BRICS expands with 5 new countries

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Ethiopia have officially become a part of the BRICS group.

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Flags of the BRICS countries

On Monday, January 1, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Ethiopia officially became part of the BRICS group. Originally scheduled to join at the 15th BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August 2023, these five nations expanded the group’s membership. Argentina, initially invited, withdrew its participation at the end of December. Established in 2006 by Brazil, Russia, India, and China, with South Africa joining in 2010, the BRICS group has evolved into a crucial platform for collaboration among emerging markets and developing nations. The addition of these five countries on Monday is aimed at enhancing the group’s influence on the global stage.

With a combined population of approximately 3.5 billion people and a total economy exceeding $28.5 trillion, equivalent to around 28% of the global economy, the newly expanded BRICS signals a significant presence on the world stage.

Argentina was also scheduled to join BRICS on January 1, but the country’s new President, Javier Milei, has withdrawn its country from its planned entry in the last days of 2023. In a letter to the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, Mr Milei said decisions taken by the preceding government had been revised. Argentina’s bid for membership under the former Argentinian president had the support of Beijing, but Milei has strongly criticised China. On the campaign trail, he described the Chinese government as assassins and said he would not work with communists.

The geopolitical implications of this growth are a subject of uncertainty among analysts, who debate whether the expansion will prove advantageous or detrimental to BRICS members. Some experts express concerns that internal differences within the group may undermine decision-making and overall influence.

Despite potential challenges, BRICS countries are optimistic that the expansion will bring increased representation for emerging economies and an opportunity to reduce dependence on the US dollar. In August of the previous year, Brazil’s president advocated for BRICS nations to consider adopting a common currency for facilitating trade and investment among themselves.

On Monday, Russia assumed the BRICS presidency, succeeding South Africa’s chairmanship in 2023. Operating under the theme “Strengthening Multilateralism for Equitable Global Development and Security,” Russia is set to hold the position for a year and will host the BRICS annual summit in Kazan in October.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has articulated intentions to enhance BRICS’ role in the international financial system. He expressed a commitment to “spare no effort” in facilitating the harmonious integration of new participants into the group’s activities.

BRIC started in 2006, with the collaboration of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Subsequently, in 2010, South Africa became a member, leading to the expansion of the group, now collectively referred to as “BRICS”.

BRICS countries have called for a “greater voice and representation” for emerging economies.

Analysts says through BRICS, China is trying to grow its power and influence, especially in Africa, trying to become the leading voice for the Global South. Russia, the other major world power in BRICS, sees it as part of its fight against the West, helping it to overcome the sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine. Iran’s membership could increase the anti-Western nature of BRICS.

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