The BRICS group of nations is to decide this year on whether to admit new member states into the bloc, as Saudi Arabia and Iran formally seek to join.
According to South Africa’s ambassador to BRICS, Anil Sooklal, the proposal to expand the bloc will be one of its main focuses this year. Speaking in an interview with the Russian news agency, TASS, this week, Sooklal said that at a meeting “in early February in South Africa, we started discussing the expansion of BRICS, thus beginning to carry out the decision made in June 2022 at the BRICS summit to develop criteria for accepting new countries into the group.”
Another three meetings will be held within the next three months “in order to reach a consensus on the criteria of recommendations, principles and approaches for BRICS enlargement,” he confirmed. “A corresponding report is expected to be submitted for consideration to BRICS foreign ministers, whose meeting will be held in early June. Major efforts are underway now on the concept for BRICS expansion and criteria for adopting new members”.
The economic bloc currently consists of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and is notable as a potential trading and political force which many predict could serve as an alternative to the United States and the global economic system it leads, especially as Washington’s influence is considered to be declining on the world stage.
China, the most prominent member state in BRICS and with a GDP of over twice the size of all other four members combined, was reportedly the one to have initiated the discussion on expansion, seeing it as a way to make the bloc more of a match against current global financial institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the United Nations.
The other members, however, are reported to be uncomfortable with Beijing’s hegemonic influence and the invitation of its allies into BRICS, fearing that their own influence could be diluted.