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Brics nations agree for considering new members: S African minister

No new Brics bank members to be announced at summit, says CFO

BRICS

PM Narendra Modi with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Chinese President Xi Jinping, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov poses for a photo during 2023 BRICS Leaders Retreat (Photo: PTI)

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Leaders of the Brics bloc of leading developing nations - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - have agreed mechanisms for considering new members, South Africa’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Agreement on expansion paves the way for dozens of interested candidate nations to make their case for joining the grouping, which has pledged to become a champion of the developing “Global South”.

Enlarging Brics has topped the agenda at a summit taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa's commercial capital. While all Brics members had publicly expressed support for growing the bloc, there had been divisions among the leaders over how much and how quickly.

“We have agreed on the matter of expansion,” Naledi Pandor said on Ubuntu Radio, a station run by South Africa’s foreign ministry.

“We have a document that we’ve adopted which sets out guidelines and principles, processes for considering countries that wish to become members of Brics...That’s very positive.” Pandor said the bloc's leaders would make a more detailed announcement on expansion before the summit concludes on Thursday.

More than 40 countries have expressed interest in joining Brics, say South African officials, and 22 — Iran, Venezuela and Algeria among them — have formally asked to be admitted.

Earlier, China’s President Xi Jinping called for unity among his Brics counterparts at a summit in South Africa on Wednesday as he pushed the case for expanding the grouping to face a global “period of turbulence and transformation”.

Bloc heavyweight China has long pushed for expansion and views its deteriorating relations with Washington as well as heightened global tensions resulting from the Ukraine war as adding urgency to the enlargement project.

“The world is undergoing major shifts, division and regrouping ... it has entered a new period of turbulence and transformation,” Xi said.

“We, the Brics countries, should always bear in mind our founding purpose of strengthening ourselves through unity.” Brics group countries have economies that are vastly different in scale and governments that often seem to have few foreign policy goals in common, complicating decision-making.

Russia, isolated by the United States and Europe over its invasion of Ukraine, is also pushing to quickly grow Brics and forge it into a counterweight to the West.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who attended the summit vitually as he is wanted under an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes, sees Brics membership as a way of showing the West he still has friends.

Meanwhile, the New Development Bank of the Brics group of nations will not be announcing new members at the Brics Summit in South Africa this week, its Chief Financial Officer Leslie Maasdorp told Reuters on Wednesday. The bank, which was set up in 2015 to give Brics members Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa a greater say in financing infrastructure than in Western-led institutions like the World Bank, is keen to attract new members to boost its capital base after US sanctions on Russia hobbled its lending. 

“The process of ratifying new countries is happening at the discussion of the (Brics) leaders, which they are having without us as the bank,” Maasdorp told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the summit. 

“There will be no announcements this week,” he said, adding that it was “likely” there would be more new members applying this year, but that the timing was dependent on political processes in the countries that want to join.
S Africa joins space alliance with China 

South Africa will partner with China on space exploration as Beijing seeks to bolster its influence in the competition for lunar dominance against the US and its allies. Two agreements on official cooperation were signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to South Africa on Tuesday, the first tie-up of its kind between the nations, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. One covers human spaceflight and the other involves the International Lunar Research Station, a plan to build a base on the moon backed by China. Bloomberg

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First Published: Aug 23 2023 | 10:50 PM IST

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