Trade ministers from the BRICS group of emerging world economies spoke Wednesday of the need to strengthen the bloc's internal trade as an antidote to problems in Europe.
The ministers were meeting in New Delhi ahead of a summit Wednesday to be attended by the leaders of all five BRICS nations -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Although trade between them is booming, commerce minister Anand Sharma said it was nowhere near the levels one might expect from a grouping that comprises 40% of humanity.
"There is a large untapped growth potential for intra-BRICS trade and investments... that would facilitate economic growth at a time when the global economy is hobbled by uncertainty," Sharma said.
"There has been a decline of demand in European markets. Despite this we have to sustain a high level of growth."
The BRICS group, which held its first summit in 2009, was initially Brazil, Russia, India and China, but was enlarged last year to include South Africa.
While their combined economic clout is impressive on paper, geographical distance, political disparities and even -- in the case of India and China -- territorial disputes, have hampered unity and the search for common policies.
In an effort to draw their economies closer together, Thursday's summit is expected to discuss the establishment of a joint development bank, providing a common investment fund for infrastructure and development projects.
"It would be a very powerful financial tool to improve trade opportunities and maybe a major step to support the EU to overcome its financial crisis," said Brazilian trade minister Fernando Pimentel.
"Even if Europe manages to solve the big issues. We are clear that relations are going to increase among ourselves," added his South African counterpart Rob Davies.
The summit will bring together presidents Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, Hu Jintao of China and Jacob Zuma of South Africa, as well as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.