BRICS leaders have invited six new members to join the powerful economic alliance of developing nations, marking the rise of the Global South in geopolitics and the world’s new political and financial architecture.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran and Argentina officially join BRICS in January next year – in a paradigm shift that would rearrange international politics, dent the petro-dollar system and expedite the demise of the United States of America’s (U.S) empire.
The move would also boost the status and influence of BRICS, seriously blow the West’s political and economic architecture, and usher in a new multipolar world order led by China, Russia and the US.
Addressing the last day of the 15th BRICS summit on Thursday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the bloc’s leaders had unanimously agreed to a phased expansion starting with two states from Africa, three from the Middle East and one from Latin America.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Brazilian counterpart Lula Da Saliva are the other BRICS leaders.
After reaching a consensus on the guiding principles, standards, criteria and procedures of the BRICS expansion process, Ramaphosa said, the alliance’s leaders settled on only six of the more than 20 nations.
“We have decided to invite the Argentine Republic, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to become full members of BRICS from 1 January 2024. We have also tasked our Foreign Ministers to further develop the BRICS partner country model and a list of prospective partner countries and report by the next Summit,” said Ramaphosa.
The summit declaration, read by Ramaphosa as BRICS’ rotating chairperson, said that the bloc would push its agenda by promoting inclusive growth, peace, “a more representative, fairer international order, a reinvigorated and reformed multilateral system”.
In a veiled reference to the US, which has sanctioned Russia and imposed trade restrictions on China, BRICS leaders expressed “concern about the use of unilateral coercive measures”, and recommitted themselves to strengthening the framework of “mutually beneficial BRICS cooperation” under the three pillars of political and security, economic and financial, and cultural and people-to-people cooperation.
“We express concern about the use of unilateral coercive measures, which are incompatible with the principles of the Charter of the UN and produce negative effects, notably in the developing world. We reiterate our commitment to enhancing and improving global governance by promoting a more agile, effective, efficient, representative, democratic and accountable international and multilateral system,” the declaration further said.
The US has launched dozens of wars in the Middle East and Africa since 2001, without the UN’s approval, and imposed unilateral sanctions on countries such as Iran, Russia and Cuba.
Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Libya are among the countries attacked by the US-led military alliance NATO. Moreover, America imposed trade restrictions on some Chinese technology products, especially semiconductors.
The summit recommitted BRICS to a partnership for inclusive multilateralism, and to foster an environment for peace and development. This would be done within the framework of respect for international law, and the principles enshrined in the United Nations (UN) Charter, including mutual respect, justice and equality.
Moreover, the BRICS leadership vowed to enhance the bloc’s solidarity, deepen people-to-people exchanges, boost the partnership for sustainable development, and accelerate the partnership for mutually accelerated growth based on mutual interests and consensus.
Ramaphosa added that they appreciated the “considerable interest” shown in joining BRICS by about 40 countries of the Global South.
Unsuccessful countries included Nigeria, Algeria, Malaysia and Cuba. While the criteria for BRICS membership were not outlined, observers said the gross domestic product (GDP) size, natural resources, population size and geographic representation may have been determining factors.
Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Argentina and Ethiopia’s inclusion increases the alliance’s share of the global GDP from 32 percent to 37 percent, and its global population to 46 percent. The six nations bring natural resources, bigger populations, strong economies, and military might and influence in Africa, Latin America and the Arab world.
Ethiopia is a leading country in the Horn of Africa, the headquarters of the African Union (AU), and has the fastest-growing economy in the continent. Egypt is a regional power in North Africa with a strong and diversified economy.
Oil-rich Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran are powerhouses in Asia and the Middle East, while Argentina is one of the regional powers in Latin America.
In addition, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran are influential members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Saudi Arabia and the UAE are key members of the Arab League alongside Egypt.
BRICS leaders all hailed the expansion as a watershed moment that would boost the Global South’s development agenda and infrastructure development, and make the alliance a force to be reckoned with.
Da Silva added that they approved the creation of a working group to “study the adoption of a unit currency as a reference for the BRICS”.
“This measure could increase our options for means of payment and reduce our vulnerabilities,” Da Silva said.
“BRICS would continue to be a driving force of a new international order that would have more fairness and indispensable prayer to promote peace, multilateralism and the defence of the international order.”
Putin hailed Ramaphosa’s “unique diplomatic mastery” during negotiations about the alliance’s positions, including expansion.
The Russian leader said the currency issue was a challenge, adding that they would find a solution to ensure smooth financial settlements among members.
“Let me assure all the colleagues that we will keep up with the work we have launched to expand BRICS’ influence in the world, namely, by ensuring practical cooperation with new BRICS members and those who would be working with BRICS within the outreach format. We will establish rules and procedures so that the importance of BRICS in the world continues to grow,” said Putin.
Modi said India had always believed that adding new members would “strengthen BRICS as an organization” and give its “shared efforts new impetus”.
“This would also strengthen the belief of many countries in the world in a multipolar world order. The expansion and modernisation of BRICS is a message that all institutions in the world need to mould themselves according to modern times. This is an initiative that can be an example for reforms and other global institutions that were established in the 20th century,” he said.
Xi hailed the membership expansion as “historic, ” adding that BRICS countries all have influence and shoulder important world peace and development responsibilities.
“It would bring new vigour to the BRICS cooperation mechanism, and further strengthen the force for world peace development. Let’s work together to write a new chapter of emerging market countries and developing countries working together in unity for development,” Xi said.
Professor Paul Zilungiselele Tembe, a founder of SELE Encounters and a Senior Lecturer at UNISA, said the BRICS expansion had serious implications for geopolitics and marked a “paradigm shift” from the West and the Global South.
“It means a lot that Saudi Arabia is coming into the game because the entire notion of the petro-dollar was based on the agreement of the 60s with Saudi Arabia, brokered by [former US Secretary of State Henry] Kissinger. So, there is a shift there. What kind of a shift, we don’t know. But one thing for sure is that it would leave a dent on the other side, the West,” Tembe said.
“The paradigm shift that we are expressing, however, is not an alternative to the West. The current rise of the Global South is building and forming a system of itself. The second implication is that all nations of the Global South, their eyes were on the West, as the first world, so to speak. But now you see all the eyes turning to the Global South. The Global South is positively exploding,” added Tembe.