Leaders of the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), the end of their 14th summit hosted by China, have emphasized their commitment to strengthening economic and security cooperation among members, within the context of a new era in global development. With high hopes and the current world developments, the BRICS is still debating its expansion to include new members following strong suggestion from China.
The leaders underscored their adherence to sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, advocated a world without nuclear weapons and called on developed countries to exercise “responsible economic policies, while managing policy spillovers.”
The group continues advocating for a “comprehensive reform of the UN, including its Security Council,” in order to increase the representation of the developing countries so that it can adequately respond to global challenges. It also calls for preserving and reinforcing the arms control system.
“Unbalanced recovery” after the pandemic is ” aggravating inequality across the world,” the global growth momentum has weakened, and the economic prospects have declined, the declaration says.
“We urge major developed countries to adopt responsible economic policies, while managing policy spillovers, to avoid severe impacts on developing countries,” BRICS leaders said, urging “multilateral financial institutions and international organizations to play a constructive role in building global consensus on economic policies and preventing systemic risks of economic disruption and financial fragmentation.”
The five leaders underscored that the G20 “shall remain intact and respond to current global challenges.” The leaders outlined basic areas of further cooperation with international organizations.
The June summit via a video link, offered an impetus to cooperation in three summarized main areas – politics, security, economy and finance, cultural and humanitarian ties. There are various issues incorporated into the Beijing Declaration adopted by the participants. The text of the declaration is published on the Kremlin website, and official websites of the group members.
BRICS countries have maintained contacts at international organizations, including the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, coordinating their views on key international issues, and “the situation in the world has remained tense, while the group of five countries has been the true keeper of a multilateral system.”
BRICS expansion has been the most debatable question during the past few years, and got heated up after Russia and China called for a new global order to end unipolarism. Monitoring mainstream news and information reports indicated that Russia has been teaming up with China and India (and that could be interpreted as BRICS platform initiative) and a few other external countries in the process of establishing a new global economic system. It aims at breaking the unipolar system, and defeat American hegemony around the world.
Ahead of the summit, China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi chaired a videoconference dialogue between foreign ministers of BRICS countries and their counterparts from emerging economies and developing countries. This was the first BRICS Plus dialogue at the level of foreign ministers. Participants in the dialogue came from BRICS countries as well as invited countries such as Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria, Senegal, United Arab Emirates and Thailand.
According to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the dialogue is of importance to further expand cooperation between the BRICS countries and other emerging economies and developing countries. As a BRICS Plus participant country, Argentina has on several occasions expressed its interest in joining this mechanism. The Argentine president, Alberto Fernández, considered that BRICS represents for Argentina “an excellent alternative for cooperation in the face of a world order that has been working for the benefit of a few.”
Early June, Russian State Duma (the lower house of parliament) Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on Telegram that the United States and its allies are destroying economic ties by their sanctions policy, but at the same time creating new points of growth in other countries. “The move by Washington and its allies to cut the existing economic ties has created new points of growth in the world,” he pointed out. According to the parliament speaker, Western sanctions are leading to the establishment of another group of eight nations – China, India, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Iran and Turkey – that is 24.4% ahead of the old group of developed countries in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and purchasing power parity.
“The United States, with its own hands, has created conditions for countries willing to build an equal dialogue and mutually beneficial relations to actually establish a new G-8 group with Russia,” Volodin noted. If the establishment of another new Group of Eight nations – China, India, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Iran and Turkey – and compared to BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, it follows that BRICS will have to be absorbed by the new Group of Eight organization, and thus pushing out South Africa.
In an interview discussion, Ms. Valeriia Gorbacheva, GR-Director at Russia’s National Committee on BRICS Research, explained that Russia does not need to create new unions or new G-8, there are already established structures such as SCO, BRICS, ASEAN, EAEU and CIS. “In the face of growing geopolitical instability, BRICS and those countries mentioned above that sympathize with the group may play a decisive role in changing the course of world history. Considering the geopolitical situation, BRICS takes on special importance for Russia. No BRICS country has supported the West’s illegal unilateral restrictive measures against Russia,” she told Modern Diplomacy.
According to her explanation, on the contrary, sanctions from the collective West are pushing the BRICS countries to deepen cooperation. Thus, Russia’s foreign trade turnover with BRICS partners shows tangible growth. At the end of 2021, trade increased by 40% and reached a record US$164 billion. In the first quarter of 2022, there is also a significant increase – 38% compared to the first quarter of 2021.
Gorbacheva pointed to the mechanisms created within the BRICS that can help overcome the economic isolation declared by Western countries against Russia the backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis. First of all, these are the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement and the New Development Bank. The NBD is independent of Western-centric international institutions and operates with significant financial resources. The portfolio of investment projects approved by the NBD reached US$30 billion in 2022. It already approved 80 projects and loans worth more than US$9 billion to all BRICS countries to mitigate the economic consequences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In order to reduce dependence on the American banking system and regulators, the BRICS countries are increasing the volume of mutual settlements in national currencies, she said, and added that Russia is interested in the development of an alternative SWIFT system for BRICS and BRICS+ countries. “There is the danger that the inclusion of new players could undermine the positions of the BRICS countries themselves within the group. First of all, we are talking about South Africa, which has the least economic weight within BRICS. If expansion does occur, it would rather be about the quasi-membership of major second-tier countries on each continent pursuing, if not openly “anti-Western” policies, but an alternative, Gorbacheva further told Modern Diplomacy.
She, however, concluded that “the most likely scenario is the consolidation of the BRICS+ format as a platform for “integration of integrations” in compliance with the principle of equitable geographical representation and invitation of member countries of large regional integration associations.”
Lucio Blanco Pitlo III, a Research Fellow at the Asia-Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation, argued that the already established BRICS may have better chances of enticing new members. The new members could be Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, and Thailand that participated in recent consultations.
Dr. Pankaj Kumar Jha, Professor at O. P. Jindal Global University in Sonipat, Haryana, explains in an emailed discussion that China and India border conflict will continue influencing BRICS. However, India and China are cooperating to develop alternate financial structures, cohesive guidelines within Asia and the global south on many issues such as trade, investment and developing an understanding so that dominance of the of west could be reduced to a minimum in global financial architecture, he argued and added, “the foundation of cooperation in BRICS brings potential resources and critical development requirements under one umbrella.”
Questions about the future of BRICS are bound to be there especially when a new world order is being discussed. Drawing inspiration from Quad plus, BRICS countries are also discussing BRICS plus format. The formation of new grouping G-8 is primarily a fusion of BRICS and VISTA (Vietnam, Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey, Argentina). The formation is primarily to connect BRICS to middle income and middle power countries, according his explanation.
Dr. Pankaj Kumar Jha concluded his argument: “This geopolitical configuration is in exploratory phases, undoubtedly meant to bring a new axis of Russia-China but inclusion of Mexico , Indonesia and Turkey has its own strategic baggage. How much successful this grouping would be is still a matter a conjecture. From geopolitical point of view, much would depend on how sanctions on Russia shapes up and the post-coronavirus recovery of China.”
As the world is facing massive challenges, it also requires international collaboration and cooperative solutions, importantly not to grossly endanger the economic prospects of poor and underdeveloped countries.
Quite recently, Alexander Shchetinin, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Latin American department, also said some Latin American nations are seeking closer ties with BRICS. He expressed confidence that Russia’s cooperation with countries that show interest in BRICS will continue. “In what format, we will coordinate first of all with our partners in this group, and with those countries that want to be closer to BRICS, including with regard to Latin America,” he told TASS on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
According to the diplomat, the issue of any additional BRICS formats is the subject for a discussion, primarily within the group. BRICS is an informal group of countries, which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The purpose of the association is the development of comprehensive cooperation between the member countries. It is non-bloc in nature and is not directed against third parties. It has no permanent headquarters.
“More broadly, this week’s summit aims to usher in a new era for global development that is more inclusive, sustainable and fair,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his weekly address to the South African people, the text of which was published on the presidential administration’s website, “Through the reform of the multilateral system, including the United Nations, and by refocusing the attention and resources of the global community on the sustainable development agenda, the BRICS group can support a sustained and equitable global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.”
For South Africa, Ramaphosa said, the BRICS summit is a valuable platform to strengthen ties with partner countries in support of South Africa’s economic growth and job creation. “More than that, the summit is our opportunity to contribute to a better world, in which all countries have a better chance to recover from this pandemic and to flourish,” he stressed.
The South African president pointed out that the BRICS countries initially identified strengthening economic and financial ties as one of the key areas of their cooperation. “The countries have adopted the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership to increase access to each other’s markets, promote mutual trade and investment and create a business-friendly environment for investors in all BRICS countries,” Ramaphosa pointed out, “An important part of this strategy, particularly for South Africa, is to diversify trade.”
Historically, the first meeting of the group began in St Petersburg in 2005. It was called RIC, which stood for Russia, India and China. Then, Brazil and subsequently South Africa joined later in February 2011, which is why now it is referred to as BRICS. The BRICS member countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) collectively represent about 26% of the world’s geographic area and are home to 2.88 billion people, about 42% of the world’s population.