BRICS agrees to “historic” expansion 

TEHRAN- The emerging BRICS economic bloc has launched the biggest expansion in its history as Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have been invited to join.

Deciding in favor of an expansion, the bloc's first since South Africa joined 13 years ago, BRICS leaders have also left the door open to future enlargement amid a long queue of countries that have voiced interest in joining an organization they hope can level the global playing field.

"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," South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared.

Analysts say the countries that have been chosen during this year's summit are an important step for BRICS to develop a larger footprint in its quest to develop a multilateral response to the unilateral hegemony of America.

In doing so, experts believe the BRICS alliance had to select very carefully, based on clear criteria, which new members to add.

It appears that one of the criteria was to ask members to join that are significant players in their own region with important economic and political influence. This would allow the global south to speak with much more confidence.

For countries that have been invited to join BRICS, it offers the opportunity to integrate into an emerging bloc that is the fastest-growing in the world in terms of trade and investment.

Experts believe it will soon quickly outpace the G7 and the European single market.

Among the six countries invited, most of which are powerful economic states. The are very important players in terms of energy. Three of them – Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – are classified among major oil exporters. Important oil importers are also within BRICS. China and India are examples. This makes trade within the bloc extremely important.
"BRICS has embarked on a new chapter in its effort to build a world that is fair, a world that is just, a world that is also inclusive and prosperous," Ramaphosa pointed out.

"We have consensus on the first phase of this expansion process, and other phases will follow."

With these new members – especially the major oil and gas producing ones – on board, BRICS now represents a much more significant share of the global economy and global population.

The entry of energy powers Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran highlights their slow drift away from the U.S. hegemony and ambition to become global heavyweights in their own right.

"BRICS is not competing with anyone," Russia's Vladimir Putin noted.

"But it's also obvious that this process of the emerging of a new world order still has fierce opponents," he added.

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said that the BRICS countries will welcome more members who will be chosen according to their geopolitical importance and not the ideology of their governments.

Reflecting the bloc's growing influence, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attended bloc's expansion announcement session. He echoed the longstanding calls of BRICS for reforms of the UN Security Council, International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

"This is a time to come together and to work together,” the UN chief told the summit.

Instead, he noted, divisions are growing and tensions are rising. “I remain deeply concerned over the risk of a fracturing of the global order."

The UN chief stressed the urgency for a multilateral world order, pointing out how organizations such as BRICS can help defeat a multipolar world based on the realities of the 21st century as well as the UN charter and international law.

The UN chief also underlined the importance of African states having a voice at the UN Security Council, citing the history of their colonial Western powers for their lack of representation.

"To this day, the continent is underrepresented in the global financial architecture, just as it lacks a permanent seat on the Security Council.”

"Today's global governance structures reflect yesterday's world," he said. "For multilateral institutions to remain truly universal, they must reform to reflect today's power and economic realities."

President Lula noted, "We can't deny the geopolitical importance of Iran and other countries that will join BRICS… What matters is not the person who governs but the importance of the country."

UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan said, “We respect the vision of the BRICS' leadership and appreciate the inclusion of the UAE as a member to this important group.”

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s president, said he looked forward to working with the BRICS to “achieve its goals towards strengthening economic co-operation among us and raise the voice of the global south”.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister told state TV that the Kingdom appreciated the invitation by BRICS to join the group and would study the details before the proposed January 1, 2024 joining date and take “the appropriate decision.”

Prince Faisal bin Farhan said BRICS was “a beneficial and important channel” to strengthen economic cooperation.

Earlier on Thursday, he said that Saudi Arabia was looking forward to developing more cooperation with BRICS nations.

“We look forward to develop this cooperation to create new developmental and economic opportunities and elevate our relationship to the aspired level,” he told a BRICS summit.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed hailed the invitation as a “great moment” for the East African nation," which is one of AFRICA'S largest growing economies.

Argentine President Alberto Fernández said that BRICS would “strengthen” his country. Fernandez praised the decision by the bloc, citing the challenges facing the world.

“We want to be part of BRICS because the current difficult global context gives the bloc singular relevance, and turns it into an important geopolitical and financial reference, although not the only one for this developing world.”

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said, “The benefits of the Islamic Republic of Iran's membership in BRICS will be surely historic. It will open up a new chapter and constitute a new step in the direction of promoting justice, equality, ethics and sustainable peace worldwide.”

The Iranian president also praised South Africa for hosting this year's summit.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also said, "This membership expansion is historic." One of the bloc's advocates for enlargement, Xi said. "It shows the determination of BRICS countries for unity and cooperation with the broader developing countries.”

President Xi also pointed out that "the BRICS countries all hold important influence and shoulder crucial responsibilities for world peace and development."
The leaders of the five BRICS countries unanimously agreed to invite the new six candidate nations to become new members of the BRICS family.

Xi went on to say, "The expansion also marks a new starting point for BRICS cooperation, injecting fresh vitality into the BRICS cooperation mechanism and further strengthen the forces for world peace and development. I believe as long as we pull together, a lot can be achieved in BRICS cooperation, and a promising future awaits the BRICS countries.”

The expansion also offers an opportunity to get away from the hegemony and dictatorship of the U.S. dollar. The emergence of a new financial system has been floated about, with a basket of BRICS currencies or at least conducting financial transactions within the bloc using local currencies.

Brazil's Lula has called for a common currency used by BRICS countries in commercial transactions to reduce their vulnerabilities.

“I have been defending the idea of adopting a common trading currency for trade that won’t replace our national currencies.”

He highlighted how "everyone suffers the consequences of war; the most vulnerable populations are affected proportionately. The war in Ukraine is evidence of the limitations of the Security Council. "

"The creation of a currency for trade and investment transactions between BRICS members increases our payment options and reduces our vulnerabilities," Lula told the three-day meeting.

Ramaphosa said earlier that the bloc would continue discussions on practical use of local currencies to facilitate trade and investment flows.

A Chinese foreign ministry official said on the final day of the summit that BRICS nations should strengthen cooperation on cross-border payment. Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra told a separate press briefing that an alternative payment system was "an area of promise".

The leaders of BRICS agreed at the Johannesburg summit to encourage more local currency usage in trade and financial transactions, as they seek to shift away from dependence on the U.S. dollar.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the BRICS bloc planned to set up an alternative international payments system to SWIFT.

Li Kexin, Director-General of the Department of International Economic Affairs of the Foreign Ministry of China, said BRICS members should also study local currency cooperation payment tools and platforms and promote local currency settlement.

"This is necessary … because we do have a large volume and increasing volume of trade between the five (current BRICS members)," Li told a press briefing on the sidelines of the summit.

"So it's important to have a more sophisticated payment system… This is not only the Russians' idea."

Li said BRICS finance ministers and central bank governors "will also further explore this idea".

At the conclusion of the three-day BRICS summit in Johannesburg, the bloc's leaders announced they would task their finance ministers to consider the issues of local currencies, payment instruments and platforms and report back in a year.

De-dollarization is a particular priority for many states, whose economy has been hit by illegal unilateral sanctions imposed by the West and are banned from SWIFT.

President Xi of China says "the BRICS countries all hold important influence and shoulder crucial responsibilities for world peace and development."

Brazilian President Lula notes, "We can't deny the geopolitical importance of Iran and other countries that will join BRICS… What matters is not the person who governs but the importance of the country."

"Today's global governance structures reflect yesterday's world," he said. "For multilateral institutions to remain truly universal, they must reform to reflect today's power and economic realities," the UN Secretary-General told the BRICS summit.

Source: Tehran Times