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The five Brics nations have invited Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to join their emerging market group, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday.
The countries will join the Brics bloc made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa at the start of next year as the “first phase of the expansion process” for the forum, Ramaphosa said at the end of the summit of Brics leaders in Johannesburg.
“We value the interest of other countries in building a partnership with Brics” and other expansions will follow in the future after the core countries agree on criteria for membership, he added.
The first expansion of the Brics since South Africa joined in 2010 will represent a victory for China, which pushed for rapid expansion of the grouping before the summit in order to craft a bigger rival to the G7 of advanced economies.
The inclusion of Iran and Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer outside the US, among the first Middle Eastern Brics members also follows Beijing’s brokering of the normalisation of relations between Riyadh and Tehran this year.
India was more reluctant about expanding Brics, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi signalled his backing for new members on the basis of consensus on Wednesday.
The six new nations include some of New Delhi’s own strategic defence partners, such as the UAE and Egypt. “Adding new members will further strengthen Brics and give it a new impetus,” Modi said.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin welcomed the new members and called on the bloc to deepen its economic ties, including creating a common currency and new economic settlement mechanisms. “I want to assure all my colleagues that we will continue what we started — expanding Brics’ influence in the world,” Putin said, appearing via video link from the Kremlin.
The new members will increase the Brics share of global gross domestic product from 32 per cent to 37 per cent on a purchasing power parity basis, Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said.
“We respect the vision of the Brics leadership and appreciate the inclusion of the UAE as a member to this important group,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the UAE president, said after Ramaphosa’s announcement.
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s president, said his country looked forward to working with the Brics group to “achieve its goals toward strengthening economic cooperation among us and raise the voice of the Global South”. Ethiopia’s finance minister, Ahmed Shide, said the Brics group was a “very important platform”.
Brics leaders also tasked their finance ministers and central bank governors with measures to reduce their reliance on the US dollar in trade among their economies, to report back next year, Ramaphosa said.
“There is a global momentum for the use of local currencies, alternative financial arrangements, and alternative payments systems,” he said.
The commitment on greater use of local currencies fell short of anti-dollar rhetoric before the summit, such as Brazil’s Lula floating the idea of a Brics common currency as a unit of trade.
Additional reporting by Max Seddon in Riga, Heba Saleh in Cairo and Andres Schipani in Lima