The BRICS Admit Six New Countries but Reject 34, Including Cuba

One of the sessions of the XV BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Cuba Presidency/Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 August 2023 — The BRICS economic group admitted six new countries as members during its XV summit, held in Johannesburg, South Africa. The bloc, composed of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, will be joined in January 2024 by Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates and Iran. The president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, applauded the expansion and attributed to the bloc an unquestionable “authority,” but he did not manage to get the Island included in the organization.

This is an unprecedented expansion of the BRICS, a group that emerged in 2006 after a meeting of foreign ministers from the then-emerging world economies and expanded in 2011 with the inclusion of South Africa.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, host of the summit, said that the original members had reached an agreement for the expansion of the body and defined “guiding principles, standards, criteria and procedures” to incorporate other countries. He added, during a press conference, in which leaders Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – representing Russian President Vladimir Putin – also participated, that a “consensus” had been reached on the first phase of the expansion.

The BRICS received “formal” requests from 40 States – including Cuba – interested in joining the group. In Latin America, Venezuela, Bolivia and Honduras also tried, unsuccessfully, to be accepted.

Ramaphosa, one of the promoters of expansion, said that the BRICS hope to gain more weight in the international context and ensure that the organization has as much influence as the United States and the European Union (EU), a vision shared by other countries, such as China and Russia.

The newly included countries maintain important economic relations with the original members. An obvious case is Argentina, Brazil’s main economic partner, whose inclusion Da Silva celebrated as an “important” business opportunity.

China and Russia, two of the founding states, expressed their interest in solidifying the organization’s influence. Putin – who did not attend the summit for fear of being arrested as a war criminal after a warrant of the International Criminal Court was issued – stressed by videoconference the importance of seeking a “single means of payment” for banking transactions among members. “It’s a complex matter, but in one way or another we are going to move towards the solution,” he summarized.

As for Miguel Díaz-Canel, who attended the summit as the pro tempore leader of the Group of 77 plus China, he insistently defended the New Development Bank, an initiative of the BRICS, which he praised as an “alternative” to other financial institutions that “reproduce submission schemes” for countries like his.

During the development of the summit, the Cuban ruler approached China, one of his country’s main economic and political partners, with particular interest. The president assured that the relationship of the communist parties of both countries was better than ever, and that he intended to “implement the important consensus” negotiated in November 2022 with Beijing, during what his critics called the “alms tour” to Turkey, Russia and China.

The expansion of the BRICS has also aroused the interest of the European Union, whose Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it “took note” of what happened at the summit and recalled that several of the European countries maintain important relations with its members. Peter Stano, spokesman for Foreign Affairs of the European Commission, said that none of the Twenty-seven [members of the EU] is a member of the BRICS, and that the decision – and its consequences – is the exclusive responsibility of its members.

So far, the BRICS represent more than 42% of the world’s population and account for 23% of gross domestic product and 18% of global trade.

Translated by Regina Anavy 


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