08/24/2023, 15.23
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BRICS is expanding. But their future will depend on the (frosty) relations between Xi and Modi

At Johannesburg summit Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates officially invited to join as member countries from Jan. 1, 2024. "Willing to explore opportunities" on the use of local currencies as an alternative to the dollar. Beyond the "photo opportunity" problems of distancing between Beijing and New Delhi persist.

Johannesburg (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The BRICS - the international forum that brings together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - will expand to six other countries, welcoming as early as January 1, 2024 Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. While 17 other countries - from Turkey to Indonesia, via Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Thailand and Venezuela - have already applied to join.

Xi Jinping left the three-day summit that closed today in Johannesburg with the result he wanted: the consecration of the BRICS as a point of reference for the so-called "global South", as opposed to the G7 in Washington and its allies.

This is the first enlargement since 2010, when South Africa was immediately added to the initial nucleus of "emerging economies" - Brazil, Russia, India and China. And it will include together Saudi Arabia and Iran (in the sign of the fragile Chinese pax), the United Arab Emirates (the other Gulf power) and then Argentina, Egypt and Ethiopia, that is, three large countries in Africa and Latin America.

In the new arrangement the BRICS (or whatever they will be called in the new arrangement) will include 6 of the 10 major oil producers. And as of today they boast of representing 47% of the world's population and 36% of global GDP (which they obviously do not realize by trading only with each other).

It will also have to be verified, then, whether in practice all six new members will join on 1 January 2024: from Saudi Arabia, for example, Prince Faisal commented today that he 'appreciates' the invitation, but to wait for details 'on the nature of participation' in the BRICS. On this basis,' he added, Riyadh will make its own decisions after "internal deliberations".

While enlargement is undoubtedly a political success for Xi Jinping - who aims to accredit China as a "multipolar" point of reference for the new global balance, as an alternative to the United States -  question marks remain about the real political weight of these forums multilateral, beyond the great impact of their "photo opportunities". Exactly as for the G7 summits - in fact - the concrete results of these meetings remain well below the high-sounding declarations of the leaders.

Johannesburg was signalled as a concrete example of the often discussed ambition to create an alternative currency to the dollar for international transactions. In an attempt to lean on symbolism, great emphasis was given to the fact that all five current BRICS members have a currency whose name begins with the letter R (real, ruble, rupee, renminbi and rand).

On the other hand, leaving aside the weakness on the financial markets that some of these currencies in particular are experiencing in this economic phase, first of all Beijing. In the end, therefore, it is not surprising that the official declaration of Johannesburg II is much more cautious on de-dollarization.

The leaders of the "emerging economies" do not go beyond a generic willingness "to explore the opportunities of using local currencies", delegating the task of discussing the idea and reporting to the next summit to finance ministers and central bank governors . A first step, therefore, but without any real decision in this regard.

What raises even more doubts about the real compactness of the BRICS is the unresolved knot in the relationship between China and India. As already happened last year in Samarkand at the SCO summit, not even in South Africa did any bilateral summit take place between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The only sign of relaxation were some words exchanged while they were filmed by the cameras before the final press conference of the summit. Definitely little for two countries that have returned to loggerheads over the tension on the border area of Ladakh, which also resulted in armed clashes in the Himalayan mountains three years ago.

Distances in the positions of New Delhi and Washington was also clearly visible: India is far from insensitive to American initiatives to contain the expansion of Chinese influence in the Asia-Pacific.

At the same time as the BRICS it also participates in the QUAD, the strategic dialogue on security wanted by Shinzo Abe, which brings together Japan, the United States, Australia and - precisely - India. In recent months it has also appeared in a very hot area such as the Pacific islands, in a clear competitive move against Beijing.

Thus, the BRICS are expanding. But beyond the facade declarations, the contradictions within them also grow. Which with the entry of countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will only increase, risking re-proposing on another scale the same cross vetoes that paralyze all the major global arenas on the most burning issues today.


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