(Editor’s Note: The data below is from Wikileaks, and therefore open to supposition.)
BRICS is an acronym for five leading economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The first four were initially grouped as “BRIC” (or “the BRICs”) in 2001 by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill, who coined the term to describe fast-growing economies that would collectively dominate the global economy by 2050; South Africa was added in 2010.
|Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa|
|The BRICS leaders in 2019, from left to right: Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Jair Bolsonaro, Narendra Modi and Cyril Ramaphosa|
Member states and key leaders: BrazilPresident Lula da Silva RussiaPresident Vladimir Putin IndiaPrime Minister Narendra Modi ChinaPresident Xi Jinping[note 1] South Africa (2023 host)President Cyril Ramaphosa
|Named after||Member states’ initials|
|Formation||September 2006 (16 years ago) (UNGA 61st session)|
1st BRIC summit: 16 June 2009 (13 years ago)
|Founder||UNGA 61st session:|
Hu Jintao1st BRIC summit:
Lula da Silva
|Founded at||UN HQ, NYC (UNGA 61st session)|
Yekaterinburg (1st BRIC summit)
The BRICS have a combined area of 39,746,220 km2 (15,346,100 sq mi) and an estimated total population of about 3.21 billion, or about 26.7% of the world’s land surface and 41.5% of the global population. Brazil, Russia, India, and China are among the world’s ten largest countries by population, area, and GDP (PPP), and the latter three are widely considered to be current or emerging superpowers. All five states are members of the G20, with a combined nominal GDP of US$28.06 trillion (about 26.6% of the gross world product), a total GDP (PPP) of around US$56.65 trillion (32.5% of global GDP PPP), and an estimated US$4.46 trillion in combined foreign reserves (as of 2018).
The BRICS were originally identified for the purpose of highlighting investment opportunities and had not been a formal intergovernmental organization. Since 2009, they have increasingly formed into a more cohesive geopolitical bloc, with their governments meeting annually at formal summits and coordinating multilateral policies; China hosted the most recent 14th BRICS summit on 24 July 2022. Bilateral relations among the BRICS are conducted mainly on the basis of non-interference, equality, and mutual benefit.
The BRICS are considered the foremost geopolitical rival to the G7 bloc of leading advanced economies, announcing competing initiatives such as the New Development Bank, the Contingent Reserve Arrangement, the BRICS payment system, the BRICS Joint Statistical Publication and the BRICS basket reserve currency. Since 2022, the group has sought to expand membership, with several developing countries expressing interest in joining. The BRICS have received both praise and criticism from numerous commentators.
The term BRIC was originally developed in the context of foreign investment strategies. It was introduced in the 2001 publication, Building Better Global Economic BRICs by then-chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Jim O’Neill; the term was coined by Roopa Purushothaman, who was a Research Assistant in the original report.
For investing purposes, the list of emerging economies sometimes included South Africa, which expanded the acronym to BRICS or BRICK.
The foreign ministers of the initial four BRIC General states (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) met in New York City in September 2006 at the margins of the General Debate of the UN Assembly, beginning a series of high-level meetings. A full-scale diplomatic meeting was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on 16 June 2009.
The BRIC grouping’s 1st formal summit, also held in Yekaterinburg, commenced on 16 June 2009, with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Dmitry Medvedev, Manmohan Singh, and Hu Jintao, the respective leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, all attending. The summit’s focus was on improving the global economic situation and reforming financial institutions, and discussed how the four countries could better co-operate in the future. There was further discussion of ways that developing countries, such as 3/4 of the BRIC members, could become more involved in global affairs.
In the aftermath of the Yekaterinburg summit, the BRIC nations announced the need for a new global reserve currency, which would have to be “diverse, stable and predictable.” Although the statement that was released did not directly criticize the perceived “dominance” of the US dollar – something that Russia had criticized in the past – it did spark a fall in the value of the dollar against other major currencies.
Entry of South AfricaEdit
In 2010, South Africa began efforts to join the BRIC grouping, and the process for its formal admission began in August of that year. South Africa officially became a member nation on 24 December 2010, after being formally invited by China to join and subsequently accepted by other BRIC countries. The group was renamed BRICS – with the “S” standing for South Africa – to reflect the group’s expanded membership. In April 2011, the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, attended the 2011 BRICS summit in Sanya, China, as a full member.
Potential further expansionEdit
Since South Africa joined the BRIC grouping (now BRICS) in 2010, numerous other countries have expressed interest in joining the bloc, including Argentina and Iran. Both signaled their intent to join BRICS during meetings with senior Chinese officials, the current BRICS chair, over the course of the summer of 2022. Beijing backed Argentina’s potential accession following a meeting between Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the margins of the G20 Summit in Indonesia. China once again reiterated their support for Argentina’s potential application during a subsequent meeting between Cafiero and Yi on the margins of the 77th UN General Assembly. Likewise, it is understood that Russia, India, and Brazil all support Argentina’s application. Iran also submitted an application in June 2022 to Chinese authorities to join the economic association of emerging markets. Relations between Iran, China and Russia have warmed in recent months as all three governments seek new allies against increasing Western opposition. There is no formal application process as such to join BRICS, but any hopeful government must receive unanimous backing from all existing BRICS members—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—to receive an invitation.
Ahead of the BRICS summit, South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said that there are 12 countries interested in joining the initiative. Of the 12, she mentioned 7 countries specifically, namely Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Algeria, Argentina, Mexico and Nigeria. Pandor also said that membership discussions will be dealt with at the upcoming summit. Furthermore, Jim O’Neill said that new members should have populations of at least 100 million in order to counter the US dollar’s dominance.
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and Russian president Vladimir Putin during the BRICS in Brasília, Brazil.
The BRICS Forum, an independent international organization encouraging commercial, political, and cultural cooperation among the BRICS nations, was formed in 2011. In June 2012, the BRICS nations pledged $75 billion to boost the lending power of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, this loan was conditional on IMF voting reforms. In late March 2013, during the fifth BRICS summit in Durban, South Africa, the member countries agreed to create a global financial institution intended to cooperate with the western-dominated IMF and World Bank. After the summit, the BRICS stated that they planned to finalize the arrangements for this New Development Bank by 2014. However, disputes relating to burden sharing and location slowed down the agreements.
At the BRICS leaders meeting in St Petersburg in September 2013, China committed $41 billion towards the pool; Brazil, India, and Russia $18 billion each; and South Africa $5 billion. China, holder of the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves and contributes the bulk of the currency pool, wants a more significant managing role, said one BRICS official. China also wants to be the location of the reserve. “Brazil and India want the initial capital to be shared equally. We know that China wants more,” said a Brazilian official. “However, we are still negotiating, there are no tensions arising yet.” On 11 October 2013, Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said that creating a $100 billion in funds designated to steady currency markets would be taken in early 2014. The Brazilian finance minister, Guido Mantega, stated that the fund would be created by March 2014. However, by April 2014, the currency reserve pool and development bank had yet to be set up, and the date was rescheduled to 2015. One driver for the BRICS development bank is that the existing institutions primarily benefit extra-BRICS corporations, and the political significance is notable because it allows BRICS member states “to promote their interests abroad… and can highlight the strengthening positions of countries whose opinion is frequently ignored by their developed American and European colleagues.”
In March 2014, at a meeting on the margins of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, the BRICS Foreign Ministers issued a communique that “noted with concern, the recent media statement on the forthcoming G20 Summit to be held in Brisbane in November 2014. The custodianship of the G20 belongs to all Member States equally, and no one Member State can unilaterally determine its nature and character.” In light of the tensions surrounding the annexation of Ukrainian Crimea by Russia, the Ministers remarked that “The escalation of hostile language, sanctions and counter-sanctions, and force does not contribute to a sustainable and peaceful solution, according to international law, including the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter.” This was in response to the statement of the then Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who had said earlier that Russian President Vladimir Putin might be barred from attending the G20 Summit in Brisbane.
BRICS Tower headquarters in Shanghai
In July 2014, the Governor of the Russian Central Bank, Elvira Nabiullina, claimed that the “BRICS partners promote the establishment of a system of multilateral swaps that will allow them to transfer resources to one or another country if needed” in an article which concluded that “If the current trend continues, soon the dollar will be abandoned by most of the significant global economies and it will be kicked out of the global trade finance.”
Over the weekend of 13 July 2014, when the final game of the FIFA World Cup was held, and in advance of the BRICS Fortaleza summit, Putin met fellow leader Dilma Rousseff to discuss the BRICS development bank, and sign some other bilateral accords on air defense, gas and education. Rousseff said that the BRICS countries “are among the largest in the world and cannot content themselves in the middle of the 21st century with any kind of dependency.” The Fortaleza summit was followed by a BRICS meeting with the Union of South American Nations presidents in Brasilia, where the development bank and the monetary fund were introduced. The development bank will have capital of US$50 billion with each country contributing US$10 billion, while the monetary fund will have US$100 billion at its disposal.
On 15 July, the first day of the BRICS sixth summit in Fortaleza, Brazil, the group of emerging economies signed the long-anticipated document to create the US$100 billion New Development Bank (formerly known as the “BRICS Development Bank”) and a reserve currency pool worth over another US$100 billion. Documents on cooperation between BRICS export credit agencies and an agreement of cooperation on innovation were also inked.
At the end of October 2014, Brazil trimmed down its holdings of US government securities to US$261.7 billion; India, US$77.5 billion; China, US$1.25 trillion; South Africa, US$10.3 billion.
In March 2015, Morgan Stanley stated that India and Indonesia had escaped from the ‘fragile five’ (the five major emerging markets with the most fragile currencies) by instituting economic reforms. Previously, in August 2013, Morgan Stanley rated India and Indonesia, together with Brazil, Turkey, and South Africa, as the ‘fragile five’ due to their vulnerable currencies. But since then, India and Indonesia have reformed their economies, completing 85% and 65% of the necessary adjustments respectively, while Brazil had only achieved 15%, Turkey only 10%, and South Africa even less.
New Development Bank’s logo.
After the 2015 summit, the respective communications ministers, under a Russian proposal, had a first summit for their ministries in Moscow in October where the host minister, Nikolai Nikiforov, proposed an initiative to further tighten their information technology sectors and challenge the monopoly of the United States in the sector.
Since 2012, the BRICS group of countries have been planning an optical fibre submarine communications cable system to carry telecommunications between the BRICS countries, known as the BRICS Cable. Part of the motivation for the project was the spying of the U.S. National Security Agency on all telecommunications that flowed in and out of United States territory. As of 2023, construction of the proposed cable network has not started.
In August 2019, the communications ministers of the BRICS countries signed a letter of intent to cooperate in the Information and Communication Technology sector. This agreement was signed in the fifth edition of meeting of communication ministers of countries member of the group held in Brasília, Brazil.
The New Development Bank, located in China, plans on giving out $15 billion to member nation to help their struggling economies. Member countries are hoping for a smooth comeback and a continuation of economic trade pre-COVID-19. The 2020 BRICS summit was held virtually in St. Petersburg, Russia and discussed how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic and how to fix the multilateral system via reforms. The COVID-19 vaccine uptake rate was mixed among the BRICS community, with the populations of China, India, and South Africa most willing to take the vaccine and the populations of Brazil and Russia less willing. During the 13th BRICS summit, in 2021, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a transparent investigation into the origins of COVID-19 under the World Health Organization with the full cooperation of “all countries”, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke directly afterwards, calling on BRICS countries to “oppose politicisation” of the process.
Since 2011, the National Institutes of Statistics of the BRICS group of countries (IBGE, Rosstat, the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the Central Statistics Office (India) and Statistics South Africa) produce an annual joint statistical publication in order to put statistical production in perspective, compare adopted methodologies and statistical results. The publication serves as single data platform for the mutual benefit of participating countries.