04.09.2023 Author: Viktor Mikhin

BRICS: a historic expansion

Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates were all sent invitations to join the newly formed BRICS economic bloc, marking the organization’s largest expansion in its history.  The accession of these geographically dominant countries will take effect on January 1, 2024.  BRICS leaders left the door open for future expansion among a long list of countries that have expressed interest in joining an organization they hope can help them with political and economic development by voting in favor of expansion, the first since South Africa joined the bloc 13 years ago.

Without a doubt, the countries chosen at this year’s summit represent a crucial step for the BRICS in expanding its presence in an effort to establish a multilateral response to the West’s unilateral hegemony, led by the United States. In addition, experts claim that the BRICS alliance selected its new members very carefully based on specific requirements. It indicates that one criterion was to choose members who had strong economic and political influence in their region. The Global South would be able to speak on the international scene with a lot more assurance and tenacity as a result. The potential to integrate into the world’s fastest-expanding trading and investment bloc exists for nations that have accepted invitations to join BRICS. According to experts, it will soon surpass both the G7 and the common European market.

The majority of the six invited nations are significant economic powers. From an energy standpoint, they are all significant players, and three of them—Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—are among the top oil exporters. China and India are two significant oil importers that are also members of the BRICS, which is why trade within the group is so crucial.

“BRICS has embarked on a new chapter in its effort to build a world that is fair, a world that is just, a world that is also inclusive and prosperous,” Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South Africa, said. “We have consensus on the first phase of this expansion process and other phases will follow.” With these new members, particularly the biggest oil and gas producers, the BRICS now represents a significantly larger portion of the world’s population and economic output.

By joining BRICS, major energy suppliers Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran all confirm their slow pivot from the US hegemony and their desire to become independent global heavy-hitters. At the same time, “BRICS is not competing against anyone,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said that the BRICS countries are all proponents of the emerging multipolar world, adding that this trend is being opposed by certain countries. According to Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the BRICS nations would welcome more members who would be chosen based on their geopolitical significance rather than the political ideologies of their governments.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attended the expansion announcement, reflecting the bloc’s growing influence. He repeated BRICS’ longstanding calls for reforms to the UN Security Council, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund. “This is a time for us to come together and work together,” the UN chief said at the summit. The UN chief emphasized the critical need for a multilateral world order and highlighted how groups like BRICS can contribute to the creation of a multipolar world based on 21st-century realities, the UN Charter, and international law. In addition, the UN chief stressed the significance of African governments having a voice in the UN Security Council, pointing out their past as colonies of Western countries and their lack of engagement. “Today’s global governance structures reflect yesterday’s world,” he said. “For multilateral institutions to remain truly universal, they must reform to reflect today’s power and economic realities.”

According to the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom highly appreciates the BRICS offer to join the organization and will assess the invitation extended by BRICS for membership and make “an appropriate decision” before the projected January 1, 2024. Prince Faisal bin Farhan said BRICS is a “beneficial and important channel” to strengthen economic cooperation. “We look forward to develop this cooperation to create new developmental and economic opportunities and elevate our relationship to the aspired level,” he said at the BRICS summit.

Argentine President Alberto Fernández said BRICS would “strengthen” his country. Fernández praised the bloc’s choice, pointing out the challenges the world is facing. “We want to be part of BRICS because the current difficult global context gives the bloc singular relevance, and turns it into an important geopolitical and financial reference, although not the only one for this developing world.”

According to Chinese President Xi Jinping, “This expansion of membership is historic.” One of the active supporters of the bloc’s expansion, he said, “This expansion meets the expectations of the international community and serves the common interests of emerging markets and developing countries.” President Xi also noted that the BRICS countries “are all countries with great influence and shoulder important responsibilities for world peace and development.” Xi Jinping went on to say, “The BRICS expansion is historic and a new starting point for BRICS cooperation. The expansion of BRICS will inject new vitality into the group’s cooperation mechanism and further strengthen the forces for world peace and development. I believe as long as we pull together, a lot can be achieved in BRICS cooperation, and a promising future awaits the BRICS countries.”

Expansion also provides an opportunity to move away from the hegemony and dictatorship of the US dollar. The emergence of a new financial system with a basket of BRICS currencies, or at least financial transactions within the bloc using local currencies, has been discussed. Brazilian President Lula has called for a common currency used by BRICS countries in commercial transactions to reduce their vulnerability. “I have been defending the idea of adopting a common trade currency that won’t replace our national currencies.” “Creation of a common payment unit for trading transactions and investments among BRICS countries will expand the list of payment options available for us and reduce our vulnerability,” Lula said at the three-day meeting.

Prior to that, Cyril Ramaphosa stated that the bloc would continue negotiations on the practical use of local currencies to facilitate trade and investment flows. On the penultimate day of the meeting, a Chinese foreign ministry official stated that the BRICS countries should strengthen their cooperation on cross-border payments. Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra stated in a separate press conference that the alternative payment mechanism is “promising.” At the summit in Johannesburg, BRICS leaders decided to encourage increased use of local currencies in trade and financial activities as they attempt to reduce reliance on the US dollar. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the BRICS bloc plans to create an alternative international payment system to SWIFT. At the conclusion of the three-day BRICS summit in Johannesburg, the bloc’s leaders announced that their finance ministers would conduct a review of local currencies, payment instruments, and platforms and report back in a year. Many states prioritize de-dollarization because their economies have suffered as a result of illegal unilateral sanctions imposed by the West and they are barred from using SWIFT.

The summit concluded unanimously that the BRICS countries wield enormous power and bear significant responsibilities for global peace and development.  There is little doubt that today’s global governance systems, which the West constructed for its own self-interest, mirror yesterday’s world. To stay really global, multilateral institutions must alter to reflect today’s power and economic realities, as well as new players such as BRICS.


Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

Related articles: