". Kwatra said BRICS leaders "are focused principally on national currencies trade settlement and not on anything else".

(Reporting by Beijing newsroom, Rachel Savage and Tannur AndersAdditional reporting by Marc Jones in LondonEditing by William Maclean, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Frances Kerry)