Accessibility links

Breaking News

BRICS Nations Agree On Expansion Mechanism

From left, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, China's President Xi Jinping, South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the 2023 BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, Aug. 23, 2023.

JOHANNESBURG — Leaders of the BRICS bloc of leading developing countries have agreed on mechanisms for considering new members, South Africa said on Wednesday, paving the way for dozens of interested nations to join the group which has pledged to champion the "Global South."

"We have agreed on the matter of expansion," South Africa's Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said on Ubuntu Radio, a station run by her ministry, following a meeting by BRICS leaders at a three-day summit in South Africa.

"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 ... That's very positive," Pandor added.

Enlarging BRICS has topped the agenda at the summit taking place in Johannesburg. While all BRICS members had publicly expressed support for growing the bloc, there had been divisions among the leaders over how much and how quickly.

Its member countries also have economies that are vastly different in scale and governments that often seem to have few foreign policy goals in common, complicating its consensus-driven decision-making.

China's economy, for example, is more than 40 times larger than South Africa's, Africa's most developed country.

Pandor did not give details of the framework of criteria for considering candidates, simply saying that the bloc's leaders would make an announcement on expansion before the summit concludes on Thursday.

According to South African officials, over 40 countries have expressed interest in joining BRICS, and 22 have formally asked to be admitted.

These nations represent a disparate pool of potential candidates — from Iran to Argentina — motivated largely by a desire to level a global playing field many consider rigged against them and attracted by BRICS' promise to rebalance the global order.

"The world is undergoing major shifts, division and regrouping ... it has entered a new period of turbulence and transformation," said China's President Xi Jinping, who has long pushed for the expansion of the BRICS group.

"Development is an inalienable right of all countries. It is not a privilege reserved for a few," he told the summit earlier on Wednesday.

Though home to about 40% of the world's population and a quarter of global GDP, the bloc's ambitions of becoming a global political and economic player have long been thwarted by internal divisions and a lack of coherent vision.

Russia, isolated by the United States and Europe over its invasion of Ukraine, is keen to show Western powers it still has friends.

Brazil and India, in contrast, have both forged closer ties with the West.

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Tuesday rejected the idea the bloc should seek to rival the United States and the Group of Seven wealthy economies.

Werner Hoyer, the head of the European Investment Bank, warned the West on Wednesday it was in danger of losing confidence in the "Global South," unless it urgently intensified its own support efforts for poorer countries.