Expanding BRICS?

Expanding BRICS?

 Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping has called for the BRICS group to expand to include Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Argentina, Nigeria, Senegal, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. The original group, suggested by the research department at Goldman Sachs in 2001 as a group to leading future world economic growth was Brazil, Russia, India, and China, who then decided to officially form a group, which then added South Africa in 2010. At about that time, this group which included the world’s two largest nations in population and the world’s largest in land area was arguably leading the world in growth as it came out of the Great Recession.  

Their collective relatively good performance at that time reflected high commodity prices, which several of them exported substantially. As those prices fell later in the subsequent decade, several of them also saw their growth rates noticeably decline, notably Brazil, Russia, and South Africa.  But commodity prices are back up again, so this has been making them more important in the world again.

I must confess that I am unclear what criteria Xi Jinping is applying to determine this particular set of nations.  Some of them are major commodity exporters, notably Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Kazakhstan for oil, with Senegal a source of rare earths, a matter of particular interest to China. But this is less obvious for the others, although Indonesia certainly fits being one of the world’s largest in population. Some of these, especially Kazakhstan, are involved in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, but several are not particularly, and there are some large nations that are involved in the BRI that are not on this list, such as Pakistan. For that matter, some people at Goldman Sachs have said Turkey should be part of the group, but it is also not on the list. It is not all that obvious what this group has in common.

Some of this may be political.  Most of these are not closely allied with the US, although several of them have condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Curiously none of them are nations ruled by a Communist party, so no Vietnam, Cuba, or North Korea, much less not fully communist but strongly socialist and anti-US Venezuela, which also happens to be an oil exporter. Again, there seems to be a certain degree of arbitrariness to who is in and who is not in this group.

It may be that this is not going to go anywhere. Do these nations even want to join the BRICS group? Will it still be able to be called by that acronymic name if they do?  I guess it does not cost any money or require them to provide troops or something to do so. The group does have annual conferences, so I guess they would get to attend those. But would they want to?  I do not know. We shall see.

Barkley Rosser