The BRICS are expanding: who are the five new member countries and what are their objectives

The group of BRICSan acronym that since 2001 has indicated the main non-Western emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), since 2024 it has expanded with the entry of five new member countries: Ethiopia, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Initially also theArgentina was supposed to join the BRICS+ but on December 30th the new president Javier Milei announced that Argentina renounces joining the group. But what does this enlargement of the BRICS mean in geopolitical terms? And what are the objectives of the new member countries?

What are BRICS+ and which are the new member countries

THE BRICS are a group of states made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The term was coined in 2001 by an economist at Goldman Sachs, Jim O’Neillto indicate the emerging economies not part of the Western bloc that according to him would impose themselves on the international economic and political scene by 2050. Starting from 2009, the group began to meet periodically every year with one of the five countries that, in alternating turns, holds the presidency. Already in 2023 Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, had announced the goal of expand the member countriesshowing himself in favor of the entry into the group, among others, of neighboring Argentina.

This year they joined the BRICS on January 1st five new states: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Ethiopia, United Arab Emirates and Iran. The country that holds the presidency in 2024 is the Russia, which will host the next BRICS ad summit October 2024 to Kazan, capital of the Russian republic of Tatarstan. With the entry of these countries into the BRICS group which is now referred to as BRICS plus (BRICS+) international economic balances could change significantly.

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Where the BRICS+ want to go: economic objectives

According to the World Bank, BRICS+ represents the 45.6% of the world population and the 28.6% of GDP. Furthermore, these countries are among the most important energy and oil powers in the world: think in particular of newcomers such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Iran. An international structure is therefore emerging multipolar which has important repercussions from an economic point of view: if after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the dollar has established itself as the official currency for the exchange of goods and services worldwide, the new BRICS+ would like to create an alternative scenario. The Russian presidency of BRICS+ has set in particular three goals for 2024: a major one fiscal and customs collaboration among member countries, increase the role of BRICS+ in international financial system and encourage cooperation between banking systems of the BRICS+ countries. In 2014, in fact, the BRICS created the New development bank (New Development Bank), with the aim of financing loans for emerging economies and developing countries, in particular in the construction, infrastructure and energy supply sectors.

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A new currency for BRICS+?

Regarding cooperation in the banking sector, above all Iran and Brazil have made proposals to create one new currency that it can replace the dollar in cross-border and international transactions between states. The proposal would concern the creation of a digital currency that can implement a de-dollarization in international economic transactions, decreasing dependence on the US dollar. In fact, during the last 2023 summit in Johannesburg there was talk of creating the coin ‘R5’, i.e. a new crypto-currency based on the five currencies of the BRICS countries: Brazilian real, Russian ruble, Indian rupee, Chinese renminbi and South African rand, but convertible into other currencies. However, this decision seems to require a long time and would therefore not be implemented immediately.

BRICS+ countries and geopolitical balances

The new structure presents itself as an alternative to the “Western bloc”, creating a multipolar world, with new countries whose economies continue to grow and acquire ever greater importance from the point of view of geopolitical balances. This can be seen, for example, with the growing tensions in the Red Sea and the consequences on the transit of raw material and on energy supply: energy sources and geopolitical interests they are in fact closely linked and now that the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Iran have joined the BRICS+ this could have a strong impact on the balance of the region. As for the Chinathen, the BRICS+ could represent a channel to increase its influence on African continent and acquire a role as a leading country of emerging economies, increasingly in contrast with the United States. There Russiafor its part, also due to the economic sanctions for the war in Ukraine, considers the BRICS+ as support and support against the Western bloc: the Russian president Putin has in fact announced that more than 30 states have shown an ever-increasing interest in joining the group which, therefore, could continue to expand.

Argentina out of BRICS+

Last December 30, the new Argentine President who had recently taken office, Javier Mileiannounced the renunciation of theArgentina to join the BRICS+. Although the country had formally requested membership of the group together with the other five new member states in August 2023, President Milei decided to send an official note to the presidents of the BRICS countries to announce that Argentina will not be among the new designated members for 2024. The choice is part of the new line of foreign policy announced by the new president: rapprochement with United States and Europe, support for Ukraine and Israel and distancing from the positions of the bloc formed by Russia and China. In particular, Milei’s move can be read in the macroeconomic framework in which the country finds itself: Argentina is in fact engaged in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regarding the conditions for returning a debt which amounts to approx 45 billion dollars. In this wake, keeping away from the BRICS+ according to the Argentine president could strengthen his ties with the United States, one of the main financing countries of the IMF, which is crucial to deal with the serious economic crisis facing Argentina.