BRICS Expansion Faces Eleventh Hour Hurdle as Divisions Persist
The expansion of the BRICS group, consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, is facing last-minute negotiations at a leaders’ summit in Johannesburg. The expansion aims to give the “Global South” more influence in world affairs and establish a counterweight to the dominance of the West. However, divisions among the leaders have emerged, threatening to undermine the bloc’s ambition and delay the admission of new member countries.
Sticking Points in Expansion Discussions
During the three-day summit, the debate over expanding BRICS has taken center stage. While all members have voiced support for growth, differences have arisen regarding the extent and speed of expansion. South Africa’s foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, announced that the leaders have agreed on mechanisms for considering new members and have adopted guidelines and principles for the process. However, a BRICS member country official revealed that a final admission framework has not yet been signed.
Last-minute complications have arisen due to new admission criteria proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India’s push for consensus on criteria and potential candidate names has created a delay in finalizing the agreement. These inclusion criteria reportedly include not being subject to international sanctions and meeting certain per capita GDP requirements. These additions have introduced some complexity and acted as a spoiler in the negotiations.
BRICS Expansion Challenges
The BRICS countries have diverse economies and often divergent foreign policy goals, making consensus decision-making a complex process. China has long advocated for expanding BRICS to challenge Western dominance and establish a more multipolar world order. President Xi Jinping emphasized the importance of unity among the BRICS countries in the face of a turbulent and transforming global landscape.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, attending the summit remotely due to an international arrest warrant, aims to demonstrate that he still has allies among Western powers. On the other hand, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva rejected the notion of BRICS seeking to rival the United States and other major economies within the Group of Seven (G7).
BRICS Hopefuls and Concerns
Over 40 countries, including Iran and Argentina, have expressed interest in joining BRICS, motivated by the desire to challenge the perceived global imbalance and benefit from the group’s efforts to rebalance the global order. Of these, 22 have formally requested admission. Delegations from potential candidate nations are attending meetings with BRICS leaders on the final day of the summit.
While BRICS represents a significant portion of the world’s population and GDP, the lack of a coherent vision for the bloc has limited its influence as a global player. The differences among the member countries on critical issues have led many to doubt whether BRICS will evolve into a geopolitical rival of the United States. Nonetheless, concerns have been raised in the West about the expansion of the bloc and the potential impact of its New Development Bank as an alternative to established multilateral lenders.
As the leaders’ summit in Johannesburg nears its end, negotiations to expand the BRICS group continue to face hurdles due to divisions among the member countries. The expansion, aimed at empowering the Global South and challenging Western dominance, has generated interest from numerous countries seeking inclusion. However, finalizing the admission process has proven challenging, with differing views on criteria causing delays. The outcome of these negotiations will determine the future trajectory of the BRICS bloc and its ability to reshape the global order.