Five New Nations Join BRICS, Argentina Backs Out


MOSCOW—Ethiopia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Saudia Arabia joined the ranks of the BRICS group on Monday, January 1. 

The more the merrier — BRICS adds five more nations, doubling membership

In August 2023, the bloc, which at the time included Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, agreed to admit Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates, while leaving the door open to accepting new members.

The BRICS group of emerging countries was formed in 2006 by Brazil, Russia, India and China, with South Africa joining in 2010.

It has since become an important platform for cooperation among emerging markets and developing countries. The doubling of its members on Monday is aimed at increasing the group's clout on the global stage. 

Conspicuous Absence 

Argentina, however, officially declined the invitation after its newly-elected president, Javier Milei, opposed the move, promising that the country would not “ally with communists” on his watch.

Javier Milei
Argentinian President Javier Milei

In a letter to the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the populist right-winger Mr Milei said decisions taken by the preceding government had been revised.

Mr Milei said in his letter that his government's foreign policy "differs in many ways from that of the previous government".

He added that although he did not consider it "appropriate" for Argentina to become a full Brics member, he was still committed to strengthening bilateral ties, particularly with the aim of increasing trade and investment flows

Russia Assumes Presidency

Meanwhile, Russia has assumed the one-year rotating presidency of BRICS following on from South Africa's chairmanship in 2023. 

Russia will hold the chair for one year and will host the BRICS annual summit in Kazan in October. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed that Moscow will do its best to promote cooperation within the economic bloc.

In a statement released by the Kremlin on Monday – the first in 2024 – Putin hailed the expansion of BRICS, calling it “a strong indication of the growing authority of the association and its role in international affairs.”

The Russian leader stressed that Moscow’s chairmanship, with the motto ‘Strengthening Multilateralism for Equitable Global Development and Security’, will “focus on positive and constructive cooperation.” 

According to Putin, Moscow intends to enhance partnership in politics and security, economic and financial matters, and cultural and humanitarian contacts, while providing “effective responses to the challenges and threats to international and regional security and stability.”

“Our priorities include promoting cooperation in science, high technology, healthcare, environmental protection, culture, sports, youth exchanges, and civil society,” he added.

Commenting on the recent additions to BRICS, Putin also said that Moscow plans to “facilitate the harmonious integration” of new participants in all spheres, noting that around 30 countries have expressed a desire to join the bloc’s agenda in one form or another. 

“To this end, we will start working on the modalities of a new category of BRICS partner country,” he alluded. 

Growing Counter-Influence

According to the IMF, the expanded BRICS now accounts for about 29% of global GDP, and has a combined population of about 3.5 billion people.

This makes the economic bloc a growing counter-influence against the grip that the G7—an informal group of Western countries, has on world geopolitics. 

The group's growth could mark a shift in the geopolitical landscape, although analysts remain uncertain as to whether the expansion will be a help or a hindrance to BRICS members. 

Some experts say that differences within the group could weaken decision-making and BRICS' power overall. 

However, BRICS countries are hoping that the expansion will lead to greater representation for emerging economies and a chance to move away from reliance on the US dollar. 

In August last year, Brazil's president called for BRICS nations to adopt a common currency for trade and investment between each other. 

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