Brics expansion: UAE, Saudi Arabia among six countries invited to join developing world bloc

Nearly two dozen countries had formally applied to join the club, which represents a quarter of the global economy and more than three billion people

By AFP/Reuters

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Photo: PTI
Photo: PTI

Published: Thu 24 Aug 2023, 11:11 AM

Last updated: Thu 24 Aug 2023, 1:25 PM

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Thursday that the Brics club of emerging nations will admit six new members, including Saudi Arabia, UAE and Iran, at the start of next year.

"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. The membership will take effect from the first of January 2024," Ramaphosa told a summit in Johannesburg.

Calls to enlarge the Brics — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- had dominated the agenda at its three-day summit and exposed divisions among the bloc over the pace and criteria for admitting new members.

But the group, which makes decisions by consensus, had agreed on "the guiding principles, standards, criteria and procedures of the Brics expansion process", said Ramaphosa.

Nearly two dozen countries had formally applied to join the club, which represents a quarter of the global economy and more than three billion people.

Some 50 other heads of state and government are attending the summit in Johannesburg, which concludes on Thursday.

What is Brics?

The acronym Bric, which did not initially include South Africa, was coined in 2001 by then Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O'Neill in a research paper that underlined the growth potential of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

The bloc was founded as an informal club in 2009 to provide a platform for its members to challenge a world order dominated by the US and its Western allies.

Its creation was initiated by Russia.

The group is not a formal multilateral organisation like the United Nations, World Bank or the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec). The heads of state and government of the member nations convene annually with each nation taking up a one-year rotating chairmanship of the group.

Brics is currently holding its 15th heads of state and government summit in Johannesburg, which started on August 22 and will continue today, August 24.

The question of enlarging Brics has topped the agenda at the summit and exposed the kinds of divergence of vision that have long plagued the grouping.

China and Russia are keen to expand Brics to give the bloc more global clout. South Africa’s Ramaphosa said on Tuesday that his country’s stance was similar to China’s

Brazil, meanwhile, is concerned that expanding Brics will dilute its influence, though it wants to see neighbour Argentina join the bloc.

An Indian official familiar with the Tuesday evening discussions between the leaders said Modi indicated his country was open to expansion but “there have to be ground rules about how it should happen and who can join”.


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