The fourteenth BRICS Summit — under the theme “Fostering a high-quality BRICS partnership; ushering in a new era for global development” — was held on June 23 and 24. The XIV BRICS Summit Beijing Declaration was adopted and released. The declaration states: “We support promoting discussions among BRICS members on the BRICS expansion process. We stress the need to clarify the guiding principles, standards, criteria and procedures for this expansion process through the Sherpa channel on the basis of full consultation and consensus.”
This means the process of BRICS membership expansion has officially begun. The membership expansion would be a milestone in the history of BRICS development.
First, BRICS membership expansion complies with the trend of history and conforms to the wishes of many newly emerging markets and developing countries. The rise of emerging markets and developing countries is an inevitable new development of global economic growth in the new era. As their representatives, the current BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have been playing an important role in global economic development and have demonstrated vigor and vitality. BRICS countries have a combined population of more than 3.1 billion and account for more than 40 percent of the global total. Their GDP has grown remarkably in the last 19 years, with their share of global GDP rising from 8 percent in 2001 to 23.2 percent in 2019.
In recent years, many officials and scholars from other newly emerging markets and developing countries have expressed their strong desire to join the BRICS group. According to news reports, those countries include Argentina, Egypt, Thailand, Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Senegal, the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan and others. Therefore, it is high time for the BRICS to get some new members in the family, given the current world situation, to further expand South-South cooperation and exchanges.
Second, 16 years of effort have laid a good foundation for the growth of BRICS and prepared the way for the admittance of new members. Since the meeting of four foreign ministers (from Brazil, Russia, India and China) on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in 2006, BRICS has made remarkable progress in both mechanism building and expansion of cooperation. South Africa joined BRICS in 2011, and leaders of the five member states have met regularly ever since. After the first meeting of leaders in 2009, 13 leadership meetings, plus nine informal meetings, have been held. The annual meeting of five senior representatives for security affairs has become a regular part of the mechanism.
Areas of cooperation and exchange have been extended to the sectors of economy, trade, security, finance, science, technology, agriculture, culture, education, sister city relations and people-to-people exchanges. To cement the BRICS financial safety net and firewall, the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement have been established. With such large and rich platforms, a larger family of emerging markets and developing countries not only helps members effectively deal with various new challenges for their own new development by learning from each other but also provides favorable conditions for them to play more important roles in global economic growth, global governance and promoting the democratization of international relations.
Third, the BRICS group has been entrusted with a lofty and arduous missions by history, and old and new members alike must make every effort to fulfill them. According to economist Jim Oneill, who first used the term BRIC as a concept for investment economics more than 20 years ago, Brazil, Russia, India and China, working together, would lead the world economy by 2050 or sooner.
Although predictions are often difficult to prove, global development over the last 20 years or more reveals that emerging markets and developing countries on the whole have shown sound, rapid growth, narrowing their gap with developed countries.
Roughly speaking, BRICS has three main missions to fulfill now and in the near future.
First, it needs to consolidate and expand traditional trade and exchanges in the macro economy, culture and finance, so as to promote high-quality partnerships.
Second, BRICS —including possible new members — must work to effectively deal with current challenges. BRICS members are very different in their domestic situations, but they could develop a unified force to resolve certain common difficulties by exploiting each other’s advantages. A lot needs to be done to repair disrupted global industrial and supply chains, to suppress the COVID-19 pandemic and to promote the recovery of the slowing global economy.
Third, BRICS members, old and new, need to display greater courage and boldness to promote industrial innovation, take the initiative for cooperation on digitalization of manufacturing and make more efforts to implement the Digital Economy Partnership Framework as worked out at the Beijing Summit.
BRICS is not an alliance, but its members have embraced a spirit of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation. Therefore they are partners. Obviously, there is no need for anyone to worry about its growth. When BRICS becomes stronger, it will provide other countries with bigger markets and make more contributions to the green, high-quality and sustainable development of the global economy.