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The new BRICS expansion and the Global South agenda
The new BRICS expansion | Quick Take | GZERO Media

The new BRICS expansion and the Global South agenda

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody. And a happy end of summer back to school. Labor Day is coming up in a week and I am going to be back and at it in New York and around the world. But for now, a Quick Take and want to talk a little bit about the BRICS.

You saw the summit last week in South Africa, the headlines going into the summit, at least from the United States and its allies, was all about how Putin wasn't going to be allowed to attend. He had to attend virtually. One of the members of the BRICS, they can only send their foreign minister. Doesn't that show that, you know, the International Criminal Court means something, even though the Americans aren't actually a signatory to it? But that wasn't the real story.

The real story is that after a significant amount of Chinese diplomatic effort to expand the BRICS and make it more meaningful, which other members were skeptical about, there was significant success and an announcement that there will be six new members invited to join at the beginning of 2024. That's a very meaningful expansion. Egypt, Ethiopia, Argentina, UAE, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Presuming this all goes ahead, the BRICS will be the most important grouping of the so-called Global South. And I use that term advisedly because it's not quite clear that China is really a member of the Global South. It's much more important economically as a creditor of the Global South and increasingly wanting to have great influence over it, which a lot of members of the Global South want to resist. I'll get into that in a minute. But still, if you compare to what's been going on among the developing members of the G-20 to try to set a common agenda that more aligns with their interests as opposed to those of the United States and its allies in the G-7 who have become increasingly tight-knit post-Trump and post the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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People walk past the Sandton Convention Centre, where the BRICS Summit is being held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

REUTERS/James Oatway

Will anything come out of the BRICS summit?

A meeting of five large – and dissimilar – developing countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – is currently underway in Johannesburg, South Africa, and there’s plenty of stuff to talk about.

The heads of state of each country are attending in person, excluding Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who is opting for a virtual meetup after the International Criminal Court released a warrant for his arrest earlier this year.

So, what’s on the agenda? One key sticking point is the bloc's potential expansion. More than 20 countries have put in official bids to join the group, with Iran, in particular, very keen to be tapped, making another pitch to the Chinese just before the summit began.

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BRICS countries

Mapcreator via Reuters

Viewpoint: BRICS countries seek to expand global influence

The BRICS grouping of five large developing countries will hold its annual summit from Aug. 22-24 in Johannesburg, South Africa, at a time of rising influence. Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa account for more than 25% of the world’s economic output and more than 40% of its population. Yet diverging national interests and broader geopolitical forces make it difficult for the bloc to act as a cohesive unit.

The potential for geopolitics to play a spoiler role was highlighted when the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to upend this week’s summit by putting South Africa in the awkward position of having to detain him if he were to attend. In the end, South Africa and Russia agreed that he would participate virtually.

We asked Eurasia Group experts Ali Wyne and Christine Hilt what to watch at the gathering.

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