(From L to R) President of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, President of China Xi Jinping and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gesture during the 2023 BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, 23 August 2023. EFE/EPA/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / POOL

BRICS leaders agree on expansion of bloc, admission guidelines at South Africa summit

By Pedro Alonso

Johannesburg, Aug 23 (EFE).- The members of BRICS, a group made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, agreed Wednesday to enlarge the bloc during a leaders’ summit in Johannesburg.

The group of developing economies also agreed on accession guidelines for future new members, South African foreign minister Naledi Pandor said.

“We have agreed on the matter of expansion,” Pandor told Ubuntu Radio, a station run by the foreign ministry, during the three-day summit being hosted by South Africa.

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi (L) and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (R) arrive for the 2023 BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, 23 August 2023. EFE/EPA/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / POOL

“We have a document that we’ve adopted which sets out guidelines and principles, processes for considering countries that wish to become members of BRICS,” she said. “So that’s very positive.”

The BRICS leaders will make a more detailed announcement before the conclusion of the summit on Thursday, Pandor added.
Pandor said that she had received “23 formal expressions of interest” from countries wanting to join the bloc, including Argentina, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bolivia, Cuba, Honduras, Venezuela, Algeria and Indonesia.

“Everybody wants to be in. It looks like BRICS has become a concept that has taken root in the popular discourse,” Pandor said.

The enlargement of the bloc of emerging economies, champion of countries from the so-called “Global South”, could lead to significant changes in the current world order.

The BRICS nations, which have yet to disclose their newly agreed admission criteria, want more influence in Western-dominated international institutions such as the United Nations.

Chinese president Xi Jinping welcomed the “growing enthusiasm of developing countries” for the bloc and the fact that “many have applied to join BRICS cooperation”.

Xi, who wants to increase China’s global influence vis-à-vis the United States, called for “accelerating the process of expansion”.

The surprise announcement of the day came from Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, who announced his country’s full support for new members to join.

“India fully supports the expansion of BRICS membership and welcomes moving forward on this based on consensus,” Modi said in his speech during the plenary session of the summit.

Although India has not publicly opposed the group’s expansion, it has insisted that the five member countries of the bloc discuss procedures to activate enlargement internally, delaying progress on the issue.

Brazil has also not embraced expansion with much fervor either, amid fears that the inclusion of new members could undermine its own influence in the bloc.

But Brazil president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva reminded the summit plenary Wednesday that BRICS was strengthened when South Africa joined in 2010, the last time the group enlarged.

“We were strengthened with the entry of South Africa and we began to better reflect the new configuration of world power,” Lula said.

The Brazilian leader made his preferences clear during the summit’s opening on Tuesday, when he emphasized that “it is very important that Argentina be in the BRICS.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin, who addressed the summit via videoconference due to the arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes in Ukraine, also backed the bloc’s expansion.

“During our presidency (in 2024), we would like to do everything possible to efficiently facilitate the implementation of the decisions adopted at this summit, including with regard to the expansion of BRICS,” said Putin, whose country has lost several allies since the invasion of Ukraine.

Similarly, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed the interest of numerous countries to join the bloc, which “shows that the BRICS family is growing in its importance, in its stature and also in its influence in the world.”

Brazil, Russia, India and China created the BRIC group in 2006, which South Africa joined in 2010, thus adding the letter ‘S’ to the acronym.

The bloc accounts for more than 42% of the world’s population and 30% of the planet’s territory, as well as 23% of gross domestic product and 18% of world trade. EFE