At the end of the summer, during the 15th summit held in Johannesburg in South Africa, the group consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – BRICS – decided to invite six further member states to join it. The countries who received the invitation are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Egypt, Iran, and Ethiopia. This will lead to a significant increase in GDP at purchasing power parity (PPP) within the group which now represents a quarter of the world economy and nearly 40% of the globe’s population. We asked several experts to share their opinions regarding the BRICS expansion, and what it means for both Western and Eastern powers.
DevelopmentAid: What does a BRICS expansion mean for the Eastern and the Western world?
“Basically, as per the media, the West is concerned about the geopolitical and economic consequences of the BRICS group expanding its membership from 5 to 11 countries. The expansion will mean that the group will account for over 40% of the world’s population and 37% of its GDP. Yet, the West has done well not to reveal concerns thus far. Since Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Argentina, the United Arab Emirates, and Ethiopia were among the new members invited (all with constructive ties with Washington, except for Iran), the official response from western capitals has been cautious. As a result, the BRICS group cannot easily be categorized as an anti-Western coalition by the capitals of the U.S. and Europe. The western countries have claimed that since the bloc’s founding in 2009 by China, Russia, India, and Brazil and with the addition of South Africa in 2010, the bloc has not actually changed the nature of the global financial, economic, and political systems. But still, the Johannesburg Summit may mark a turning point. With the addition of 6 nations from January 2024, the BRICS will own most of the world’s oil and gas reserves in addition to a vast endowment of other natural resources. However, Washington and its allies decided to minimize the significance of the BRICS growth rather than declare it to be a danger to the West’s global hegemony. The BRICS group is not an adversary of the U.S., according to the U.S. National Security Advisor, since their goals are too dissimilar. Other viewpoint emphasize that the BRICS will change with this round of enlargement. China’s dominance will increase. The BRICS was already non-western, now the emphasis is shifting towards confrontational. Britain, on the other hand, did not formally comment on the BRICS’ growth, but British government sources voiced concern that the group’s development may convert the BRICS bloc into an instrument to fulfill Beijing’s ambition of overhauling the global economic and financial system. Others believe that an expanded BRICS will struggle to confront, change, or create an alternative to the West’s global economic governance framework. In response to the BRICS growth, Washington is anticipated to strive to bolster the G7 and G20 members. With the BRICS bloc’s development, the G7’s waning prominence, and the G20’s developing conflicts and inequities, the BRICS bloc may become an even stronger draw for more nations across the world.”
“By turning from a 5 to an 11-member bloc in January 2024, accounting for 36 % of the world’s GDP and over 40 % of its population, the BRICS expansion may have some critical geo-economic and geopolitical implications for both Western and Eastern countries including, among others, an expanded trading regime outside the dollar dominance, improved utility of the bloc’s local currencies against the US dollar, an influential South-led actor in the global governance reform arrangements, a more significant role for the Development Bank at the expense of the Bretton Wood Organizations, a larger share of the world energy trade and investment representing 43% of global crude oil production compared to 38% for OPEC, and least effective unilateral sanctions against one or more of the bloc’s member states. However, it is pertinent to note that these implications are not systematic and will not happen on their own. Instead, they will count on the member states, both the founding and new ones, to commit bold actions to come together and unite around the group’s common agenda which is not necessarily in line with Member States’ agenda with the rest of the world, bearing in mind the conflicting strategic goals of its individual members. It is also critical to consider revising BRICS’s consensus-based approach which has hampered its effectiveness in the past.”
“While the reasons for wanting to join BRICS and for its current members to promote enlargement widely differ, Western powers and institutions will have to analyze the fast-growing appeal that their non-Western counterparts exercise on the once-called “non-aligned” countries. This is particularly evident with reference to the African continent. On the other hand, the increased influence on Asia and Latin America of geopolitical giants such as China and Russia and the new membership of Iran open new questions about unprecedented international alliances capable of altering long-standing but precarious regional balances. The Eastern and the Western blocs will likely have to adjust their responses to the fact that the BRICS+ do not have a formal institutional architecture nor have they so far specified their membership criteria. Moreover, its current and prospective members are also engaged to various degrees in structured international and regional cooperation mechanisms. This might entail the need to adopt a more flexible approach towards the potentially conflicting stances of individual BRICS+ members on key economic, political, legal, and military issues. A considerable part of the clout of the future BRICS+ as a united front will depend on their ability to reconcile their positions – or to overlook their (in some cases, striking) differences on crucial transnational themes.”
“The geopolitical landscape is changing and the balance between traditional power blocs is changing accordingly. While geopolitical competition and tensions are growing, most countries within these geopolitical alliances are facing similar challenges, e.g., due to worldwide threats such as climate change, natural disasters, infection outbreaks and the consequences of aging populations. Herein lies the obligation to seek joint solutions to solve these challenges. Typically, healthcare and public health are the best domains of shared interest and a podia for collaboration and dialogue.”
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