Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 33.2023
2023.08.14 — 2023.08.20
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
The Global South's BRICS Play Should Not Be Dismissed (Нельзя сбрасывать со счетов игру глобального Юга в БРИКС) / USA, August, 2023
Keywords: global_governance, political_issues

On August 22, South Africa will host the next BRICS summit—bringing together leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—at a time of acute tensions between the United States and its great power rivals China and Russia. But another context for the meeting is the increased salience of the Global South, most sharply revealed by the nuanced reactions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to the Ukraine war.

The multiple failures of the US-led world order to substantially support two core requirements of Global South states—economic development and safeguarding sovereignty—are creating a demand for alternative structures for ordering the world. The BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) are two major responses to these failures. They are bringing the East and the South together in rooms in which Washington and its core allies are not exactly welcome—even when they invite themselves.

BRICS is often talked about in one of two ways. Some observers dismiss its relevance, even calling for its dissolution. Others take a romantic view of the BRICS being a revival of the hoary days of Southern solidarity—Bandung in the 1950s or the 1970s New International Economic Order. Neither is an accurate picture of what is really happening.

The current moment appears to be the next fork in the road for BRICS, after its foundational years of 2009–10 and the creation of its development finance entity (the New Development Bank) in 2015. Two key items are on the August summit agenda—first, finding a way to trade and invest with one another by circumventing the use of the US dollar and second, admitting new states to the club.

Developing Differently The global financial system remains dominated by the US dollar and heavily influenced by the US Federal Reserve. Arguably, the wide use of the dollar allows nations to trade more easily. But it also puts their economies at the mercy of US interest rates and sovereign measures such as quantitative easing, and enables harsh US-led sanctions regimes. For the Global South, alternative pathways of both development financing and currency settlements are attractive ways to achieve autonomy, enhance economic growth, and at least partly protect themselves against the extraterritoriality of sanctions.

De-dollarization—even limited to trading between the five BRICS states—is an extremely ambitious goal, and significant progress is difficult to foresee. The preparation required to generate such a currency is formidable. This includes habits of much deeper coordination by the respective countries' central banks, which do not yet exist. These will involve prickly issues of yielding a degree of sovereignty. There are also geopolitical barriers: India is wary of China playing the dominant role in any such arrangement due to its disproportionate economic heft in the grouping. New Delhi has already rejected being a part of any alternative currency arrangement. Nor is South Africa particularly supportive of moving in that direction. For now at least, creating alternatives to dollar-denominated trade remains more of a talking point than an achievable policy.

Yet while de-dollarization may be a long way off, BRICS is taking significant steps to evolve alternatives to US-dominated financing institutions such as the World Bank. In 2015, the five states founded the New Development Bank, with infrastructure financing and sustainable development as its focus. Although China's GDP is more than twice that of the rest of the BRICS states combined, it agreed to an equal partnership on governing the bank and an equal share of subscribed capital of $10 billion each. Membership in the NDB is open to all UN member states. Bangladesh, Egypt, the UAE, and Uruguay have already become members, and more states are likely to follow.

Though headquartered in China, the NDB is different from another similar multilateral institution, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, in which China has clearly taken a majority shareholder position and the leading role. The NDB is even more distinct from Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative, which remains a set of bilateral infrastructure financing deals in which China is even more dominant as sole lender.

To Expand or to Not Expand? Expanding BRICS itself, however, is a different matter. There has been a deluge of interest from Gobal South states in joining the club. As many as 22 states have applied to join, according to South Africa. Even more have expressed interest. These are said to include Algeria, Argentina, Belarus, Bolivia, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and others.

Multiple states attended "Friends of BRICS" meetings in South Africa earlier in the year. South Africa has always stressed involving other African states in BRICS meetings as invitees. The focus on Africa will be even more on display this year.

However, there are differences on expansion within the grouping, with China pushing the hardest for enlargement with some Russian support. But India and Brazil are wary, wanting a much slower process in which expansion happens in stages and after an intermediate status of some sort being granted.

As Andre Pagliarini has written recently, Brazil's resistance to expansion comes from its desire not to dilute its influence in what it sees as a key grouping in which it has major influence. India too shares some of these concerns. South Africa would like to preserve the five current BRICS states as core members and focus more on a BRICS+ type of a format, according to a senior government official.

Expansion, even in a two-tier format, would be a major step forward for BRICS. It would signal a much larger coalition and wider conversations about creating new pathways for solving common challenges. Naturally, a bigger grouping will make it more challenging for translating the work agenda into concrete actions—a classic trade-off between efficacy and size.

The Geopolitics of It All It's a misnomer that BRICS is a South-South initiative; rather, it can be characterized as an East-South grouping. And a potential barrier to BRICS becoming much stronger is the divide between the two Asian giants, India and China. After their 2020 clash that led to the death of at least two dozen of their troops, New Delhi and Beijing are locked in an armed standoff high in the mountains that has only partly been eased in the past three years.

However, it is notable that they have not allowed this deep distrust from significantly impacting their participation and conversations within BRICS agendas and formats. In fact, both India and China compete and converse within BRICS. At one level, each tries to ensure that the other does not become dominant in the grouping. But the BRICS meetings also provide opportunities for India-China dialogue in safer multilateral formats.

For the BRICS to remain viable and make an increasing impact, it is not necessary that its core members be close friends but that they see a common interest. Forming a coalition with Russia and China gives Global South states leverage in their dealings with the US-led West. It also helps generate a more multipolar world, long a goal of the South's middle powers.

But Brazil, India, and South Africa are taking pains to also convey the message that BRICS is not hostile to the United States. "I don't think we see BRICS as being pro-Russia or anti-Western. I think that would be extremely wrong" said Naledi Pandor, South African foreign minister. Brazil's Lula has greatly appreciated the support from the Biden administration on strengthening democracy at home. India, of course, is a close US partner when it comes to Asian geopolitics and economic and people-to-people ties.

This, then, is the subtle but real East-South differentiation within BRICS. Whereas Russia and China are locked in a bitter military and economic rivalry with the United States, the Global South BRICS states see the grouping as a complementary way to create parallel structures of power and influence in a world in which Washington has often been a disappointment and sometimes a major barrier to some of their core interests. An issue-based coalition with the "Global East" is a logical avenue to take.

This is also true for India, perhaps Washington's closest friend within BRICS. India is often disadvantaged by a global economic system that is found wanting when it comes to climate finance and equitable development, not to mention occasional US intrusions into what it considers sovereign matters of domestic politics. And the fallout from US sanctions does not spare even New Delhi. That was demonstrated by its eventual and reluctant alignment with Washington's tough Iran sanctions under President Trump. New Delhi has also refused to join US-led sanctions regime against Moscow—in fact, greatly increasing its oil purchases from Russia.

Pressures are ever-present for Global South states not getting too close to Moscow and Beijing. The allegations of arms-to-Russia from South Africa are a good example of Washington's propensity to come down hard on non-aligned states that are seen to become too aligned to its rivals.

The Hunger for Alternatives BRICS is not the only grouping that has emerged from this East-South cooperation. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is another. Unlike BRICS, which originated across three continents, the SCO's nucleus is in the heart of Eurasia, with the "Shanghai Five" states of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. BRICS was, and remains, a grouping focused more on economic development. While the SCO has taken on a broader agenda, its focus remains security and state sovereignty. The SCO has been in expansion mode for a few years now—India, Pakistan, and Iran have become additional members. Several other states are in the process of joining.

Global South states find the BRICS and the SCO attractive as there is a hunger for alternative structures to achieve their most fundamental goals as states and societies—economic "catch-up" with wealthy states and safeguarding older norms of sovereignty, which the post–Cold War United States often treated with contempt. Western agendas of democracy-promotion and human rights—but especially their blatantly inconsistent and often self-serving application—are seen as threats by much of the Global South, which is peppered with non- or semi-democracies. Huddling with China and Russia, two authoritarian states that show little affinity for these precepts, provides a shield against the intrusion of these norms, their misuse, and their perceived threats to regime stability in the South.

There is plenty of sentiment in Western capitals that dismisses the significance of organizations such as the BRICS and what they represent. Critics are correct that, thus far, their impact has been more symbolic than substantive. But it would be a mistake to see them as simply talk shops. While desiring a strong relationship with the United States, most Global South states are also seeking pathways that spread risk in a global order of diminishing unipolarity, enhance their own prosperity and climate security, and ensure regime stability against the pressures and temptations of the West. That effort and search will continue, whether Washington likes it or not.

                How BRICS Became a Club That Others Want to Join (Как БРИКС стал клубом, в который хотят вступить многие) / USA, August, 2023
                Keywords: brics, economic_challenges
                Source: /

                The BRICS group of emerging markets — Brazil, Russia, India and China, with South Africa added later — has gone from a slogan dreamed up at an investment bank to a real-world club that controls a multilateral lender. It once might have seemed ironic to see Communist Party-ruled China embrace the Wall Street conceit. But now dozens of countries of all political stripes, including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Iran, are clamoring to join. Enlargement will be high on the agenda of the group's Aug. 22-24 summit in Johannesburg.

                1. How did BRICS get started?

                "BRIC" was coined in 2001 by economist Jim O'Neill, then at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., to draw attention to strong growth rates in Brazil, Russia, India and China. It was intended as an optimistic thesis for investors amid market pessimism following the terrorist attacks in the US on Sept. 11 that year. The four nations took the idea and ran with it. Their rapid growth at the time meant they had shared interests and common challenges. They were already cooperating in forums like the World Trade Organization and felt their influence in a US-dominated world order would be greater if their voices were combined. The first meeting of BRIC foreign ministers was organized by Russia on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in 2006. The group held its first leaders' summit in 2009. South Africa was invited to join at the end of 2010, extending membership to another continent and adding another letter to the original acronym.

                2. What does BRICS do?

                The biggest concrete achievements have been financial. The countries agreed to pool $100 billion of foreign currency, which then can lend to each other during emergencies. That liquidity facility became operational in 2016. They founded the New Development Bank — a World Bank-inspired institution that has approved more than $32 billion of loans mainly for water, transport and other infrastructure projects since it began operations in 2015. (South Africa borrowed $1 billion in 2020 to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.) The group's leaders plan to discuss how to increase trade in their own currencies this year and may take tentative steps toward establishing a common payments system, initiatives that could reduce their reliance on the dollar. There are also likely to be talks on introducing a common BRICS currency, although India opposes the idea and it's unlikely to gain traction any time soon.

                3. How have trade relations changed?

                Trade between the bloc's members surged 56% to $422 billion over the past five years. Economically, Brazil and Russia's natural resources and farm products make them natural partners for Chinese demand. India and China have weaker trade connections with each other, partly due to political rivalries and an acrimonious border dispute. Like other multilateral forums such as the Group of Seven, the annual BRICS summits and dozens of other lower-level meetings produce joint statements that proclaim broad agreement, but lack specifics. The biggest obstacle is that the countries have diverging interests on major political and security issues, including relations with the US, and different governing systems and ideologies.

                4. Who's in charge?

                China's gross domestic product is more than twice the size of all four other members combined. In theory, that should give it the most sway. In practice, India, which recently surpassed China in population, has been a counterweight. BRICS hasn't formally endorsed China's big development push called the Belt and Road Initiative, partly because India objects to Belt and Road infrastructure projects in disputed territory held by Pakistan, its neighbor and arch rival. The New Development Bank has no dominant shareholder: Beijing agreed to the equal holdings advocated by New Delhi. The bank is headquartered in Shanghai, but has been led by an Indian and now, Brazil's former president, Dilma Rousseff.

                5. Is Russia still a member?

                Yes, despite its invasion of Ukraine in 2022. That year's BRICS leaders summit was held online, and Putin participated. The other BRICS countries have adopted a broadly neutral stance toward the war, viewing it as more of a regional issue than a global crisis. However, the war has changed Russia's relations with BRICS institutions. The New Development Bank quickly froze Russian projects and Moscow hasn't been able to access dollars via the BRICS shared foreign currency system. Essentially, with US sanctions piling up, other BRICS countries prioritized ongoing access to the dollar-based financial system over helping Russia. Putin won't attend this year's summit in person but will participate by video conference. That will spare the South African government from having to decide whether to execute an arrest warrant for alleged war crimes issued by the International Criminal Court.

                6. How does BRICS differ from other multilateral groups?

                Generally speaking, BRICS is similar to clubs such as the Group of 20 in promoting a move toward a more "multipolar" world and away from the post-Cold War dominance of the US, as exercised through structures like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Other groupings arguably gaining influence as part of the trend include OPEC, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), and the African Union. Another term, the "Global South," isn't a club at all but is a concept that's gained currency in recent years when referring to relatively poor countries that are also described as developing or emerging. It's typically contrasted with a "Global North" composed of the US, Europe and some wealthy countries in Asia and the Pacific. But the relationship between the two concepts isn't straightforward. For example, the European Union, firmly part of the Global North, could gain more influence in a multipolar world. China considers itself a developing country, although its status as the world's second-largest economy with a large middle class makes that classification an awkward fit. The Group of Seven developed nations and the EU invited Brazil, India and Indonesia to attend its leaders' summit this year, in what officials said was an attempt to reach out to the Global South.

                7. Who wants to join and why?

                China, which has been seeking to raise its profile on the global stage and counter Western influence, initiated the conversation about expansion in earnest when it chaired the group last year, triggering concern among some other members that their own influence could be diluted. There now appears to be a broad agreement on admitting more members by consensus, and on the rules and criteria that should apply, although a few sticking points remain, according to Anil Sooklal, ambassador from South Africa, which is chairing. Twenty-three countries have formally expressed an interest in joining, including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Argentina, Cuba, Nigeria, Venezuela, Thailand and Vietnam. For new entrants, being part of BRICS could expand their diplomatic influence and open up lucrative trade and investment opportunities.

                8. Are there still BRICS funds or is the concept dead as an investment strategy?

                There's still intense interest in emerging markets among investors. But while a nice idea two decades ago, BRICS is largely irrelevant as an investment theme today due to geopolitical changes and the members' different economic trajectories. Except for India, the BRICS have underperformed their emerging-market peers over the last five years, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. US-led sanctions have put Russia off limits for most foreign investors, and some sectors in China — especially technology companies — have also been sanctioned or face potential investment bans. China also is a maturing economy, increasingly separated from other emerging markets and facing a structural slowdown. Brazil's economy slowed markedly following the end of a global commodity boom about a decade ago, while South Africa's has been subjected to years of rolling power blackouts because the state utility can't produce enough electricity to meet demand. India is still a growth story that investment banks now compare with China 10 or 15 years ago, though it's unclear if it can follow China's manufacturing-led model.
                              Analysis: A BRICS no-show speaks volumes about Putin's shrinking horizons (Анализ: неявка на саммит БРИКС красноречиво говорит о сужающихся горизонтах Путина) / USA, August, 2023
                              Keywords: expert_opinion, summit, vladimir_putin

                              CNN —
                              Once upon a time, Russian President Vladimir Putin was the man to see: In the weeks preceding Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, world leaders took turns shuttling to Moscow to urge the Kremlin leader to step back from the brink and call off any plans for an attack.

                              Those efforts failed. But the man who set a catastrophic war in motion now finds his travel options extremely limited.

                              That may seem a trifling matter for a man who rules a country that spans eleven time zones. After all, Putin has an open door to Beijing, and Kremlin-friendly leaders in Central Asia and Iran have rolled out the welcome mat since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

                              And of course, he'll always have Minsk: Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, who provided Russia a launching pad for the invasion, has also played host to Putin.

                              But Putin will be notably absent from a key global forum this week, the BRICS summit in Johannesburg. His no-show speaks volumes about Russia's isolation – and Putin's shrinking horizons.

                              The leaders of the other members of the BRICS economic bloc – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, China's leader Xi Jinping, Brazil's President Luiz Lula da Silva and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi – are all expected to be there.

                              But last month, Ramaphosa's office said Putin would not attend "by mutual agreement." Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is standing in for him, although Russian state media have said that Putin will appear via video link.

                              Does it really matter if Putin phones this one in? Taking part in an international talking shop may be a convenient way to act like a player on the global stage, but Putin is missing more than another group photo.

                              Putin is a staunch proponent of what he calls a "multipolar world order," promoting structures such as the BRICS as a counterweight to US- and Western-led institutions that have harshly condemned Russia for its war on Ukraine.

                              South Africa's stance on Russia puzzles many. Could a mine in the desert hold answers?

                              And while Russia's actions may have brought broad condemnation from the West, it remains locked in a campaign for international influence and support, particularly across the global south.

                              Bolstering such support against the background of the war on Ukraine was a key aim of Putin's recent Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg. The turnout by African leaders may have disappointed the Kremlin – less than half of the heads of state who attended a similar 2019 conference showed up for last month's event – but Russian foreign policy is still banking on diplomatic and political support from countries across Africa, Latin America and Asia.

                              So why would Putin miss out on another opportunity to promote his vision? Well, for starters, there's the not-insignificant issue of a warrant from the International Criminal Court.

                              In March, the ICC issued a warrant for Putin and another Russian official for an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia. The ICC warrant put South Africa in a bind: As a signatory to the treaty governing the Hague court, South Africa is obliged to arrest individuals indicted by the ICC.

                              It's magical thinking to assume that Putin might have been arrested on the tarmac in Johannesburg. After all, then-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir – who was and remains under indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity linked to the genocide in Darfur – managed to dodge such a fate during a 2015 visit to South Africa, exiting the country while a court considered a request from the ICC to arrest him.

                              The Kremlin, of course, bristles at any implication that Putin is ducking out of the BRICS summit because of an ICC warrant.

                              Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied claims made by Ramaphosa in a confidential affidavit that Russia would view the arrest of Putin as a "declaration of war."

                              And Putin himself told journalists on July 29 that he didn't think his presence at BRICS was "more important than my presence in Russia now," according to state news agency TASS.

                              Regardless of motive, the optics of a no-show by Putin at the summit are not good for Moscow. But Russia is pressing ahead with a PR campaign that casts Russia as a staunchly anti-colonial power that supports a more just and equitable world order.

                              Isolated Putin tries to shore up African support as Kremlin seethes over poor summit turnout

                              In a newly published interview, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov laid out the main talking points.

                              "I certainly agree that the concept of Western domination promoted by the United States and its subordinate countries does not provide for the harmonious development of all of humanity," he said.

                              "On the contrary, we must deal (with) the Western minority's never-ending striving for military, political, financial and economic expansion. Their slogans change: they promote globalization, then Westernization, Americanization, universalization, liberalization, etc. But the essence remains the same – they strive to subordinate every independent player and force them to play by the rules that are beneficial to the West."

                              The US and its allies, Lavrov continued, "are trying to slow down the natural evolution of international relations and the formation of a multipolar system, or even reverse the process. They are not averse to using inappropriate and illegal methods, including the use of force or unilateral sanctions (not approved by the UN Security Council), information and psychological warfare, etc, in order to bend the world to suit their needs."

                              The irony here is pretty rich. Russia, after all, is waging a war on Ukraine that Putin has justified in starkly imperial terms.

                              And the end of the unipolar world, in Putin's view, seems to mean that Russia can go about the bloody business of occupying Ukraine unfettered by international norms, under the false banner of liberation.

                                            The BRICS bloc is riven with tensions (Блок БРИКС разрывается от напряженности) / USA, August, 2023
                                            Keywords: political_issues

                                            Like the iPod and MySpace, the brics bloc is a product of the benign optimism of the 2000s. In 2001 Goldman Sachs coined the acronym bric in a paper about the economic potential of Brazil, Russia, India and China. The quartet ran with the idea, holding its first summit in 2009. A year later South Africa was invited to join. Some analysts feared the brics might soon start to rival the g7, but the grouping quickly lost momentum. The non-Asian brics economies stagnated in the 2010s. At summits the bloc would issue garbled communiqués about the perfidious West—which the perfidious West would promptly ignore. The brics looked dead.

                                            And yet the bloc lives. On August 22nd the 15th brics summit will open in Johannesburg, a major South African city—a party for many of the biggest swing voters in geopolitics. Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa's president, will be joined by leaders including Narendra Modi of India, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil (known universally as Lula) and China's Xi Jinping. Vladimir Putin will not be there in person. Were he to attend, then South Africa, as a member of the International Criminal Court, would be obliged to act on the arrest warrant the court issued for Russia's president in March. And that might spoil the fun.

                                            The meeting will underline how the bloc has been rejuvenated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and rising tensions between the West and China. brics members, led by Beijing, are considering whether to expand and deepen the bloc. Some middle powers see the group as a possible vehicle for their interests. The bloc says that more than 40 countries have either applied to join it or have expressed an interest in doing so.

                                            A "Big brics" would be a challenge for the West. But it is not a mortal threat. China's efforts to enlarge the bloc are revealing its tensions and contradictions. A weakened Russia is going along with it, but Brazil, India and South Africa are sceptical. The brics are far more heterogeneous than the g7. Members differ politically, economically and militarily; expansion would make a motley crew even motlier. It would mean that although the brics could criticise the Western-led international order with a louder voice, they would struggle even more to articulate an alternative.

                                            What, then, holds the brics together? Like the g7, the group has no charter or formal membership criteria. Nor is its mortar the product of personal chemistry. In June at a meeting of foreign ministers in Cape Town, a kind of warm-up for the main event, your correspondent snuck into the restaurant hosting the dignitaries' lunch. The pasta salad was not the shindig's only sad sight. The delegations were scattered: the Chinese were too busy in meetings, the South Africans too disorganised, the Brazilians too late. Outside, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India's foreign minister, held court with his officials. Inside, Sergey Lavrov, his Russian counterpart, silently nursed a glass of white wine.

                                            Working the room

                                            The brics endure because the club serves several functions. One is to provide a platform for members to criticise, often with justification, the way institutions such as the World Bank, imf and un Security Council sideline the "global south", a modish term for developing countries. In Cape Town Mr Jaishankar talked of the "concentration" of global economic power that was "leaving too many nations at the mercy of too few". Oddly, such views have become more pointed as the brics' share of world gdp has increased, from 8% in 2001 to 26% today. Over the same period the g7's share has fallen from 65% to 43% (see chart 1).

                                            The clubbiness of the brics is also a source of prestige, especially for struggling members. On average the gdp of Brazil, Russia and South Africa has grown by less than 1% annually since 2013 (versus around 6% for China and India). Any investment analyst who picked them among the most promising emerging markets today would be laughed off her Zoom call. But being the only Latin American country and the only African country in the group respectively allows Brazil and South Africa to project continental influence: Mr Ramaphosa has invited an enormous number of African leaders to the Johannesburg summit.

                                            The bloc offers support in isolated times, too. Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's former president, turned to the brics after his ally, Donald Trump, left the White House. These days Russia needs the brics more than ever. At the meeting of foreign ministers your correspondent tried to ask Russia's ambassador to South Africa what the bloc's purpose was for his country. "To make more friends," he grunted.

                                            He will have them, if China gets its way. Beijing wants to admit more countries from the global south. The reasoning is almost Newtonian: America's rallying of Western allies is prompting China into seeking an equal and opposite reaction via the brics. Viewed from China, there is no other bloc that could be a counterweight to the g7. The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation is too Eurasian. The g20 is too dominated by its Western members. The brics represent the best party going. A Chinese official contrasts Beijing's desire for a "big family" of the brics countries with the West's "small circle".

                                            Supersize Xi

                                            It is not the first time that Beijing has sought a bigger crowd. It championed South Africa's admission. Since then it has repeatedly raised the idea of adding more members, especially after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Though the brics say their decisions are based on consensus, China is hard to ignore. Its share of the brics output was 47% in 2001; today it is 70%. In 2022 it accounted for 69% of all trade by the group (the sum of members' imports and exports), up from 55% in 2001.

                                            The bloc has not released an official list of applicants. But, as part of a thought experiment, The Economist counted 18 countries that are possible candidates, based on their meeting at least one of three criteria as of the end of July (see map). First, the country is on record as saying it has applied. Second, South African officials have named the country as an applicant. Third, the country's foreign minister attended the Cape Town meeting as a "friend" of the bloc, either in person or virtually.

                                            The guest list includes some increasingly assertive geopolitical swingers. For Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (uae), joining the brics would fit with their efforts to recalibrate their relationship with America, their long-time ally, and to draw closer to China. Bangladesh and Indonesia, like India, are populous Asian democracies that claim to be non-aligned—and that might also like some protection from Western criticism of their human-rights records. Argentina, Ethiopia, Mexico and Nigeria are all among the largest countries on their continents.

                                            In the unlikely event that all 18 were admitted it would challenge the world's best Scrabble player to come up with a new acronym. It would also increase the population of the brics countries from 3.2bn (41% as a share of the world's) to 4.6bn (58%), versus 10% for the g7 members. The Big brics share of world gdp would rise to 34%, still behind the g7's but twice the share of the eu. It would raise the bloc's share of world trade from 18% to 27%. China would still be the life, soul and wallet of the party, however. It would account for 55% of the 23 countries' output (for reference, America has 58% of the g7). China's share of the Big brics' global trade would still be about half (46%).

                                            Even as the bloc debates expansion, it is deepening its existing relationships. On top of the annual summit of bigwigs there is an increasingly long list of meetings involving academics, firms, ministers, ruling parties and think-tanks from brics members and countries friendly to them. Some of these might look like excuses for per-diems. Last month a meeting of the "brics youth summit" was hosted by South Africa's 74-year-old youth minister. Russia says it will host a "brics Games" before the Paris Olympics next year. But the importance of the connections to officials should not be overlooked, argues Oliver Stuenkel of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a Brazilian think-tank. "These meetings are often dull but they allow bureaucrats to globalise their network."

                                            The brics bloc also has more serious endeavours. It has established two financial institutions, which the Russian finance minister once reportedly described as a mini-imf and a mini-World Bank. The former is the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (cra), which was agreed to at the brics summit in 2014. It is an as yet untested series of swap lines for central banks to get hard currency if they have balance-of-payments problems.

                                            The mini-World Bank is the New Development Bank (ndb). Since its establishment in 2015 it has lent $33bn for almost 100 projects. Three new members have joined in the past three years: Bangladesh, Egypt and the uae. Uruguay is set to be admitted soon. (A state does not need to be a member of the brics to join the bank.)

                                            The possibility of expanding and deepening the grouping is seen by members as proof of its strength. Yet these efforts also highlight divisions among the gang. Economically and politically the brics are a mess—adding more members or functions would only emphasise that fact.

                                            Start with the economic differences. The gdp per person of the poorest member, India, is roughly a fifth of that of China and Russia. The latter pair run current-account surpluses, the others deficits. Russia, an important member of the opec+ cartel, and Brazil are net oil exporters; the other three depend on imports. China actively manages the exchange rate of its currency; the other four intervene less often. And so on.

                                            All of this complicates the bloc's attempt to change the global economic order. A common brics reserve currency—something Mr Putin claimed the bloc was working on a year ago—would collapse on first contact with reality; no member would give up the power held by their central bank. Members regularly guard their own power at economic institutions. South Africa's efforts to have more African representation on the imf board have been rejected. China has around 40% of the voting rights at the cra, in line with its capital contribution, and insisted on a limit to what any country can receive in the absence of an imf programme.

                                            The ndb has had a slow start. Its total lending since 2015 is a third of what the World Bank Group committed in 2021 alone. The World Bank is more transparent and accountable than the ndb, notes Daniel Bradlow of the University of Pretoria in South Africa. That the ndb mostly issues loans in us dollars or euros somewhat undermines its members' claim to be trying to reduce the power of the greenback. A rule ensures that the five original members retain 55% of voting rights, belying their criticisms of uneven decision-making power at the World Bank and the imf. "That does not suggest a truly progressive global-south bank," says Mr Bradlow.

                                            Politically, too, they are an eclectic bunch. Russia and China are autocracies that disdain liberal freedoms. Brazil, India and South Africa are by contrast raucous, if flawed, democracies.

                                            The trio have more reason to be wary of public opinion as a result. A poll published on July 27th by the Pew Research Centre, a think-tank based in Washington, dc, found that negative views towards China have become more common since 2019—and not just in the West. In South Africa 40% of respondents had an unfavourable view of China, up from 35% four years ago. In Brazil and India unfavourable sentiment reached the highest levels since polling began in 2010 and 2013 respectively. In Brazil the share rose from 27% to 48%; in India from 46% to 67% (see chart 2).

                                            The democracies are also keener than the autocracies on genuinely "non-aligned" foreign policies—they want to stay swingers. Take South Africa. It has angered the West by, among other things, hosting a naval exercise with China and Russia on the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine. It has government ministers who get dewy-eyed at the very mention of the Soviet Union.

                                            But Mr Ramaphosa is wary of pushing the West too far. Several of South Africa's main sources of foreign direct investment (fdi) are Western powers, and it hosts drills with nato countries, too. He wants to keep South Africa's preferential trade terms with America, which some in Congress have said should be rescinded in light of his government's drift towards Russia.

                                            Lula also has a more subtle approach than his peers in Beijing and Moscow. He would like to reduce what he sees as America's hegemonic role in the world; hence his enthusiasm for the brics, which he helped establish during his first period in office in the 2000s. At the same time he understands the need for good relations with the West, which is its main source of fdi and arms. And although India continues to buy arms from Russia, it is diversifying its military ties and buying more from America and France.

                                            Russia's invasion of Ukraine has entrenched diplomatic faultlines in other ways. The bloc's strong emphasis on sovereignty—originally a way to draw an implicit contrast with an interventionist West—looks hollow when Russia invades its neighbour. Neither China nor Russia supports the others' proposed reforms of the un Security Council, of which they are both permanent members.

                                            image: mariano pascual
                                            Another political division relates to the value of keeping the brics an exclusive affair. Though Lula is more sympathetic to the idea of welcoming like-minded Latin American leaders to the club, such as Argentina's Alberto Fernández (with whom he is personally close), diplomatic types are more sceptical. Mauro Vieira, Brazil's foreign minister and a career diplomat, has spoken of the need to protect the brics "brand". South Africa likes being the only African representative in the bloc. China would be emboldened by a bigger brics; others would feel enfeebled.

                                            All these differences are coming to the fore because of expansion talk. "We do not want to dilute control of the brics from the original five," says a South African official. South Africa instead hopes for a compromise whereby joiners are given second-class status, mere b-listers at the party. The details need to be worked out—something which may happen at the summit.

                                            Warring parties

                                            The critical dissenting voice is likely to be India's, given its growing economic and geopolitical importance. In the ear

                                                          Can Russia and China Breathe New Life Into BRICS? (Могут ли Россия и Китай вдохнуть новую жизнь в БРИКС?) / USA, August, 2023
                                                          Keywords: summit, political_issues

                                                          The next test of whether top U.S. adversaries can erode its role as the leading global superpower will come in the form of a major diplomatic confab in South Africa.

                                                          Next week, leaders of the so-called BRICS group—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—will convene in Johannesburg for a major summit, where Moscow and Beijing aim to solidify a counterbalance to the Western-led international system. Both Russia and China are keen to breathe new life into the BRICS bloc to show the world that there are alternatives to the patchwork U.S.-led alliances and institutions that have dominated global affairs for decades.

                                                          There's clearly a growing appetite among other countries for an alternative to the U.S.-led system: Some 40 countries, from Argentina to Saudi Arabia to Kazakhstan, have voiced interest in joining BRICS, while more than 67 world leaders and dignitaries were invited to next week's summit.

                                                          "The global south will be watching next week's BRICS summit closely in the hopes that the rising grouping of global and middle powers makes some progress in filling the considerable gaps left by America's shoddy global governance," said Sarang Shidore, director of the global south program at the Quincy Institute think tank. Even as emerging-market economies reel from the shocks of the pandemic and Russia's war in Ukraine, Washington has offered little support, instead pursuing an aggressive campaign of interest rate hikes that has exacerbated economic turmoil around the world.

                                                          Next week's summit harkens back to the days of the Bandung Conference, where 29 governments from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East assembled during the Cold War and laid the groundwork for the nonaligned movement. Like then, BRICS serves as an alternative, if inchoate, effort to push back against the hegemon of the day—albeit one that has been complicated by China's and Russia's membership.

                                                          "BRICS has tapped into a demand that wasn't being met elsewhere," said Rebecca Ray, a senior researcher at the Boston University Global Development Policy Center, who noted that countries that aren't even applying for membership are attending the summit in Johannesburg. "The question is: What do they want their role to be in responding to that?"

                                                          There's no clear answer yet. And experts don't expect one to emerge from the upcoming summit, with few details yet released on the agenda or real deliverables. Complicating the matter is the fact that BRICS countries have vastly disparate national interests, and vague proposals to expand the bloc's membership and economic influence seem poised to stumble out of the gate.

                                                          India and China are at loggerheads; South Africa is caught between a diplomatic rock and a hard place over its ties to Russia amid the war in Ukraine; and Brazil has done little to stick its neck out for Russia, despite its historically nonaligned foreign policy. All BRICS countries, even China, face economic headwinds that make any future plans to challenge the U.S.-led Group of 7's spot at the top of the global economy more pipe dream than reality.

                                                          The grouping is currently in a "sweet spot, where it's fulfilling its role, it helps members constrain the United States to some extent, [and] it strengthens ties between the BRICS," said Oliver Stuenkel, a professor at the School of International Relations at Brazil's Fundação Getulio Vargas. "But I think if there's more ambitious projects, then it will inevitably strain this grouping and expose the divergences."

                                                          For Russia, the BRICS summit is an opportunity to demonstrate that it no longer needs the West following Western efforts to isolate Moscow on the world stage in the wake of its bloody war in Ukraine. But that opportunity comes with an awkward footnote: Russian President Vladimir Putin is no longer attending in person as he has a warrant out for his arrest over war crimes in Ukraine from the International Criminal Court (ICC). South Africa, as a member of the ICC, would have been legally obligated to honor the arrest warrant.

                                                          China, meanwhile, is keen to position itself as the de facto leader of the global south and the friend of choice to countries worldwide that feel they have been undervalued or left behind by Washington and its most powerful and wealthy allies in Europe and Asia. Beijing has long pushed for the grouping's enlargement, even though its ambitions have sparked pushback from other BRICS members.

                                                          Enlargement would be a sign not of the group's strength, but of China's growing influence.

                                                          De-dollarization's moment might finally be here.

                                                          A reflection in a window shows the silhouette of a man looking at the ocean transposed with the flags of BRICS countries (China, India, Russia, South Africa, and Brazil) during the BRICS Foreign Ministers Meeting. South America Is Upping Its Bet on BRICS

                                                          Undeterred by Western pressure, a record number of countries want to join the group ahead of the annual summit.

                                                          "China is the only country that is not concerned at all about diluting the prestige of BRICS" by expanding it to more countries, Stuenkel said. "For China, I think it really makes sense to expand so that the BRICS can become an element in a more China-centric order—a Chinese-led system of different structures like the One Belt, One Road; the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank; [and the] BRICS bank," he said, referring to China's leading global infrastructure investment program, the Chinese-backed multilateral lender, and the nascent New Development Bank established by BRICS countries just under a decade ago.

                                                          Yet Beijing has had a harder time getting the other BRICS members on board, further underscoring their competing visions of the group's future. The idea of expansion has worried India and Brazil in particular, both of which have taken pride in the group's exclusivity and fear that an open door will diminish its prestige.

                                                          "Brazil is very proud of its BRICS membership," Stuenkel said. "If you're part of a very exclusive club, it makes sense that you don't want to see the club becoming open to everyone."

                                                          One major proposal some leaders have floated ahead of the summit is developing a BRICS common currency to hedge against the U.S. dollar, although it is not on the summit's agenda and experts are highly skeptical of the plan. Economist Jim O'Neill, who first coined the BRICS term in 2001, blasted the idea of a BRICS currency as "ridiculous" and "absurd" earlier this week.

                                                          "The idea that five countries with very divergent interests and trajectories can somehow form a coherent enough union to expand its membership and stand up this hare-brained idea of a BRICS currency seems really far-fetched to me," said J. Peter Pham, a former U.S. diplomatic envoy to African regions during the Trump administration. "I don't expect anything of substance to come out of this summit, unless you consider the lack of substance as itself politically substantive."

                                                          Still, even without a common currency, Beijing has capitalized on the BRICS grouping to boost its long-standing bid to internationalize the renminbi and slash its dependence on the dollar. In the run-up to the BRICS summit, a growing number of countries, including Brazil and Argentina, have used the renminbi in trade to cope with a shortage of dollars and curry favor with Beijing. These efforts are set to continue long after Johannesburg, with BRICS countries expected to deliberate how to ramp up the use of local currencies in trade at the summit. They are also set to discuss a potential common payments system and committee focused on a joint currency—although experts don't expect any challenges to the existing global financial architecture.

                                                          Talk of a BRICS common currency is "really a reflection of a desire among some segments of the world to have some counterweight to the U.S., the U.S. economy, the dollar," said Daniel McDowell, an expert in international political economy at Syracuse University. But "I think most of this is just in fantasy land, because I don't see any world in which it is really going to emerge in the way some people might hope."
                                                                        BRICS summit 2023 agenda: What major issues will likely be discussed? (Повестка дня саммита БРИКС 2023: какие основные вопросы, вероятно, будут обсуждаться?) / The UK, August, 2023
                                                                        Keywords: summit
                                                                        The UK

                                                                        A view of logo of New Development Bank (NDB) at its headquarters in Shanghai, China July 10, 2023. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights

                                                                        JOHANNESBURG, Aug 18 (Reuters) - The BRICS group of major emerging economies - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - will hold its 15th heads of state and government summit in Johannesburg from Aug. 22-24.

                                                                        South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are expected to attend.

                                                                        Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend in person due to an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Ukraine. Putin will participate in the summit virtually and will be represented in Johannesburg by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

                                                                        Few details have emerged about what they plan to discuss, but here are some of the key issues expected to be on the agenda.

                                                                        BRICS EXPANSION

                                                                        The leaders are divided over the expansion of the bloc by adding new members, including the admission criteria.

                                                                        Over 40 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Indonesia, Egypt and Ethiopia, have expressed interest in joining BRICS, according to South Africa.

                                                                        China, seeking to expand its influence as it tussles with the United States over trade and geopolitics, supports BRICS expansion, while Brazil is sceptical.

                                                                        Russia, hoping to overcome its diplomatic isolation over the Ukraine war, is keen to bring in new members, as is South Africa. India is undecided.

                                                                        BRICS BANK

                                                                        The group is also expected to discuss how to boost local currency fundraising and lending within the New Development Bank (NDB), or so-called BRICS bank. Local currency use will help de-risk the impact of foreign exchange fluctuations, South Africa's Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said.

                                                                        The dollar has gained against emerging market currencies since Russia invaded Ukraine and the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates to fight inflation in early 2022, making dollar debt more costly for those countries to service.

                                                                        While the NDB, which was established in 2015, is still looking at the potential use of alternative currencies, there will be no talk about a common BRICS currency during the summit, South Africa's senior BRICS diplomat said.

                                                                        The NDB is also expanding and the summit could become a key platform to attract more member countries. Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have joined the bank since 2021. Uruguay is part way through the process of joining, while Algeria, Honduras, Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia have expressed interest.

                                                                        ECONOMIC COOPERATION

                                                                        The leaders are also likely to discuss how they can improve economic ties between their diverse economies.

                                                                        They are expected to engage in a series of discussions about trade and investment opportunities in sectors ranging from energy cooperation and infrastructure development to digital economy and the job market.

                                                                        'FRIENDS OF BRICS'

                                                                        The last day of the summit is expected to focus on talks with leaders from other countries. Invitations to attend the summit were extended to 67 leaders across Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Caribbean, South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said.

                                                                        France had expressed interest in President Emmanuel Macron joining the summit, but Russia was opposed to this because of French support for Ukraine against the Russian invasion. Macron was not invited.

                                                                        Particular attention will also be paid to the relationship between BRICS and African countries to tie in with the summit's theme of "BRICS and Africa", Pandor said, adding that BRICS partners were eager to explore opportunities to benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area.

                                                                                      What African States Can Offer as Members of BRICS in Emerging Multipolar World (Что африканские государства могут предложить в качестве членов БРИКС в формирующемся многополярном мире) / Russia, August, 2023
                                                                                      Keywords: brics+, expert_opinion

                                                                                      South Africa will host and presides over the 15th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit from August 22 to 24 at the Sandton Convention Centre (SCC) in Johannesburg, purposefully to deliberate on a broad range of important multiple issues, including new membership, common currency, various parameters of development and security and institutional architecture, on the discussion table.

                                                                                      More than 70 states will participate: 23 States have submitted formal applications to join the group which implies they will in principle contribute to the changing processes and further give potential force for substantial geopolitical shifts. South Africa will also continue its Outreach to leaders from Africa and the Global South. Today, BRICS relations with African States are on the upswing, which is in the fundamental interests of both sides, and this could be constructed and be pursued on the principles of equality, mutual respect and non-interference in the members' internal affairs.

                                                                                      Under the circumstances, the new African members will partly uphold strengthening the emerging multipolar world. There are noticeable signs that African States are now looking forward to shed off neo-colonial tendencies and exploitative attitudes by the United States and its Western and European allies, so they have expressed high conviction for creating a new high-quality friendship and engaging in more constructive sustainable development within the African Agenda 2063.

                                                                                      Professor Nyu Haibin, Director of the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies told Russian media that the main expectations from this summit are related to the fact that it will once again be held on the African continent, recalling it was South Africa was the first that started the expansion of the association, thus letting it become more representative globally.

                                                                                      In his opinion, Africa is now increasingly attracting the attention of the international community in terms of its economic and political affairs. This concerns especially the debt problem of African countries, which is a matter of concern, Nyu pointed out. Since the BRICS are now the main trading partners of African States as well as a source of investment, they are more relevant to Africa's development. That is, the future lies with them. There are indications that Africa now relies more than before on the BRICS countries for sustainable development

                                                                                      Reports say there is no clear consensus within the BRICS itself on the issue of Brazil, India and South Africa being granted permanent seats on the UN Security Council. Moreover, despite the BRICS' attempts to promote reforms in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, decisions on key issues in these structures are still in the hands of the US and Europe.

                                                                                      South Africa believes that the bloc could be "transformative" in representing these nations, including those from Africa that wish to play a role in world affairs and ensure benefits to the Global South. "BRICS has acquired a very important stature in the world, with many across various continents of our world seeking to be part of it," South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in Cape Town.

                                                                                      Now the basic question is what African States are here, what kind of a distinctive flavour these have for the BRICS future. First, as well-known the theme of the summit is 'BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism' which portrays the first flavour.

                                                                                      South Africa's External Affairs Minister, Naledi Pandor, said while several more nations had shown interest, 23 had formally applied. These were Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Morocco, Nigeria, State of Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and Vietnam.

                                                                                      According to Pandor, general interest in joining BRICS has surged during the past few months and this number, in practical terms, indicated recognition of BRICS primarily championing the geopolitical dimension of the Global South, and the whatever benefits relating to membership.

                                                                                      In June 2023, Ambassador Mzuvukile Maqetuka, who has been in this current post since 2021 in the Russian Federation, highlighted several points about the emerging multipolar world in an insightful interview that South Africa is committed to the articles of the United Nations (UN) Charter, including the principle that all members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means. Since the dawn of democracy in South Africa almost 30 years ago, we have called for the reform of the United Nations and multilateral organisations to make such structures more representative, inclusive of African representation.

                                                                                      South Africa is a sovereign state, governed by a democratic constitution and committed to the consistent application of international law. It will continue to fulfil the obligations in terms of the various international agreements and treaties to which it has signatories, he seriously argued.

                                                                                      With an estimated 58 million population, South Africa is the 25th largest country in the world. South Africa welcomed and fully supported the adoption by African nations of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which we believe will contribute tremendously in pursuit of economic integration of our continent towards the attainment of our vision: Agenda 2063, the Africa We Want.

                                                                                      The South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, hosted the most recent Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Relations on 1 June 2023 in Cape Town. The mid-term meeting provided an opportunity for BRICS Foreign Ministers to reflect on regional and global developments. The ministerial meeting was preceded by the meeting of Sherpas and Sous-Sherpas from 29 – 30 May 2023 and the Russian delegation attended all these meetings in Cape Town, Minister Lavrov was leading the delegation.

                                                                                      As chair of BRICS, South Africa practices the policy of inclusive engagement and invited 15 Foreign Ministers from Africa and the global south to a "Friends of BRICS" meeting held previously on 2 June 2023.

                                                                                      But what today, what is South Africa's investment in BRICS? How do we assess the level of development, food security if BRICS control that huge natural resources and the human capital? How has South Africa, these several years as the only African State in BRICS, used its membership to facilitate and promote investment from BRICS into the African continent. South Africa has been boastful of its membership with little impact, at least, on its southern African region.

                                                                                      Together, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa represent over 42% of the global population. That's quite a significant proportion of the global population, but half of BRICS aggregate population is still impoverished and consistently live under poor conditions. BRICS has that 42% of the global population and huge territory, though.

                                                                                      South Africa was a late minor addition to the group, to add a "bridgehead to Africa" says Charles Robertson, Chief Economist at Renaissance Capital. BRICS is keenly aware of the importance of contributing to Africa's development agenda. More African States express the sentiment of automatically attaining the highest development by joining BRICS. Pre-summit research shows that not all the six African States have formally applied. Further quick search has revealed that Algeria, Egypt and Ethiopia have submitted their membership requests, but Nigeria, Senegal and Morocco's positions are still unclear.

                                                                                      Peter Fabricius, Consultant at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), an African non-profit organisation with offices in South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and Senegal, argued that Egypt would probably be among the first to join, especially as it's already a member of BRICS' New Development Bank. Cairo is particularly interested in BRICS' plans to shift more trade from the US dollar into local currencies – and even perhaps to create its own currency.

                                                                                      Algeria's President Abdelmadjid Tebboune ultimately sees joining as helping to create a more equitable world order, which would help Algeria distance itself 'from the attraction of the two poles.' His foreign minister recently expressed hopes for deriving trade benefits. These views reveal common misconceptions about BRICS. The two poles Tebboune referred to – which are growing further apart due to the Ukraine war – are clearly the West on the one side and Russia and China on the other. So BRICS can hardly be called non-aligned.

                                                                                      And seeing BRICS as a useful trade booster misses the fact that it's not a trade bloc at all. Pandor highlighted that BRICS countries have around 42% of the world's population and 30% of its territory, 27% of global GDP and 20% of international trade. But only about 6% of the total trade of the five members is with each other.

                                                                                      BRICS is nonetheless a useful economic club – most concretely through its New Development Bank, which has already loaned US$5.4 billion to South Africa for five projects. But viewed geopolitically, BRICS is less of a non-aligned 'champion of the global south' as Pandor put it, than an alternative to a Western-dominated world, as Tebboune says – or even, more pointedly, anti-Western.

                                                                                      This is a prickly point. Pandor said South Africa didn't 'see BRICS as being pro-Russia or anti-Western … South Africa's trading partners in the West are very, very important to South Africa's economic progress.' Games also didn't think Nigeria would join BRICS to tip the global power balance against the West, as it valued all its main trading partners equally.

                                                                                      On the other side of the argument, Priyal Singh, Institute for Security Studies Senior Researcher, says the motivation for BRICS membership differs even among current members. 'India, for example, has consistently pointed to its pursuit of "strategic autonomy" on the world stage; and a stronger (or enlarged) BRICS grouping aligns with this foreign policy objective. This is also a compelling narrative for Brazil and South Africa, with Pretoria leaning heavily into its pursuit of a more multipolar international order narrative.'

                                                                                      Questions about the future of BRICS are bound to be there especially when a new world order is being discussed. This geopolitical configuration is in exploratory phases, undoubtedly meant to bring a new axis, the process of searching for new models by the states dissatisfied with the United States policy and the Western, European world. Algeria, Egypt and Morocco in the North, and Ethiopia and Kenya from the East, Nigeria and Senegal in West Africa.

                                                                                      Comparatively, Ethiopia by all standards, is a reputable State located in East Africa. It gains popularly from different angles. In terms of politics, Ethiopia has been touted with an excellent model of democracy in Africa. For his efforts in ending the 20-year-long war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, President Abiy Ahmed was awarded with the Nobel prize for peace in 2019.

                                                                                      More crucially, research studies and several reports have documented additional worth of Ethiopia. It bears the flag of Africa, as its capital Addis Ababa represents the focal point for most of the regional and foreign organizations down the years. Ethiopia and many African States consider BRICS, to a large extent, acting as a driving force, a new emerging force, for global governance and for the reformation of the existing international order.

                                                                                      The African Union (AU) is headquartered in Addis Ababa. The primary task of this continental organization is mobilizing and coordinating available natural and human resources for solving existing and emerging multifaceted problems inside Africa. Some experts argue that the AU has within its mandate and further within the slogan "African problems, African solutions" to showcase the continent's practical ultimate independence.

                                                                                      Ethiopia and Kenya, and many African States, More than half a century since it was declared politically independent from "colonialism" or whatever, Africa has been presented as a region engulfed with abject poverty, even in the past has benefited grossly from development aid and received substantial assistance from various external sources. Ethiopia and Kenya's membership of BRICS might not be better than that of South Africa.

                                                                                      Nigeria currently has over 230 million, and can conveniently boost BRICS population. It is a regional power in Africa, doubtlessly a middle and emerging power in international stage. Nigeria's economy is the largest in Africa. According various estimates its per capita is US$9.148 (as of 2022), which is less than South Africa, Egypt or Morocco, but a little more than Ghana or Ivory Coast.

                                                                                      Nigeria is a leader in Africa as an energy power, financial market, in pharmaceuticals and in the entertainment industry. Next to petroleum, the second-largest source of foreign exchange earnings for Nigeria are remittances sent home by Nigerians living abroad. Nigeria has a lower-middle-income economy with an abundant supply of natural resources.

                                                                                      Despite all these economic credentials, Nigerian authorities say it is not their priority to seek BRICS membership at this time. Nigeria's Ambassador to Russia, Professor Abdullahi Shehu, was recently quoted as saying accession talks hadn't commenced, but he didn't rule out future membership. However Nigeria's Guardian cites several experts as saying Nigeria isn't ready for BRICS membership. They say it lacks economic sophistication – including having little to export to other BRICS countries besides oil. Also, the new reformist Bola Tinubu administration has much on its plate.

                                                                                      Therefore the logical fact is that Senegal, also located in West Africa, and many other African States wishing to become BRICS will consequently not bring anything wealthy, rather expect benefits being a member of the organization. Professor Mohamed Chtatou argues that Africa is undoubtedly the continent best endowed with natural resources. With a surface area of approximately 30.3 million square kilometers, if one includes the island areas, the continent covers about a sixth of the surface of the globe and one-fifth of the world's land mass. Today, it is home to approximately 1.4 billion people.

                                                                                      He explains that Africa's wealth lies in its soil. The continent has 24 percent of the world's arable land, yet it generates only 9 percent of agricultural production. It is incapable of ensuring its own food security. Strengthening African unity has long been a sought-after goal that has never been achieved.

                                                                                      As the need for regional integration and the reasons for past failures become better understood, new efforts are being made to strengthen economic and political ties among the continent's many States. The main challenges to achieving integration are to expand trade among African countries, build more roads and other infrastructure, reform regional institutions, increase transparency and public participation, and coordinate private and public sector initiatives more closely.

                                                                                      According to Professor Mohamed Chtatou, integration has many benefits. Seeking to join international organizations as well as expressing desire to get representations in these international organization has benefits. But the primary challenge is that the record of regional integration in Africa is so far poor, and many regional alliances are characterized by uncoordinated initiatives, political conflicts, and little intra-regional trade. However, analysts note that some of the external and internal factors that have hindered Africa's integration in the past have abated somewhat in recent years, and there is therefore reason for cautious optimism.

                                                                                      Worth to note here that Africans have to learn from the failure of their previous initiatives. Many integration advocates are now taking a less ambitious and more practical approach. In their view, Africa needs to unite not only to strengthen its presence on the world stage but also to address the practical needs of its people. Africa is home to a growing population, abundant natural resources, and a rapidly expanding economy, so it certainly has the potential to play a significant role in shaping the future of the world. As a result, many great powers, including China, the United States, Europe and Russia, are interested in securing access to these resources.

                                                                                      If the global economic slowdown is confirmed, followed by major financial and macroeconomic disruptions, a large part of the solution would be to rely on the African continent. This is in fact what can be seen in the massive investments made by China, India, and Russia (BRICS), which have understood how important this is for their own future.

                                                                                      In a nutshell, Professor Fyodor Lukyanov, Chairman of the Presidium of the Russian Commission on Defense and Foreign Policy, Research Director at the Valdai Discussion Club, and Editor of Russia's Global Affairs journal, believes that there is absolutely no intention to build unified front against the United States and European Union. Simply, BRICS should not, absolutely not be seen as anti-Western organization. And that BRICS is by default not confrontational, there is no goal to counterwork the West, rather to bypass it.

                                                                                      In our analysis and from various perspectives, Africa as a big group of countries with interests which are both intertwining and contradicting can serve both as a model of the future global picture and a strong unit in this world. Notwithstanding all that, Africa has its own strengths and weaknesses based on history, but the balance is positive in this new world. Most of potential success depends on African countries themselves and their ability to build up relations with outside powers on rational and calculated basis in the current world.

                                                                                      In Africa, each BRICS member will have its own agenda, no coordination expected. But then, Africa is represented in BRICS by South Africa. And it would be natural task for South Africa to promote African agenda in this group. Of course, each BRICS member has it own hierarchy of interests, which is normal.

                                                                                      BRICS aspires for playing a greater international affairs and Africa is growing in significance as an essential part of the world, this combination holds the fact that there is a field for common interests. As far as confrontation with the West is concerned, there is indeed no such goal for BRICS. But a careful closer look at international trends and the speed with which the previous international system collapses and overall competition spreads, with the complexities and contradictions, it is really difficult to predict right away how international situation and stance of BRICS, together with its new members and Africa friends, will evolve in years to come.

                                                                                                    BRICS summit in South Africa: Global South and Africa Hope for Multipolar World (Саммит БРИКС в ЮАР: Глобальный Юг и Африка надеются на многополярный мир) / Russia, August, 2023
                                                                                                    Keywords: summit, cooperation

                                                                                                    South Africa is hosting the 15th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit August 22 to 24, but in fact, not all the current five leaders will attend. Russian President Vladimir Putin will only participate virtually as the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for him. This has created grounds for several arguments and multiple interpretations of the foreign policy for South Africa.

                                                                                                    South Africa will host the summit for the third time this August 2023. It held the first late March 2013. At that BRICS summit that was one decade ago, the participants included Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh, President of China Xi Jinping, President of South Africa Jacob Zuma, President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff, and Vladimir Putin.

                                                                                                    On 27 July 2018, Vladimir Putin attended a meeting of BRICS leaders with delegation heads from invited African States and Chairs of international associations, held in Johannesburg. Putin noted that Africa is one of the world's most rapidly developing regions. He went further to list various sectors where Russia has engaged with Africa, made reference to the previous BRICS summit in Russia in 2015 where members had adopted the large-scale BRICS Strategy for Economic Partnership.

                                                                                                    One significant and useful feature is that BRICS has developed a useful tradition started by South Africa. The primary aim is to strengthen ties with geographically and geopolitically close African nations. Putin performed prominently during that BRICS summit in 2018. He addressed specially-invited African leaders, as part of the 'BRICS OutReach' group to the South Africa.

                                                                                                    Interacting with heads of African leaders, Putin stressed that the BRICS group's companies have been working actively in the African market; there was a significant growing influx of investments into various sectors in Africa's economies, from traditional mineral extraction and farming to high technologies and banking. Together, BRICS members consistently championing the rights and interests of Africa and with other emerging economies, speaking out in favour of increasing their role and influence in the global governance system, particularly international financial and economic organizations.

                                                                                                    "Over the course of many decades, Russia has provided direct assistance to the African continent. We have written off over 20 billion dollars in debt; we have written off far more than any other G8 nation. We plan to take additional measures to ease the debt burden, through intergovernmental agreements on debt-for-development plans for Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique for a total of 263.3 million dollars," he stressed there at the meeting.

                                                                                                    Putin has the passion for erasing Africa's debts. It is the Kremlin chorus down the years after Soviet collapse to sing the "debt chorus" during high-level meetings with African leaders. Putin cancelled Africa's US$20 billion debts during the first Russia-Africa summit, and then last July 2023 summit. Putin said in July US$23 billion debts. The 2018 Johannesburg summit gave birth to the idea of holding a Russia-Africa summit with the participation of heads of African States.

                                                                                                    In addition, BRICS leaders witnessed the signing of cooperation agreements on green economy, co-financing infrastructure projects in Africa, and a declaration on establishing the BRICS Business Council. Also signed was a declaration on establishing a consortium of BRICS expert centres and the issue of joint statistics publications from the BRICS members.

                                                                                                    That summit concluded with the declaration which assesses the global political and economic situation, and reflects the BRICS countries' common positions on current multilateral cooperation issues. The action plan outlined the BRICS countries' work for the subsequent years and also includes some promising new areas of cooperation. It particularly pledged to support Africa using South Africa as the strategic gateway into the continent.

                                                                                                    Analyzing BRICS development further we can say that, like each of the participating nations to have common interest in developing optimal ways for sustainable development, and an aspiration to ensure the well-being and prosperity of their peoples under guaranteed peace and security. It is also to build a fair and comprehensive partnership model that is capable of ensuring sustainable global governance in the 21st century.

                                                                                                    Over the past one decade-and-half since its creation, BRICS has endeavored to deepen contacts beyond geopolitical and economic dimensions, and that include serious work in culture, science, education, tourism with its partners such as the African Union (AU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Eurasian Union (EU). It has further established such divisions as BRICS Business Council, BRICS Women Group, BRICS Youth and BRICS Network Universities et cetera.

                                                                                                    South Africa prepares to host BRICS for the third time August 22 to 24, President of China Xi Jinping becomes the BRICS leaders prize winner in Johannesburg. Xi Jinping attended in March 2013 and July 2018, and now in August 2023. While there are high expectations and there are also three strategic questions. From historical perspectives, South Africa and Russia have close relationships from the time of the former's political and liberation struggle, and with later developments until it joined BRICS in 2010.

                                                                                                    On the unofficial levels, Putin has worked out friendship with both former President Jacob Zuma and the current South African Cyril Ramaphosa. We know very well that this strategic relationship is (un)doubtlessly influencing politics between the two countries and of course, the two plus China in BRICS. Beijing sees in the BRICS expansion good opportunities to put into practice its megaproject 'One Belt One Road' while Russia has hyperbolic multipolar rhetorics, South Africa has close to nothing or better still extremely little.

                                                                                                    Putin finally backed down travelling to South Africa, as widely reported by both local and foreign media, including Al-Jazeera, Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France Press and Bloomberg. The South African government previously drew international criticism in 2015, when it refused to execute an ICC arrest warrant for then-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who had been indicted for war crimes and genocide, while he was attending a meeting of African leaders in Johannesburg. South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that the government had acted unlawfully and the ICC found that it had failed to comply with its international obligations.

                                                                                                    Secondly, the BRICS leaders together with the BRICS National Development Bank will work on how a potential new common currency might work, including how it could shield members from the impact of sanctions. This further relates to how the bloc can win greater influence and to challenge the globally-recognized currency of the United States.

                                                                                                    The BRICS are looking to "ensure that we do not become victims to sanctions that have secondary effects on countries that have no involvement in issues that have led to those unilateral sanctions," Naledi Pandor, South Africa's minister of international relations, emphasized. Proposals are being considered by officials at the New Development Bank, the Shanghai-based lender created by BRICS nations, and the bloc "will be guided to them as to what the future models might be," Pandor said, without providing further details.

                                                                                                    Thirdly, plans for expansion has dominated nearly all media reports. BRICS activities have expanded during the past few years, including attracting many other from Asia, Africa and Latin America to participate in the Outreach and BRICS+ segments of the organization. The prospect of adding more members was first raised at summit in China and 13 nations have formally asked to join, with at least seven others expressing interest. Now there is long list compiled for the summit, amid broader talks that have gained momentum about how the bloc should expand its membership.

                                                                                                    South Africa believes that the bloc could be "transformative" representing those nations including from Africa that wish to play a role in world affairs, ensuring benefit to the Global South. "BRICS has acquired a very important stature in the world, with many across various continents of our world seeking to be part of it," South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in Cape Town.

                                                                                                    The geopolitical tensions have added to worries about the impact on South Africa's economic outlook. South Africa has its own internal problems deepening each passing day. The ANC is playing hard on its foreign relations with external players especially with Russia Europe and the United States. South Africa, as per stipulated guidelines and rules, holds the rotating presidency of BRICS, the organization of five made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The BRICS is a model organization of genuine multilateral diplomacy. Its structure is formed in compliance with the 21st century realities.

                                                                                                    From all indications BRICS is steadily developing its muscles since the first meeting in St Petersburg in 2005. It was called RIC, which stood for Russia, India and China. Then later, Brazil joined and finally South Africa in February 2011, which is why now it is referred to as BRICS. The acronym BRICS is derived from the members first letter in English. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) collectively represent about 26% of the world's geographical area and about 42% of the world's population.

                                                                                                                  View from China: Western attempts to sow discord between China and India won't impact BRICS cooperation (Взгляд из Китая: попытки Запада посеять раздор между Китаем и Индией не повлияют на сотрудничество БРИКС) / Russia, August, 2023
                                                                                                                  Keywords: political_issues

                                                                                                                  The BRICS was not established to challenge the US or the West, but to offer more choices for all countries and help improve the global economic order. The US can't suppress others in order to safeguard its economic hegemony. Its attacks on BRICS merely suggest it lacks confidence in related fields, Chinese 'Global Times' stresses.

                                                                                                                  The BRICS is attracting increasing attention worldwide, as evidenced by the growing interest of many countries wanting to join. At the same time, it's increasingly viewed by the West as an economic and geopolitical challenge. Thus it's no wonder that Western countries are amplifying the conflicts between the BRICS member states.

                                                                                                                  An article in Bloomberg, entitled "This club isn't big enough for both China and India," claimed that "tensions between the Asian rivals will likely prevent the BRICS bloc from ever posing a coherent challenge to the West."

                                                                                                                  With the imminent BRICS summit focusing on member expansion, the West, especially the US, is attempting to draw India to its side while making a fuss about China-India conflicts and downplaying the future of BRICS.

                                                                                                                  "Now the US and the West don't want to see a more united and more powerful BRICS," Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times. They deliberately make an issue of the current and previous contradictions between the two influential countries, China and India, to drive a wedge and undermine BRICS unity.

                                                                                                                  While it is true that there are some contradictions and difficulties in the relationship between China and India, there is still a lot of cooperation between the two countries in the global spheres. Long Xingchun, a professor of international relations at Sichuan International Studies University, said "China has always emphasized that some contradictions between China and India, such as the border issue, should not affect the relations between the two countries, let alone affecting cooperation in other areas. India may hold different views on some specific issues, but these are insignificant when it comes to BRICS cooperation."

                                                                                                                  Overall, the conflicts between China and India will not have too much impact on BRICS cooperation, Long believed.

                                                                                                                  Actually, China and India have much in common in the global arena, particularly in multilateral mechanisms where they have a wide range of common interests. Despite some differences in bilateral relations, India's international ambition to improve its status and become a great power should not lead it to go against BRICS cooperation.

                                                                                                                  Reuters reported that "Brazil has resisted gathering momentum in the BRICS group of major emerging economies to add more member countries" and that "India has reservations about the expansion." But the next day, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva expressed support for more countries joining the BRICS group.

                                                                                                                  Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also denied reports that the country 'was against expanding' the BRICS organization. This blatantly contradicted the Reuters report and raised doubts about the accuracy of its claim that both Brazil and India were opposed to the expansion.

                                                                                                                  The reason behind the growing momentum of the BRICS is the shared goal of establishing a more just and reasonable global economic order. Qian emphasized that unity is the key to the success of the BRICS.

                                                                                                                  Considering that China's economy is larger than the combined economies of the other BRICS countries, India may have concerns about China dominating the group. However, the inclusion of new members will help alleviate the unwarranted worries, and it's important to note that China itself has no intention to play a dominant role at all. On the contrary, China openly stated it supports member expansion of the BRICS, a stance that advocates for increased representation of developing countries.

                                                                                                                  The Bloomberg article also said that BRICS "is increasingly described as a counterweight to the existing Western-run multilateral institutions. In fact, it's nothing of the sort and may never be."

                                                                                                                  The US has always regarded any emerging country or organization consisting of emerging countries, with an economic and political system different from its model, such as BRICS, as a challenge to its hegemony. This, in fact, reveals its weakness.

                                                                                                                  The BRICS was not established to challenge the US or the West, but to offer more choices for all countries and help improve the global economic order. The US can't suppress others in order to safeguard its economic hegemony. Its attacks on BRICS merely suggest it lacks confidence in related fields.

                                                                                                                  The BRICS group plays an essential role on the global multilateral stage. Both India and Brazil see the BRICS as a platform to enhance their international status and influence. For India in particular, the BRICS is a favorable instrumental platform that can support it in achieving greater representation on the international stage.

                                                                                                                  All the BRICS countries, especially China and India, should address differences in a pragmatic manner and avoid bringing bilateral conflicts into the multilateral mechanism, while keeping vigilance against the Western attempt to sow discord among them. Other BRICS countries should also promote BRICS cooperation and safeguard the rights and interests of developing countries, Global Times stresses.

                                                                                                                                As BRICS cooperation accelerates, is it time for the US to develop a BRICS policy? (По мере того, как сотрудничество БРИКС ускоряется, не пора ли США разработать политику БРИКС?) / Australia, August, 2023
                                                                                                                                Keywords: political_issues

                                                                                                                                When leaders of the BRICS group of large emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – meet in Johannesburg for two days beginning on Aug. 22, 2023, foreign policymakers in Washington will no doubt be listening carefully.

                                                                                                                                The BRICS group has been challenging some key tenets of U.S. global leadership in recent years. On the diplomatic front, it has undermined the White House's strategy on Ukraine by countering the Western use of sanctions on Russia. Economically, it has sought to chip away at U.S. dominance by weakening the dollar's role as the world's default currency.

                                                                                                                                And now the group is looking at expanding, with 23 formal candidates. Such a move – especially if BRICS accepts Iran, Cuba or Venezuela – would likely strengthen the group's anti-U.S. positioning.

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                                                                                                                                So what can Washington expect next, and how can it respond?

                                                                                                                                Our research team at Tufts University has been working on a multiyear Rising Power Alliances project that has analyzed the evolution of BRICS and the group's relationship with the U.S. What we have found is that the common portrayal of BRICS as a China-dominated group primarily pursuing anti-U.S. agendas is misplaced.

                                                                                                                                Rather, the BRICS countries connect around common development interests and a quest for a multipolar world order in which no single power dominates. Yet BRICS consolidation has turned the group into a potent negotiation force that now challenges Washington's geopolitical and economic goals. Ignoring BRICS as a major policy force – something the U.S. has been prone to do in the past – is no longer an option.

                                                                                                                                Reining in the America bashing

                                                                                                                                At the dawn of BRIC cooperation in 2008 – before South Africa joined in 2010, adding an "S" – members were mindful that the group's existence could lead to tensions with policymakers who viewed the U.S. as the world's "indispensable nation."

                                                                                                                                As Brazil's former Foreign Minister Celso Amorim observed at the time, "We should promote a more democratic world order by ensuring the fullest participation of developing countries in decision-making bodies." He saw BRIC countries "as a bridge between industrialized and developing countries for sustainable development and a more balanced international economic policy."

                                                                                                                                While such realignments would certainly dilute U.S. power, BRIC explicitly refrained from anti-U.S. rhetoric.

                                                                                                                                After the 2009 BRIC summit, the Chinese foreign ministry clarified that BRIC cooperation should not be "directed against a third party." Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon had already confirmed that there would be no America bashing at BRIC and directly rejected China's and Russia's efforts to weaken the dollar's dominance.

                                                                                                                                Rather, the new entity complemented existing efforts toward multipolarity – including China-Russia cooperation and the India, Brazil, South Africa trilateral dialogue. Not only was BRIC envisioned as a forum for ideas rather than ideologies, but it also planned to stay open and transparent.

                                                                                                                                BRICS alignment and tensions with the US

                                                                                                                                Today, BRICS is a formidable group – it accounts for 41% of the world's population, 31.5% of global gross domestic product and 16% of global trade. As such, it has a lot of bargaining power if the countries act together – which they increasingly do. During the Ukraine war, Moscow's BRICS partners have ensured Russia's economic and diplomatic survival in the face of Western attempts to isolate Moscow. Brazil, India, China and South Africa engaged with Russia in 166 BRICS events in 2022. And some members became crucial export markets for Russia.

                                                                                                                                The group's political development – through which it has continually added new areas of cooperation and extra "bodies" – is impressive, considering the vast differences among its members.

                                                                                                                                We designed a BRICS convergence index to measure how BRICS states converged around 47 specific policies between 2009 and 2021, ranging from economics and security to sustainable development. We found deepening convergence and cooperation across these issues and particularly around industrial development and finance.

                                                                                                                                But BRICS convergence does not necessarily lead to greater tension with the United States. Our data finds limited divergence between the joint policies of BRICS and that of the U.S. on a wide range of issues. Our research also counters the argument that BRICS is China-driven. Indeed, China has been unable to advance some key policy proposals. For example, since the 2011 BRICS summit, China has sought to establish a BRICS free trade agreement but could not get support from other states. And despite various trade coordination mechanisms in BRICS, the overall trade among BRICS remains low – only 6% of the countries' combined trade.

                                                                                                                                However, tensions between the United States and BRICS exist, especially when BRICS turns "bloc-like" and when U.S. global interests are at stake. The turning point for this was 2015, when BRICS achieved major institutional growth under Russia's presidency. This coincided with Moscow enhancing its pivot to China and BRICS following Western sanctions over Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. Russia was eager to develop alternatives to Western-led institutional and market mechanisms it could no longer benefit from.

                                                                                                                                That said, important champions of BRICS convergence are also close strategic partners to the U.S. For example, India has played a major role in strengthening the security dimension of BRICS cooperation, championing a counter-terrorism agenda that has drawn U.S. opposition due to its vague definition of terrorist actors.

                                                                                                                                Further constraints on U.S. power may emerge from BRICS transitioning to using local currencies over the dollar and encouraging BRICS candidate countries to do the same. Meanwhile, China and Russia's efforts to engage BRICS on outer space governance is another trend for policymakers in Washington to watch.

                                                                                                                                Toward a US BRICS Policy?

                                                                                                                                So where does a more robust – and potentially larger – BRICS leave the U.S.?

                                                                                                                                To date, U.S. policy has largely ignored BRICS as an entity. The U.S. foreign and defense policymaking apparatus is regionally oriented. In the past 20 years, it has pivoted from the Middle East to Asia and most recently to the Indo-Pacific region.

                                                                                                                                When it comes to the BRICS nations, Washington has focused on developing bilateral relations with Brazil, India and South Africa, while managing tensions with China and isolating Russia. The challenge for the Biden administration is understanding how, as a group, BRICS' operations and institutions affect U.S. global interests.

                                                                                                                                Meanwhile, BRICS expansion raises new questions. When asked about U.S. partners such as Algeria and Egypt wanting to join BRICS, the Biden administration explained that it does not ask partners to choose between the United States and other countries.

                                                                                                                                But the international demand for joining BRICS calls for a deeper reflection on how Washington pursues foreign policy.

                                                                                                                                Designing a BRICS-focused foreign policy is an opportunity for the United States to innovate around addressing development needs. Rather than dividing countries into friendly democracies and others, a BRICS-focused policy can see the Biden administration lead on universal development issues and build development-focused, close relationships that encourage a better alignment between countries of the Global South and the United States.

                                                                                                                                It could also allow the Biden administration to deepen cooperation with India, Brazil, South Africa and some of the new BRICS candidates. Areas of focus could include issues where the BRICS countries have struggled to coordinate their policy, such as AI development and governance, energy security and global restrictions on chemical and biological weapons.

                                                                                                                                Developing a BRICS policy could help re-imagine U.S. foreign policy and ensure that the United States is well positioned in a multipolar world.
                                                                                                                                              Investment and Finance
                                                                                                                                              Investment and finance in BRICS
                                                                                                                                              BRICS expansion backed by China, Russia to be in focus next week. What it means (Расширение БРИКС при поддержке Китая и России будет в центре внимания на следующей неделе. Что это значит) / India, August, 2023
                                                                                                                                              Keywords: summit

                                                                                                                                              Barring Russian President Vladimir Putin, other leaders of Brics states will gather in Johannesburg during August 22-24 for the 15th summit

                                                                                                                                              NEW DELHI: The expansion of Brics will be in focus when leaders of the 17-year-old grouping assemble for a summit in South Africa next week though the five member states are yet to reach common ground on the issue, people familiar with the matter said.

                                                                                                                                              The Indian side has sought to put focus on changes that will give Brics greater heft and coherence, and has been keen to emphasise that it is not holding up the expansion (REUTERS)
                                                                                                                                              China is being seen as the main proponent of an aggressive push to expand Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) to make the grouping a counterpoint to Western dominance of world affairs. It has been backed in these efforts by Russia, currently grappling with its diplomatic isolation because of the Ukraine war.

                                                                                                                                              Some 40 countries have reportedly expressed an interest in joining Brics, with Argentina, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) among them. If the expansion goes ahead, it will be the first since the grouping was enlarged with the inclusion of South Africa in September 2010.

                                                                                                                                              Barring Russian President Vladimir Putin, other leaders of Brics states will gather in Johannesburg during August 22-24 for the 15th Brics summit, which is also expected to take up the contentious issue of establishing a common currency. Here too, the people said, there are gaps between the five members. Putin, who faces an international arrest warrant over alleged war crimes in Ukraine, is set to participate by video conference.

                                                                                                                                              The Indian side's biggest concern regarding the expansion is that Brics shouldn't become a China-centric grouping, especially at a time when relations between New Delhi and Beijing are at their lowest ebb due to the military standoff on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). One of the people cited above said, "Certainly, the inclusion of a country like the UAE isn't a problem but there are concerns about some countries whose names are being mentioned."

                                                                                                                                              As talk of expanding Brics gained ground over the last year, the Indian side sought to put the focus on changes that would give the grouping greater heft and coherence. "There was a need to streamline Brics processes and work on certain existing mechanisms that lead to duplication. Unlike other groupings, Brics still doesn't have a fixed secretariat," a second person said.

                                                                                                                                              Work on these issues would put in place essential building blocks before any expansion, the people said. They added there is also no clarity on the process used to identify countries that are interested in joining Brics.

                                                                                                                                              "There have been instances of a country sending a query about joining Brics and this has been treated as an application," the second person said.

                                                                                                                                              At the same time, India has been keen to emphasise that it is not holding up the expansion.

                                                                                                                                              External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi recently said India has approached the issue with "a very positive mind and a positive framework" while rejecting "insinuations" that the country is against the enlargement of Brics.

                                                                                                                                              "As mandated by the leaders last year, Brics members are internally discussing the guiding principles, standards, criteria and procedures for the Brics expansion process on the basis of full consultation and consensus," Bagchi said.

                                                                                                                                              The creation of a common currency, first mooted in April by the deputy speaker of Russia's Parliament, Alexander Babavov, is also being seen as a non-starter, especially since trade settlement in the national currencies of the member states is yet to take off. Moreover, there are concerns about the common currency being dominated by the yuan, the people said.

                                                                                                                                              Harsh V Pant, vice president for foreign policy at Observer Research Foundation (ORF), said India is walking a delicate line in the expansion process. If the expansion is driven by China, it will reinforce the perception in India that Beijing's interest is not in working together to seek a greater voice for emerging players but "rather in making the Brics a platform that is anti-American in its orientation and shaped by Chinese priorities", Pant wrote in a recent piece for ORF.

                                                                                                                                                            Plans for a BRICS common currency are rapidly fading (Планы по единой валюте БРИКС быстро исчезают) / The UK, August, 2023
                                                                                                                                                            Keywords: economic_challenges
                                                                                                                                                            The UK

                                                                                                                                                            Earlier this year, it became fashionable to declare the end of the US dollar and by extension American hegemony. The tip of the spear for replacing the US led world order was supposed to be a new currency that would challenge the greenback and usher in a new multipolar world.

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                                                                                                                                                            The issuers of this currency — so the rumours went — would be the Brics nations, who would pool their economic power via a gold-backed alternative monetary system. In hindsight, however, it should have been obvious that expectations have always been overblown: the announcement of this new currency was not made by high ranking officials during a Brics summit, but by an employee of the Russian embassy in Kenya.

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                                                                                                                                                            Next week, Brics leaders will be gathering to discuss America's influence on global affairs. But recently high ranking officials have poured cold water on the idea of a new currency. India, for example, flat out rejected the idea of giving up its rupee in exchange for monetary experiments. This would leave Russia, China, Brazil, and South Africa to come up with their own currency, but that seems even more unlikely: China's GDP is almost five times the size of the remaining three countries taken together, which means that what would look like a common currency would in fact be handing over monetary policy to Beijing.

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                                                                                                                                                            The Eurozone almost broke up during the financial crisis of 2008 because of Germany's dominance in economic matters and Berlin's habit of dictating to others what to do. Does anyone seriously believe that Moscow would be more willing to outsource its monetary policy to Beijing than Athens was willing to outsource it to Berlin?

                                                                                                                                                            Perhaps the writing was already on the wall when the man who coined the term 'Brics' dismissed the idea of a common currency as "ridiculous". But on a deeper level, it is worth looking at how well these countries are currently faring: China's economy itself is undergoing serious trouble with declining foreign investments and deflationary pressures. Meanwhile, the Russian central bank is frantically trying to stem the fall of the rouble vis-à-vis the dollar and South Africa is on the brink of entering a recession. None of this bodes well for the idea that those three could create a globally competitive new currency.

                                                                                                                                                            As tensions between the US and China are increasing, some countries are falling back in line with Washington. Italy, for example, has just announced that it will leave China's Belt and Road Initiative, reinforcing Prime Minister Meloni's commitment to the transatlantic alliance. But it is not just Europeans who take a second look at China. Mexico — despite being led by the Left-wing populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador — abandoned its aspirations to join Brics and is seeking an even closer relationship with the United States. The current presidential frontrunner in Argentina, Javier Milei, has also found surprisingly critical words for China: "People are not free in China, they can't do what they want and when they do it, they get killed […] Would you trade with an assassin?"

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                                                                                                                                                            To be clear, none of this means that any of the aforementioned countries is willing or has the option of giving up relations with China. It does mean, however, that most countries have no interest in exchanging living under US hegemony for Chinese hegemony, but rather chart their own path in global politics.

                                                                                                                                                                          Five Things to Watch as South Africa Hosts BRICS Summit (Пять вещей, за которыми стоит наблюдать, пока в Южной Африке проходит саммит БРИКС) / USA, August, 2023
                                                                                                                                                                          Keywords: expert_opinion, summit, ecnomic_challenges

                                                                                                                                                                          South Africa hosts a summit of the BRICS group of nations and others in the Global South next week who are seeking to balance Western dominance of the world order while dealing with their own internal divisions.

                                                                                                                                                                          At least 40 heads of state and government will join South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa, China's Xi Jinping, India's Narendra Modi and Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Johannesburg. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov represents Vladimir Putin, who will attend virtually to avoid possible arrest for alleged war crimes if he entered the country.

                                                                                                                                                                          "When it comes to global power equations, Africa and the Global South are still outliers," said South Africa's BRICS ambassador Anil Sooklal. "The so-called western liberal order that was created post the Second World War don't want to make space for new players."

                                                                                                                                                                          Here are five things to watch as they gather Aug. 22-24 in Sandton, the business hub in the city's wealthy northern suburbs:

                                                                                                                                                                          1. Expansion

                                                                                                                                                                          Expansion from the group's current membership of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa is top of the agenda after being put on the back burner at previous summits. Formed in 2009 and with South Africa added a year later, there are now 23 other nations lining up to join including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

                                                                                                                                                                          China's drive for rapid expansion has faced pushback from India, which fears the group could become a mouthpiece for its powerful neighbor. Brazil is also wary of alienating the West. But opposition has softened and these countries are now asking that admission rules and criteria be agreed, according to officials familiar with the discussions, speaking on condition of anonymity.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. Common Currency

                                                                                                                                                                          The bloc will revive the idea of reducing the dollar's dominance in payments, mooted at previous summits. The debate has resurfaced after US interest-rate hikes and Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent the US currency soaring, along with the cost of commodities priced in dollars.

                                                                                                                                                                          Proposals to be considered include increasing the use of members' national currencies to trade and setting up a common payments system. A goal to create a common currency is viewed as a longer-term project.

                                                                                                                                                                          The Basics of BRICS Several BRICS members have already begun to settle bilateral trade deals in local currencies. India has an accord with Malaysia to ramp up usage of the rupee in cross-border business. Brazil and China earlier this year struck a deal to settle trade in their local currencies and India and Russia have approached South Africa about interlinking payment settlement in their own currencies.

                                                                                                                                                                          3. New Development Bank

                                                                                                                                                                          Trade between BRICS members surged 56% to $422 billion over the past five years, and their collective nominal gross domestic product of $25.9 trillion equated to 25.7% of global output, data from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow show.

                                                                                                                                                                          The New Development Bank, which would be a conduit for such transactions, has estimated that at least one third of lending will be in local currencies by 2026, Sooklal said.

                                                                                                                                                                          The Shanghai-based lender's President Dilma Rousseff will provide an update at the gathering on plans to diversify its funding sources. The NDB, set up as an alternative to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in 2015, has been hampered by Western sanctions on Russia — a founding member — following its invasion of Ukraine.

                                                                                                                                                                          There's also desire to broaden the bank's borrowing basket and several countries in the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia are interested in contributing capital to the NDB, Sooklal said. He added that 12 countries are looking at becoming full members.

                                                                                                                                                                          4. Ukraine

                                                                                                                                                                          Russia's 18-month long invasion of Ukraine will be on the agenda. BRICS nations have mostly stuck together since the war, with only Brazil voting in favor of a February United Nations resolution calling for an end to the conflict and demanding that Russia withdraw. China, India and South Africa abstained.

                                                                                                                                                                          Lula has said he wants the bloc to help forge peace. South Africa is driving an African initiative to bring an end to the combat.

                                                                                                                                                                          5. Food Security

                                                                                                                                                                          Soaring food prices are hurting billions of the world's poorest people and food security will be on the agenda against the backdrop of actions by India and Russia that have made the situation worse.

                                                                                                                                                                          Farmhands sow rice saplings at a paddy field in Bhivpuri, India.Photographer: Indranil Aditya/Bloomberg India — which accounts for 40% of the world's rice trade — has ramped up export curbs to protect its local market. Russia has exited a deal to ensure the safe passage of Ukrainian grain exports, which had been a rare example of cooperation during the war.

                                                                                                                                                                          Rice is vital to the diets of Asians and Africans, contributing as much as 60% of total calorie intake for people in these regions. India will host an India Africa Forum while in South Africa and China plans to stage a similar event of its own.

                                                                                                                                                                          "I believe both of them will make announcements including around agriculture," Sooklal said. "I'm quite confident that some of these issues will be addressed positively."

                                                                                                                                                                                        China-led de-dollarisation gains traction among emerging economies ahead of Brics summit (Дедолларизация под руководством Китая набирает обороты среди развивающихся экономик в преддверии саммита БРИКС) / China, August, 2023
                                                                                                                                                                                        Keywords: economic_challenges

                                                                                                                                                                                        • Expansion rate of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa economic bloc seen determining speed at which it stops using US dollar systems
                                                                                                                                                                                        • To help ward off Washington's alleged currency weaponisation, calls to shift away from the US dollar are growing louder, but a new currency union may be unlikely

                                                                                                                                                                                        The matter of relying less on the US dollar is expected to be thoroughly discussed next week at the Brics summit of emerging nations. Photo: EPA-EFE
                                                                                                                                                                                        The American dollar's dominance in global trade looks to be challenged by the expansion of an economic bloc involving China, according to research by ING that comes as talk of a currency union has turned heads in the lead-up to next week's Brics summit.

                                                                                                                                                                                        The association of five major emerging national economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – represents about a quarter of the global economy and accounts for 41.9 per cent of people on Earth. Bloc representatives will meet in South Africa from Tuesday to Thursday.

                                                                                                                                                                                        "We suspect the subject of 'de-dollarisation' might gain some traction this summer when senior leaders of the Brics nations meet," the Dutch bank's analysts Chris Turner, Dmitry Dolgin and James Wilson wrote in a note on Thursday.

                                                                                                                                                                                        The economic expansion of Brics could determine the speed at which it adopts commercial and financial systems outside of the dollar sphere, posing certain challenges to the dollar's dominant status as an international currency, they said.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Beijing has stepped up criticism of Washington for "weaponising" the US dollar over the past year and a half, citing Western sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, including freezing Russian central bank assets, kicking it out of the Swift global payment system, and also denying Moscow access to the US dollar.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Calls for de-dollarisation appear to have gained traction in recent months, such as when Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva openly called for local currency settlements, rather than through the US dollar, during his China visit in April.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Such currency unions are intergovernmental agreements involving two or more states sharing the same currency.

                                                                                                                                                                                        China-Brazil relations likely to strengthen with newly elected leader Lula, analysts say

                                                                                                                                                                                        Last month, Alexander Babakov, deputy chairman of Russia's State Duma, said that Russia was spearheading the development of this currency union for cross-border trade among a number of developing nations, according to Brics Information Portal.

                                                                                                                                                                                        "The news is expected to add new momentum to the trend of de-dollarisation in the global economy – if the currency is successfully issued, it is expected to drive the depreciation of credit currencies, such as the US dollar, relative to gold in the medium-to-long term," Zheshang Securities said in an August 4 report.

                                                                                                                                                                                        However, Reuters reported on Thursday that a Brics currency was off the table, citing South African officials. As a new global currency, the expectation was that it might become analogous to the euro for non-Western states.

                                                                                                                                                                                        In its quarterly monetary policy report on Thursday, the People's Bank of China vowed to promote the internationalisation of the yuan, further expand its use in cross-border trade and investment, and develop its offshore market.

                                                                                                                                                                                        More economies are accelerating the diversification of their foreign-exchange reserves, and this includes adopting currencies from emerging economies, such as the yuan.

                                                                                                                                                                                        "De-dollarisation is seen mainly in the central banks' international reserves, as the dollar is being pushed out by a variety of currencies, including the [yuan]," ING said.

                                                                                                                                                                                        According to the Dutch bank, the US dollar's share of global forex reserves fell to 58.6 per cent in 2022, hitting its lowest point since data was first available in 1995.

                                                                                                                                                                                        "Looking at the long-term developments, the USD seems to be replaced mostly by Asian currencies, namely the CNY and [Japanese yen]," the ING report said.

                                                                                                                                                                                        The ING said bilateral swap lines with various central banks, established by the People's Bank of China since 2009, have been a "flagship example" that weaning the world off the dollar requires challenging its international role in trade invoicing.

                                                                                                                                                                                        However, given that higher returns on the US dollar's interest rates make it attractive to the private sector, its share in global forex reserves climbed slightly to 59.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2023.

                                                                                                                                                                                        For private investors, the yuan is still far less attractive than the US dollar, as the yuan's share of international assets outside central bank reserves grew from 5 per cent to only 6 per cent in seven years, compared with the dollar's 49 per cent share last year.

                                                                                                                                                                                        The US dollar continues to be a leader in the international bond market, as its share in foreign liabilities remains at 48 per cent for bank and 51 per cent for nonbank sectors.

                                                                                                                                                                                        "A relative lack of liquidity and lingering investor concerns over potential capital controls may be inhibiting the growth of the market," ING said. "In this respect, it seems the renminbi has not yet registered in most investors' consciousness for bond issuance."
                                                                                                                                                                                                      The New Development Bank: BRICS and the new international economic geopolitics (Новый банк развития: БРИКС и новая международная экономическая геополитика) / Russia, August, 2023
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Keywords: economic_challenges, ndb

                                                                                                                                                                                                      The decline of the old order led by North Americans and Europeans is an increasingly concrete fact. We are living in new times. There are countless examples: the loss of geopolitical, economic and ideological influence. Let us analyze the case of the New Development Bank (NBD), the "BRICS Bank," to answer the following question: Can the NBD function as an alternative to Western financial centralization? More specifically: will the IMF and the World Bank maintain control and the imposition of neoliberal prescriptions in the supply of international credits?

                                                                                                                                                                                                      We would like to draw your attention to a detail about most of the reviews on the NBD to date. Most mention almost exclusively the bank's economic impacts on the world's financial architecture, leaving aside the geopolitical aspects that the institution will provoke on the international scene. The economic and financial impacts are undoubtedly important. The geopolitical are even larger.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      The 21st century brought a series of transformations to the international economy and relations. The People's Republic of China has consolidated itself as a major world player because of its economic growth since the 1980s. At the end of the Cold War, the capitalist economy experienced a great expansion, and at the same time, the USA and Europe began to gradually decline in the current Systemic Cycle of Accumulation, commanded by Washington (Arrighi 1996). This context provides a "window of opportunity" for anti-systemic action by several countries such as China, Russia, India and Brazil (Pennaforte 2021). Each has political, economic and strategic objectives but has a multipolar and multilateral world as its horizon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      The creation of the NBD in 2015 constituted the first financial (institutional) initiative outside the Euro-Atlantic axis since 1945. Since the end of World War II, North Americans and Europeans have commanded the international financial system which, over time, imposed a series of economic measures for the supply of credit by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to developing countries that sought industrialization. Such economic measures greatly impacted society by imposing spending cuts that always impacted social areas, promoted a backflow in investments, and provoked recession, mainly in Latin America.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      The conception of the NBD took place in 2014 at the BRICS Summit in Fortaleza, with its entry into operation in Shanghai (China) in 2015, with an authorized capital of 100 billion dollars. For the first time in history, "emerging" or Global South countries began creating a financial body with possibilities to offer credit to the international community. With the help of the NBD, numerous countries interested in financing are able to advance their development projects under better conditions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      The NBD places the BRICS as a possible global player in the dispute for areas of influence in the international system. The NBD could become an important geopolitical and economic mechanism in the current moment of systemic transition to a scenario where the Washington-Brussels axis will lose its influence.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      A new center for offering credit will bring new perspectives to countless countries that will no longer necessarily depend on the IMF or the World Bank to start or continue their development processes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Byte by byte (Байт за байтом) / China, August, 2023
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Keywords: economic_challenges, digital

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    BRICS digital economy cooperation should rise above obstacles to gain new ground

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The 15th BRICS summit is scheduled to take place in South Africa on Aug 22 to 24, with the theme "BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism". The upcoming summit will push the global agenda to refocus on development issues and prompt the international community to return to genuine multilateralism. The summit will also officially begin the BRICS membership expansion process and create new opportunities for cooperation in the digital economy among the BRICS members.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The BRICS cooperation is characterized by dialogue on an equal footing, mutual benefits and win-win results, inclusiveness and mutual learning, and common development. The BRICS cooperation is not targeted at any third party, but rather, focuses on mutually beneficial cooperation in the economic area. The five BRICS members are all emerging and developing economies and non-Western major countries. They all want to reform the existing international order, which is neither fair nor reasonable, safeguard the interests of developing countries, and promote world peace and development.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Currently, the BRICS members have vastly different economic development levels, policy priorities and strategic focuses, but they also have convergence of interests and need each other in many areas. Therefore, they should find a way out of the stalemate of "multiple initiatives and implementation challenges". They should invest substantial resources in areas of common concern, such as infrastructure, technological research and development, and industrial transformation, to create sample projects for practical cooperation, based on which new breakthroughs could be made in elevating the overall cooperation level. The digital economy is a prime area in which they can bolster their cooperation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    After more than 10 years of development, the BRICS members have already made significant strides in cooperation in the digital economy. For instance, China's e-commerce business AliExpress currently accounts for 25.8 percent of Russia's e-commerce market; Russia's largest e-commerce business Ozon is working closely with China Post to jointly build a China-Russia cross-border e-commerce logistics network.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Bilateral investment cooperation has been expanding as well. Since 2021, China and Russia have signed a memorandum of understanding on investment cooperation in the digital economy and pushed for the implementation of a number of projects including the Sino-Russian Research Center for the Digital Economy, among others. Furthermore, the BRICS members are going all out to advance cooperation in infrastructure construction, industry and supply chains, technological research and development, small- and medium-sized enterprises and digital finance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Once an international cooperative mechanism takes shape, it will continuously push forward cooperation. To date, the cooperative mechanisms among the BRICS members have been established, with a good start for cooperation in all areas. This will produce an "accumulative effect" and a "spillover effect" for the BRICS cooperation and create new room for cooperation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The five BRICS members have fast-growing digital economies and huge market potential, providing ample room for further cooperation in the digital economy. The BRICS members collectively account for a considerable share of global GDP and the world's population. Together, the BRICS countries comprise more than 40 percent of the world's internet users and have abundant digital resources. In 2022 alone, China's data output and data storage capacity reached 8.1 zettabytes and 724.5 exabytes respectively, accounting for 10.5 percent and 14.4 percent respectively of the global total. Moreover, the membership expansion process has opened new room for the BRICS cooperation in the digital economy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    However, the BRICS cooperation in the digital economy is still in the primary stage. Currently, on average, the digital economy accounts for around 44 percent of the global GDP, with digital trade accounting for 64 percent and 13 percent respectively of the global goods trade and services trade. The BRICS members fall short of the global average in all these indicators.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Cooperation in the digital economy among developed nations such as the United States and European countries has evolved from "first-generation" cooperation, such as in the internet and e-commerce, to "second-generation" cooperation, such as in artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing, the internet of things, open source and digital security. In comparison, the BRICS cooperation in the digital economy has yet to rise above the "first-generation" policy cooperation. They even have disparities over e-commerce rules such as paperless customs clearance, electronic billing, and mutual authentication of e-payments, among other things.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The different development strategies, governance concepts, policy focuses and opening-up levels in the digital economy of the various BRICS members have become a significant obstacle to their cooperation. In particular, in recent years, India has been advocating "India first" and "data localization", in the face of the rising nationalist sentiments domestically. The nation even cracks down on Chinese digital companies based in India and Chinese digital products without any bottom lines, which wreaks havoc on the BRICS cooperation in the digital economy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Compared with other areas for cooperation such as trade and investment, the digital economy is more sensitive as it concerns a nation's development and security interests. Over the past few years, with the rapid increase of China's comprehensive national strength, certain BRICS members have become more suspicious of China. Moreover, the US-led West has been going all out to court some of the BRICS members and consequently increased divisions within the bloc. In particular, to counter the growing influence of China, India has been noticeably stepping up efforts to court the US-led West, which is detrimental to the solidarity of the BRICS.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    That said, the aforementioned obstacles and constraints are neither uncontrollable nor overwhelming. Compared with the G7, the BRICS is a relatively young and a new type of international organization. It's quite normal for such a new organization to have some growing pains. The BRICS members should face up to the difficulties, adopt corresponding measures to play to their strengths, and promote the steady, sound growth of the BRICS cooperation in the digital economy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    In the face of a decline in political mutual trust, the BRICS members should display greater political courage, resolve and wisdom, rise above challenges brought by populism and nationalism, seek common ground while shelving differences, and dilute and resolve differences through cooperation in the digital economy, so as to break the vicious cycle of "conflict — decline in mutual trust — deepened conflict".
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The BRICS Come of Age (БРИКС достигает совершеннолетия) / USA, August, 2023
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Keywords: expert_opinion, economic_challenges

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Given the BRICS' economic success, more than 40 countries have shown an interest in joining the group, and expansion will be high on the agenda of the group's upcoming summit. An enlarged grouping could deepen trade and settlement in local currencies, accelerate de-dollarization, and lead the transition to a more multipolar world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  CAIRO – Nearly 22 years after Jim O'Neill, then an economist at Goldman Sachs, coined the BRIC acronym to capture the economic potential of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, the group – called the BRICS since the addition of South Africa – contributes more to global GDP (in purchasing-power-parity terms) than the G7. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that China and India alone will generate about half of global growth this year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  But with geopolitical tensions running high, and the weaponization of the dollar for national-security purposes continuing to escalate, the BRICS have taken on new significance, offering trade diversion and other relief to weaken the effectiveness of sanctions and fast-tracking the transition to a multipolar world. Since 2014, Russia's trade with G7 countries has fallen by more than 36%, owing to unprecedented Western sanctions, while its trade with the other BRICS has increased by more than 121%.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Following the European Union's ban on imports of Russian oil products last year, China and India have been the two dominant buyers of Russian crude. Bilateral trade between China and Russia has been particularly strong in recent years, hitting a record $185 billion last year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Given their economic success, the BRICS are increasingly seen in the Global South as a far more viable force for multilateralism than the Non-Aligned Movement founded in 1961. More than 40 countries – including Algeria, Egypt, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates, but also key G20 members such as Argentina, Indonesia, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia – have expressed interest in joining the BRICS, and 22 have formally applied for membership.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Expansion will be high on the agenda at the group's 15th summit, scheduled for August 22-24 in Johannesburg, South Africa, as will trade and investment facilitation. The latter includes many issues on which the bloc's views diverge from those of the G7, such as sustainable development, global governance reform (especially reform of the IMF), and de-dollarization.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  As more emerging-market economies explore ways to conduct trade in non-dollar currencies, a growing number of experts, including senior US government officials, have recognized that the weaponization of finance may threaten the greenback's dominance. US Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen recently admitted that the use of "financial sanctions that are linked to the role of the dollar … could undermine the hegemony of the dollar."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The desire for de-dollarization has given rise to the idea of a BRICS-issued reserve currency that members could use for cross-border trade. But while the BRICS countries, which collectively enjoy a comfortable current-account surplus, have the financial wherewithal to establish such a currency or unit of account, they lack the institutional infrastructure to sustain such a project.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Even assuming that the bloc's members are fully aligned on geopolitical issues and are more inclined to cooperate than compete, building that infrastructure is a tall order. Like the euro, a shared project of this magnitude would require achieving macroeconomic convergence; agreeing on an exchange-rate mechanism; establishing an efficient multilateral payment and clearing system; and creating regulated, stable, and liquid financial markets that are big enough to absorb global savings and have low-risk default assets where surplus funds could be parked when they are not used for trade.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Given these challenges, South Africa's ambassador to the group reiterated in July that a BRICS currency will not be on the summit's agenda; deepening trade and settlement in local currencies will be. In fact, the use of local currencies in cross-border transactions has already yielded significant benefits for the BRICS, including lower transaction costs; a buffer against global volatility; increased trade among members, despite a challenging operating environment; and an easing of the balance-of-payments constraint associated with dollar funding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  And even though border tensions between China and India have grown, both countries stand to benefit greatly from the increased use of local currencies. Saudi Arabia is considering signing a deal with China to settle oil transactions in renminbi, while India is expanding the use of local-currency settlement (LCS) for bilateral trade beyond the BRICS, inviting more than 20 countries to open special vostro bank accounts to settle trade in rupees. Earlier this month, India made its first oil payment to the UAE in rupees.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The good news is that the BRICS already have the institutions they need to create an efficient and integrated payment system for cross-border transactions. The BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism facilitates payments in local currencies between banks based within the bloc. BRICS Pay, a multi-currency digital international payments system, eliminates the need for "vehicle currencies," such as the dollar or the euro, in transactions among member countries, reducing costs dramatically. Lastly, the Contingent Reserve Arrangement provides liquidity support to those BRICS facing short-term balance-of-payment pressures or currency gyrations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The New Development Bank, which is spearheading the creation of a BRICS currency, also plans to increase local-currency financing, from 22% to at least 30% of the bank's portfolio by 2026, and, more generally, to support efforts to reduce the dollar content of cross-border trade and investment between BRICS countries. In the lead-up to the summit, it issued its first South African rand bonds earlier this month. The two bonds of R1.5 billion were oversubscribed, attracting R2.67 billion of bids in total.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  If, as expected, the BRICS group agrees to admit new members at the upcoming summit (Saudi Arabia looks most likely), it risks a divergence of interests and coordination challenges. But the benefits outweigh the risks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  With expansion, the BRICS market will expand dramatically, creating scale and accelerating the transition from bilateral to multilateral clearing and, ultimately, to a BRICS currency. This will address one of the major challenges associated with using LCS for bilateral trade: the difficulty of deploying local currencies once imbalances arise.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  To be sure, the stickiness of institutional arrangements, along with the breadth and depth of US financial markets, will ensure the dollar's dominance for some time to come. But an enlarged BRICS group would create a geopolitical coalition with the power to accelerate de-dollarization and lead the transition to a more multipolar world – a far cry from the loosely associated clutch of fast-growing emerging markets that O'Neill identified a generation ago. It seems likely, then, that the BRICS 15th summit will be the most consequential yet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                New payments infrastructure a priority for BRICS (Новая платежная инфраструктура – приоритет для БРИКС) / Russia, August, 2023
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Keywords: economic_challenges

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Building an effective independent settlement and payment infrastructure is a priority in the financial track of BRICS, Roman Babushkin, minister-counsellor and deputy chief of mission at the embassy of the Russian Federation in India, said, 'The Print' informs. Speaking at a roundtable organised by the India Foundation on "BRICS Expansion and Currencies", Babushkin said BRICS members have been taking "consistent steps to switch to settlements in national currencies for quite some time now and working out new payment mechanisms".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, while on a state visit to China in April, had made an impassioned plea for nations to trade in local currencies. China and Brazil have reportedly agreed to drop the US dollar for trade between them as reported by 'The Print' earlier in June. President Lula had also proposed the creation of a single BRICS currency.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Speaking at the BRICS summit last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin too mentioned an international reserve currency with its basis in the basket of currencies of BRICS countries, Babushkin said. He added that these ideas and proposals "demonstrate new tendencies" but it is clear that a lot of "aspects" around a new currency require in-depth study.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, a former ambassador and a distinguished fellow, foreign studies programme at Gateway House and Zorawar Daulet Singh, author and founder of NorthCap University and an adjunct fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi, were other panellists at the discussion chaired by Ram Madhav, president of the India Foundation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                In his opening remarks, Babushkin said BRICS is not aimed at anyone but rather offers "alternative instruments", which are supposed to be safe from the politicised Western architecture — including in the context of de-dollarisation. "In BRICS, there is no place for a dictate (sic!), domination, unilateral and confrontational approaches, sanctions, weaponisation of economy and currencies, as well as interference in domestic affairs."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                He also said that BRICS is an example of a new formation of flexible integration based on consensus, with over 70 formats of practical cooperation, structured around three pillars — policy and security, economy and finance as well as humanitarian ties — making this association stronger than any agreement-based supranational alliance or bloc. This, he emphasised, makes BRICS an attractive option for countries that share similar views and values.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Zorawar Daulet Singh highlighted that by creating BRICS and showing that it could work, the five nations are projecting an alternative to the current West-led global order.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                While BRICS countries have always been pro-engagement economically with the West, they do not wish for such engagement to come with strings attached, which is the norm with western foreign policy, Singh added.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The larger issue surrounding the politicisation of the US dollar and the fact that the US froze $300 billion of Russian assets in response to the war in Ukraine has led to a loss of faith in the US dollar as a global currency, he said. This, he explained, has made it difficult even for the BRICS-affiliated New Development Bank — a success of the BRICS association that all three speakers highlighted — to fund projects in Russia.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Ambassador Bhatia in his opening remarks outlined that the 15th BRICS Summit, to be held in Johannesburg between 22 and 24 August, will be special as 49 leaders from Africa are expected to attend it, along with other leaders from the developing world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Ambassador Bhatia further said that the central mission of BRICS is to "present a non-western view of the world" and not an anti-West view.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                On India and Brazil's position on expansion of BRICS, he added that the two nations are looking for a clear criteria for membership — highlighting that they could adopt a method similar to that of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), an organisation of which Russia, China and India are also members, where interested countries would have to first become a dialogue partner before becoming a permanent member.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              View from Bahrain: "Perhaps a new history in the World economy will be launched" (Взгляд из Бахрейна: «Возможно, начнется новая история в мировой экономике») / Russia, August, 2023
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Keywords: expert_opinion, global_governance

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              BRICS is gradually increasing its economic power, becoming a worthy competitor to the G7, Al-Watan writes from Bahrain. Block expansion will only contribute the process. The West is waiting with bated breath for the summit of the group at the end of August 2023.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              China and Russia strongly support the requests of important countries in the region to join the BRICS group, especially Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which are among the 23 countries that have expressed a desire to join this group, including the Kingdom of Bahrain.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The Western world, especially the large industrialized countries or the G7 group, which includes the USA, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan, are aware that after the accession of influential countries in the world economy to the BRICS group, this association can considered a tough competitor "Big Seven".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The addition of more countries to the BRICS group, such as the aforementioned countries, as well as Algeria, Turkey and Argentina, will increase the economic strength of this group – it will become a force to be reckoned with and end the influence of the West, or at least , reduce it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              BRICS is on the way to become a major economic power in the World.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The Western world is looking forward to the results of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg in about two weeks. I do not rule out that Western countries will deliberately create obstacles that will limit the growth in the number of members of the BRICS group. We will not anticipate events, and we will wait for what will happen at the BRICS summit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Perhaps a new History in the World economy will be launched.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The BRICS R5 project: is it feasible? (Проект БРИКС R5: осуществим ли он?) / Russia, August, 2023
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Keywords: expert_opinion, economic_challenges

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            uire significant resources. One of the few decision points will have to be the determination of the relative weights of the respective national currencies in the R5 currency basket – these shares may be broadly in line with the relative economic weights of the respective BRICS core members: 40% for the Chinese yuan, 25% for the Indian rupee, 15% for the Russian rouble and Brazilian real and 5% for the South African rand. This R5 currency basket according to Dr. Paulo Nogueira Batista can be initially pegged to the SDR basket, with subsequent R5 exchange rate dynamics reflecting the fluctuations in the basket components.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The really big question is how to proceed from that starting point to the stage of the R5 currency as a means of payment for cross-border settlements. What Dr. Paulo Nogueira Batista suggests is that for the R5 to serve that role it does not have to be issued in physical form – it could be digital. And there is no need to replace the national currencies of the BRICS economies with the R5 – it can be created in parallel to the circulation of national currencies. Accordingly, no BRICS Central Bank is needed – all that is needed is a bank to issue R5 that in the first stages could be used for transactions among the BRICS national central banks. According to Dr. Paulo Nogueira Batista, during these initial stages R5 could perform a savings role as well as a reserve currency function.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            One of the most debated questions concerning the R5 is the possibility of the use of commodities such as gold for backing its value. The logical view coming from the Brazilian expert is that such an approach is unlikely to work partly due to the need to hold rising amounts of gold reserves to back up the increasing issuance of the R5 currency. What may be preferable is an approach to back the currency with bonds issued by the bank that also issues the R5 – the common BRICS currency will be freely converted into these bonds essentially in line with the pattern that is observed currently with the US dollar.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            As rightly pointed out by Dr. Paulo Nogueira Batista the New Development Bank can play a crucial role in the de-dollarization process. One of the possible venues in this respect is more active issuance of bonds and lending in national currencies of BRICS economies. Another track is to support research and conferences on the reform of the international monetary and financial system and the possible creation of the R5 currency. And then, at a later advanced stage, the Bank can start to use the R5 in its lending operations. From my side, I would only add that some of these steps in the direction of de-dollarization and the use of R5 could also be undertaken by the regional development banks, in which BRICS countries are members and with which the NDB is working closely to co-finance projects. The scope of countries using the R5 can then extend also to the regional partners of the core BRICS economies as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            As for the 2023 BRICS summit, Dr. Paulo Nogueira Batista expressed the hope that the leaders of BRICS economies ask their finance ministers and the respective think-tanks to explore the possibility of the introduction of a common BRICS currency with the results presented at the 2024 BRICS summit in Russia. He also argues that they could create a group of experts to assess the expediency of the creation of a common BRICS currency. According to Brazilian expert, in such a scenario in 2024 the BRICS could decide on the start of discussions related to the launching of the new currency, with the eventual decision on the creation of the R5 likely taken at the 2025 BRICS summit in Brazil.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Even if the above blue-print is not realized fully in the coming years, the important contribution from Dr. Paulo Nogueira Batista is that it presents a realistic pathway to launching the new currency and provides further impulse to the debate around the expediency of such a development track for the BRICS. What is "embarrassing" (in the words of Mr. O'Neill) about the BRICS currency is not the discussion that is unfolding in the academic community about the project, but rather the lack of such discussions in the preceding years and the extreme dependency of the world economy on a currency that increasingly rests on a sky-scraping debt load.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Political Events
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Political events in the public life of BRICS
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          President Cyril Ramaphosa: South Africa's Foreign Policy and upcoming BRICS Summit, 20 Aug (Президент Сирил Рамафоса: внешняя политика Южной Африки и предстоящий саммит БРИКС, 20 августа) / South Africa, August, 2023
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Keywords: speech, summit, cyril_ramaphosa
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          South Africa

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Fellow South Africans,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I would like to address you this evening on South Africa's foreign policy in the light of our country being the host of the 15th BRICS Summit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I would also like us to understand and appreciate the significance of this gathering for our country and the African continent.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A day ahead of the Summit, we will receive President Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China on his fourth state visit to South Africa.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This BRICS Summit and the State Visit by President President Xi Jinping, as well as the many bilateral engagements we will have with President Lula Da Silva of Brazil, Prime Minister Modi of India and many other heads of state on the sidelines of the Summit, have a bearing on our relationships with other countries and South Africa's place in the world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          To understand why these relations are so important for our country and its people, we need to understand the principles and the values that shape our foreign policy and inform our international relations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Before the dawn of democracy in 1994, the apartheid South African state was a pariah in the international community, condemned for committing a crime against humanity.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The foreign policy of apartheid South Africa was defined by coercion, destabilisation and military aggression.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Since the advent of democracy, South Africa's foreign policy has been based on what our forebears inscribed in the Freedom Charter in 1955, when they declared that:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "South Africa shall be a fully independent state which respects the rights and the sovereignty of all nations; South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation – not war".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This foreign policy approach is also a product of the efforts of leaders such as the late Oliver Tambo who mounted a vigorous worldwide campaign to secure global support for our just struggle against apartheid.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This put South Africa on the global map in relation to the interests of its people whilst the world condemned its apartheid rulers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Indeed, our foreign policy is a matter that is vital to our progress as a nation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Through stronger relations with other countries, manifested through investment and trade relations, we can grow our economy, create more opportunities for new businesses and create jobs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          South Africa's foreign policy aims to promote our National Interest based on the protection and promotion of our national sovereignty and constitutional order.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It is also aimed at improving the well-being, safety and prosperity of our citizens, and the achievement of a better Africa and world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The key pillars of our foreign policy include the promotion of human rights, peace and stability and the strengthening of trade and investment ties with other countries.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The foreign policy stance we have taken since the advent of democracy has positioned South Africa as a reliable and influential partner on our continent and in the world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This has enabled our country to have friendly and valuable relations with countries around the world at political, diplomatic, trade, investment, sporting, social and many other levels.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It is these principles that guide our participation in BRICS.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Together, the members of BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – make up a quarter of the global economy, they account for a fifth of global trade and are home to more than 40 per cent of the world's population.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          BRICS as a formation plays an important role in the world due to its economic power, market potential, political influence and development cooperation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Yet the value of BRICS extends beyond its sheer size.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          BRICS countries can collectively shape global dynamics, and acting together, have the potential to drive significant changes in the world economy and international relations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Together, the BRICS members have used their collective voice to call for a world that is more equitable, balanced and governed by an inclusive system of global governance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Being a BRICS member has created positive opportunities for South Africa.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It has enabled our country to have a strategic relationship with China.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Based on the strategic relationship between South Africa and the People's Republic of China we will be signing several agreements during President Xi's State visit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We have steadily strengthened trade and investment ties with other BRICS countries alongside collaboration in areas like development, skills, technology, security and innovation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          South Africa has benefited from the New Development Bank, which was established by the BRICS countries in 2015.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Our country has been funded by the bank in several infrastructure projects to the value of R100 billion in sectors such as roads, water and energy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          South Africa has always championed the interests of Africa within BRICS.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          To further advance the African development agenda, more than 30 Heads of State and Government from across Africa will be attending the summit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We want to build a partnership between BRICS and Africa so that our continent can unlock opportunities for increased trade, investment and infrastructure development.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          There are great opportunities for other BRICS countries to participate in the African Continental Free Trade Area by locating production and services in various countries on the African continent, including our own, by partnering with local companies and entrepreneurs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The 15th BRICS Summit will discuss a number of issues including the important issue of the possible expansion of the membership of BRICS.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          More than 20 countries have formally applied to join BRICS and several others have expressed an interest in becoming part of the BRICS family.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          South Africa supports the expansion of the membership of BRICS.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The value of BRICS extends beyond the interests of its current members.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          For its efforts to be more effective, BRICS needs to build partnerships with other countries that share its aspirations and perspectives.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          An expanded BRICS will represent a diverse group of nations with different political systems that share a common desire to have a more balanced global order.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In addition to the other African leaders in attendance, we will also be welcoming leaders from several countries of the Global South.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          These include countries from the Caribbean and South America, from the Middle East, from West Asia, South Asia and South-East Asia.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This BRICS Summit is particularly important as it is being held as the world is confronted by fundamental challenges that are bound to determine the course of international events for years to come.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Our world has become increasingly complex and fractured as it is increasingly polarised into competing camps.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Multilateralism is being replaced by the actions of different power blocs, all of which we trade with, invest with, and whose technology we use.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It is for this reason that South Africa continues to advocate for an open and rules-based global governance, trade, financial and investment system. It must be a system that does not depend on the exercise of power or unilateralism, but by the advancement of the interests of the peoples of the world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It is in this rules base system that we seek to advance African prosperity and industrialisation. We seek to change the rules to be fairer but ultimately we want to promote an open system of economic and political relations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Amid all these challenges, Africa remains at the centre of our foreign policy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We are firmly committed to strengthening the African Union so that it increases its capacity to support the achievement of greater integration on the continent.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We are working towards the full implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which is set to eliminate trade barriers, boost intra African trade and achieve prosperity for all of Africa.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It will also accelerate manufacturing and industrial capacity on our continent.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The vibrant trading Africa we seek to build depends on Africa being stable and peaceful.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          For Africa to thrive, we must silence the guns.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We continue to work within the African Union to end several ongoing conflicts on the continent and restore constitutional and democratic government to countries that have recently experienced coups.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          South Africa is directly involved in a number of efforts to bring peace to Africa.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We are currently involved in supporting the people of Mozambique and the DRC to ensure that there is peace and stability in their countries.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The administration I have the honour to lead has been devoted to attracting greater trade and investment into South Africa.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Every visit we make to countries on our continent and across the world and every visit by heads of state from other countries focuses on strengthening economic ties.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          When a foreign leader visits our country for a state visit, they are usually accompanied by a business delegation. We are usually accompanied by South African companies when we travel to other countries.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The Business Forums that are held during these visits result in greater trade, investment and business partnerships.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          To further strengthen economic ties between African countries and the United States, South Africa is inviting more than 30 African trade ministers and senior US Administration and Congressional representatives to the next forum of the African Growth and Opportunity Act – AGOA – scheduled for November this year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          As part of our ongoing relationship with the countries of the European Union, we will hold the European Union-South Africa Summit later this year in South Africa to foster our investment and trade relations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Recent trade statistics indicate the success of all our international links.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Within the first three months of this year, we exported R450 billion worth of goods in the mining, manufacturing, and agricultural sectors. Our biggest exports were to China, followed by the United States, Germany, Japan, and then India.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Exports to other African countries account for around a quarter of the value of all our exports.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Our tourism industry is recovering well from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          More than 4 million tourist arrivals were recorded in the first half of this year, almost twice as many arrivals as in the same period last year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Companies across the globe have established new or expanded ventures in our country in sectors as diverse as energy, mining, vehicle production, the creative sector, manufacturing and many others.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          For every rand we attract, jobs are created and sustained.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Our country is committed to a policy of non-alignment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We have resisted pressure to align ourselves with any one of the global powers or with influential blocs of nations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          During the 'Cold War', the stability and sovereignty of many African countries was undermined because of their alignment with the major powers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This experience has convinced us of the need to seek strategic partnerships with other countries rather than be dominated by any other country.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          While some of our detractors prefer overt support for their political and ideological choices, we will not be drawn into a contest between global powers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Instead, our country strives to work with all countries for global peace and development.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It is for this reason that South Africa is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, a forum of 120 countries that are not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Our decision not to align with any one of the global powers does not mean that we are neutral on matters of principle and national interest.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Our non-aligned position exists alongside our active support for the struggles of the oppressed and marginalised in different parts of the world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We have always believed that the freedom we won – and the international solidarity from which we benefited – imposes a duty on us is to support the struggles of those who continue to experience colonialism and racial oppression.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          That is why we will continue to support the struggles of the people of Palestine and Western Sahara.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We are fully committed to the articles of the United Nations Charter, including the principle that all members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Most recently, we participated in the African initiative to seek peace in the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Through this African Peace Initiative our country continues to be involved in processes to ensure that children who were removed from their homes in Ukraine are returned to their families and that prisoners of war are exchanged.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We continue to be involved in the talks regarding the reopening of the Black Sea to facilitate the flow of grain.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We firmly believe that dialogue, mediation and diplomacy is the only viable path to end the current conflict and achieve a durable peace.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We support the principle of respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states and peoples.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In the midst of the grave challenges facing humanity, we are determined that a reformed and representative United Nations must be at the centre of global affairs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Our support for the United Nations exists alongside our firm belief that this premier multilateral institution needs genuine reform to make it more democratic, representative and efficient.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The United Nations Security Council must be transformed into a more inclusive, more effective body that is able to ensure peace and security.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          South Africa, as a member of the community of nations, will continue to play a constructive role in world affairs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In 2025, South Africa will assume the presidency of the G20 group of nations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This will be the first time that G20 meetings will be hosted in Africa.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The G20 Summit in 2025 will be an opportunity for South Africa to take a lead on critical challenges facing the global community.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          South Africa's approach to foreign relations is to seek increased collaboration, to secure greater trade opportunities and increased investment, and to work closely with partners across the globe to entrench peace and democracy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          As we continue to define our place in the world, as we advance the needs of our people, we will continue to mobilise all our moral, political and economic strength on the side of peace and development for all of humanity.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We will continue our efforts to give effect to the call of the Freedom Charter that "There shall be peace and friendship".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          As the week begins tomorrow, the streets of our country will be hubs of activity as visitors from various countries will be our guests.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Let us welcome them and give them the warmth and hospitality that we are known for.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A number of them may choose to stay for a few days beyond the summit to visit the various beautiful parts of our country.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I call on all of us to show them the very best of South African Ubuntu.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I thank you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        World of Work
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        SOCIAL POLICY, TRADE UNIONS, ACTIONS
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Factbox: Key Facts About the BRICS 2023 Summit (Информационный блок: основные факты о саммите БРИКС 2023 г.) / the UK, August, 2023
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Keywords: summit
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The UK

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Factbox: Key Facts About the BRICS 2023 Summit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The BRICS group of major emerging economies - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - will hold its 15th heads of state and government summit in Johannesburg this month.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Here are some key facts about the summit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        WHERE AND WHEN IS THE SUMMIT?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        South Africa will host the summit from Aug. 22-24 at the city's Sandton Convention Centre, after the country took up the one-year rotating chairmanship of the BRICS group in January.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It will be the first in-person BRICS summit since the COVID-19 pandemic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        WHO WILL ATTEND?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, President Xi Jinping of China, Brazil's President Luiz Lula da Silva and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are expected to attend the summit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend in person due to a warrant for his arrest issued by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Ukraine, something Moscow denies. Putin, who will be a virtual participant, will be represented in Johannesburg by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Invitations to attend the summit were also extended to 67 leaders across Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Caribbean, South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Twenty dignitaries including the secretary-general of the United Nations, the chairperson of the African Union Commission and the president of the New Development Bank have also been invited.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Business leaders are also expected to be in attendance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        WHAT IS THE KEY ISSUE TO BE DISCUSSED?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Perhaps the most important and controversial issue the leaders are expected to discuss is BRICS expansion by adding new members, including the admission criteria and guiding principles.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        But divisions among BRICS members over criteria for admitting new members may preclude any major announcements at the summit, as the bloc operates by consensus.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        China, seeking to boost its geopolitical might at a time of tensions with the United States, is the main driver of expansion. Russia is also embracing it as a way of overcoming isolation over the Ukraine war, and India is also coming around to the idea. Brazil is the most sceptical of enlargement.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        South Africa, the smallest in the bloc in terms of economic clout and population, was the first country to benefit from the its expansion ambitions when it officially attended the original BRIC members summit of 2011.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The BRICS group accounts for more than 40% of the world population and about 26% of the global economy and offers an alternative forum for countries outside diplomatic channels seen as dominated by traditional Western powers. Its influence and economic heft has more nations eager to join.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Twenty three countries have formally applied to become new BRICS members, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Indonesia, Egypt and Ethiopia.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Other issues on the agenda include discussions on global geopolitics, trade and infrastructure development.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Russia and Brazil: Developing Culture and Education (Россия и Бразилия: развитие культуры и образования) / Russia, August, 2023
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Keywords: expert_opinion, social_issues

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Russia and Brazil: Developing Culture and Education

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Tatiana Bokova, Intern of the Russian National Committee on BRICS Research – special for InfoBRICS

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Russia and Brazil are two nations whose economic power cannot be underestimated. Brazil is Russia's main trading partner in Latin America and the Caribbean, accounting for a third of trade between Moscow and the region. For example, mutual trade grew by 87 per cent in 2021, despite the Covid-19 challenge. Economic exchanges and cooperation between them have developed on the basis of mutual interest and respect for shared benefits and outcomes.In recent years, the bilateral relations between Russia and Brazil have witnessed significant growth and development, particularly in the fields of culture and education.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Culture, being an integral part of any society, plays a crucial role in shaping its identity and fostering mutual understanding. Russia and Brazil, with their rich and diverse cultural heritage, have recognized the importance of sharing their artistic traditions and promoting cultural dialogue. As a result, a number of initiatives have been launched to facilitate cultural exchanges and showcase the unique aspects of each nation's heritage. The diplomatic ties between Russia and Brazil have developed over time, fostering shared cultural exchanges that transcend geographical distances. Initiated in the mid-20th century, their mutual understanding and collaboration have grown through cultural programs and educational initiatives. Moreover, the late 20th century witnessed a surge in educational collaboration, with scholarships and academic partnerships facilitating the exchange of knowledge and expertise. Brazil's vibrant academic landscape and Russia's renowned institutions of higher learning provided fertile ground for cross-border academic pursuits. The "Science Without Borders" program, launched by Brazil, exemplified the countries' commitment to nurturing a new generation of globally conscious scholars and researchers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Cultural ties between Russia and Brazil are based on the Agreement on Cooperation in Culture and Education. During F. Cardoso's visit to Moscow in January 2002, a Programme of Exchanges in Culture, Education and Sport for 2002-2003 was signed. As the 21st century unfolds, Russia and Brazil have expanded their cooperative efforts in culture and education. Collaborative ventures now encompass joint research projects, language programs, and cultural festivals that celebrate the rich diversity of their societies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The contemporary landscape of cultural and educational collaboration between Russia and Brazil is marked by a dynamic array of projects, initiatives, and events that underscore their commitment to mutual enrichment and cooperation. These endeavors span diverse domains, from artistic expression to academic exchange, further cementing the bond between these geographically distant yet culturally interconnected nations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      From a cultural perspective, Russia and Brazil continue to engage in a vibrant exchange of cultural expressions through a range of festivals, exhibitions, and performances. For instance, the "Russia-Brazil Cultural Festival" serves as a prominent platform for showcasing each nation's artistic heritage. This biennial event brings together musicians, dancers, visual artists, and literary figures from both countries, fostering cross-cultural dialogue and celebrating their shared passion for creativity. In addition, a landmark joint project in this area is the first and only foreign Bolshoi Theatre School, operating since 2000 in the city of Joinville. The Brazilian Cultural Centre opened in Moscow in 2013, where lectures, concerts, seminars and other events are also regularly held.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Russia and Brazil are also partners in the field of sport. Both countries have been selected to host major sporting events (Olympic and Paralympic Games, FIFA World Cup). In this regard, in 2013, the two governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding and Cooperation in the field of management methods and legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. Joint scientific research expeditions are an emerging facet of Russia-Brazil cooperation. These ventures often focus on environmental conservation and sustainable development, using the expertise of both countries to address pressing global challenges. For example, research initiatives in the Amazon rainforest bring together Russian and Brazilian scientists to study biodiversity, ecosystems and indigenous knowledge, helping to conserve this vital natural resource.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In the field of education, Russia and Brazil also have many aspects that deserve our attention. Both countries offer a wide range of research and academic exchange opportunities for international students, with world-class universities and research institutes. International students can not only rely on these academic resources for study and research, but also participate in scientific conferences and projects, exchange and cooperate with international colleagues, obtain the best academic resources and research results, and expand their academic horizons and ideas. At the same time, participating in educational exchange activities between the two countries can also make sense of different educational ideas and methods, and provide more inspiration and guidance for future educational innovation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In addition, over the past few years, the first Russian-Brazilian school has been opened in the municipality of Belford-Roxo, near Rio de Janeiro. About seventy high school students have already begun studying various disciplines related to Russia. The Brazilian pupils will study the Russian language and familiarize themselves with the history, geography and culture of our country. Moreover, language exchange programs have gained prominence as well. Russian and Portuguese language courses are being offered in educational institutions in both countries, allowing students to learn each other's languages and facilitating better communication and cultural understanding. This language exchange not only strengthens ties between individuals but also opens doors for future economic and diplomatic cooperation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Despite their progress, both nations face unique challenges in their pursuit of cultural and educational development. Russia grapples with striking a balance between preserving its cultural heritage and embracing contemporary artistic expressions. Brazil, on the other hand, must address socioeconomic disparities that hinder access to quality education and cultural opportunities, particularly in remote and underserved areas. However, these challenges also present opportunities for collaboration and innovation. Cultural exchange programs between Russia and Brazil could facilitate the sharing of artistic insights, while joint educational ventures might address common issues such as environmental conservation and technological advancement.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The future holds promising horizons for the collaborative endeavors between Russia and Brazil in the realms of culture and education. The trajectory of their partnership points towards deeper engagement, innovation, and enduring mutual enrichment. As both nations continue to build upon their existing strengths and address potential challenges, several overarching prospects emerge.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      First, the ongoing cultural exchanges and collaborative projects between Russia and Brazil are poised to foster a heightened level of cross-cultural understanding. Through artistic expressions, literary exchanges, and shared festivals, citizens of both nations will gain insights into diverse worldviews and traditions, nurturing a sense of global interconnectedness and empathy. Second, the educational partnerships between Russia and Brazil are likely to yield synergistic advancements in academic fields. By combining their intellectual resources, both countries can drive innovation, explore new research frontiers, and develop solutions to pressing global challenges. Third, the collaborative initiatives in culture and education serve as potent instruments of soft power diplomacy for both nations. Russia and Brazil are poised to elevate their international standing by showcasing their rich cultural heritage and intellectual contributions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Consequently, the collaborative efforts between Russia and Brazil in culture and education hold the promise of forging enduring connections that transcend geographical distances. Through enhanced cross-cultural understanding, synergistic educational advancements, the soft power of cultural diplomacy, sustainable environmental stewardship, and the nurturing of global citizens, these two nations are poised to shape a future marked by mutual enrichment and harmonious collaboration. As they navigate the challenges and opportunities on this shared journey, Russia and Brazil stand as exemplars of the transformative potential of international cooperation in fostering cultural appreciation, academic excellence, and a collective vision for a more interconnected and enlightened world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Comprehensive reports, BRICS research materials
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2023 BRICS Joint Statistical Publication (Совместная статистическая публикация БРИКС за 2023 г.) / South Africa, February, 2023
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Keywords: off_docs, rating, research
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    South Africa

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  UBUNTU Magazine BRICS Special (Специальный выпуск журнала UBUNTU BRICS) / South Africa, August, 2023
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Keywords: off_docs, rating, research
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  South Africa

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