FACTBOX: Sizing up BRICS’ structure and accomplishments

MOSCOW:  On August 22-24, 2023 Johannesburg (South Africa) is hosting the 15th summit meeting of the BRICS group, an informal international ...


MOSCOW:  On August 22-24, 2023 Johannesburg (South Africa) is hosting the 15th summit meeting of the BRICS group, an informal international association of five rapidly developing countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The Russian delegation at the event is led by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, while President Vladimir Putin will participate by video link. It is expected that the main topics of the meeting will be economic cooperation, in particular ways of increasing trade settlements in local currencies and BRICS expansion.

Creation and goals

The acronym BRICS is derived from the names of the association’s member countries in English. Before the accession of South Africa in 2011 the group was known as BRIC. The first meetings on the BRIC platform took place in 2006. At that time, the economy ministers met at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum (in June), and the foreign ministers of Russia, Brazil, China, and India's defense ministers - New York on the sidelines of the UNGA session (in September). In July 2008, talks by the heads of state and government of the four countries were held in Toyako (Japan) within the framework of the G8 summit, where the leaders of Brazil, China and India were invited as guests.

The first BRIC summit was in Yekaterinburg in June 2009. The association’s mission was then defined as the development of a consistent, active, pragmatic and open dialogue and cooperation among countries. Later, more principles of joint activity, such as non-bloc status and neutrality towards third parties were agreed upon.

BRICS does not have a secretariat or charter. The rotating presidency is held by the summit’s host country, which is responsible for coordinating all current activities (in recent years the member-states took turns as BRICS chairs according to the sequence of letters in the acronym).

Summits, ministerial meetings

Since the Yekaterinburg meeting in 2009, the bloc’s summits have been organized annually in one of the member countries (the last one, chaired by China, was held by videoconference on June 23, 2022). Since 2013, the presiding country, as a rule, has invited other states, close to it geographically and geopolitically, to participate in the event. Also, the BRICS leaders meet at international forums. In addition to summits, negotiations are held regularly at the level of foreign ministers, ministers of finance, health, education, science and agriculture, and secretaries of security councils.

Since 2015, BRICS has been holding civil, parliamentary and youth forums, as well as media summits. In all, more than 20 communication platforms operate within the BRICS framework. The agendas of these meetings cover areas such as energy efficiency, climate change, food security, poverty alleviation, sustainable development, and the activities of international financial institutions.

BRICS expansion

At the meeting of the quintet’s foreign ministers on May 19, 2022, held by video link, China came up with an idea of launching a process of BRICS expansion, with the aim of increasing its membership and influence in the world.


To date, 23 countries have applied to join the organization, including Argentina and Iran (in June 2022), Algeria (in November 2022), Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt (in May 2023), Bangladesh and Ethiopia (in June 2023), and Venezuela (in August 2023). A number of other states have officially expressed their interest in joining the group. According to Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, BRICS expansion is "high on the agenda," while there are "nuances among the members of the association regarding its expansion." Consultations are underway on determining the parameters of membership.

Statistics

According to the World Bank, BRICS countries account for approximately 30% of the Earth’s territory and 42% of the world’s population (of 8 billion). According to the International Monetary Fund forecasts, in 2023 the BRICS countries will overtake the Group of Seven (G7) in terms of GDP. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will account for 32.1% of global GDP, while the G7 will account for 29.9%. By 2028, the five BRICS countries will account for 33.6%, while the G7 will account for 27.8%.

Business, economic and financial activities

In recent years, trade between member countries has reached $422 billion (Bloomberg data). Among the real projects of the association is the creation in July 2014 of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB; headquartered in Shanghai). Its share capital stands at $100 billion. The NDB’s task is to finance infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS states and developing countries. Since the beginning of its operations, the NDB has approved 96 projects for a total of $32.8 billion (on March 4, 2022, the NDB suspended new transactions in Russia "in light of the growing uncertainty and restrictions").

In addition to the NBR, the association has so far established several other structures in the business and financial sphere, among them the Exchanges Alliance (2011), the Business Council, and the Council of Expert Centers (2013). Since 2015, the summits have annually approved a key five-year document in the field of economic cooperation - the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership. The latest one was approved in November 2020. In the same year, Russia initiated the creation of the Women's Business Alliance and launched the BRICS Youth Business Incubator, where young entrepreneurs share experience and establish direct business contacts.

On September 7, 2021, at the BRICS Partnership for a New Industrial Revolution forum in Xiamen, China, the BRICS members signed a package of agreements on 28 projects with a total investment of 13.4 billion yuan (about $2 billion). They cover such areas as industry, services, software, technology services, logistics, trade and economy.

Currently, work is underway to transition BRICS countries to mutual settlements in national currencies and create a Bond Fund in national currencies. Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at the BRICS business forum on June 22, 2022, said that efforts were in progress on creating an international reserve currency based on a basket of currencies of the association’s member-countries. Some experts believe that such a currency may protect the BRICS countries from sanction risks associated with settlements in dollars and euros.


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Local Glob: FACTBOX: Sizing up BRICS’ structure and accomplishments
FACTBOX: Sizing up BRICS’ structure and accomplishments
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