By Sinem Cengiz*
At a time when organizations involved in global and regional cooperation seem to have lost momentum in their efforts to find tangible solutions to the conflicts, poverty, climate emergencies and food crises facing many countries around the world, BRICS seek to expand and introduce alternative global governance. At the same time, his attempts are seen as a challenge to the existing world order.
The BRICS are a heterogeneous organization made up of five major emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Created in 2006 by the first four countries, it was called BRIC until the accession of South Africa in 2010. The members organize summits each year and host them in turn; This year’s gathering took place in Beijing and the 2023 summit is expected to take place in South Africa.
Member countries, which collectively represent approximately 27% of the world’s geographic area and are home to 42% of the world’s population, share important structural characteristics, such as rapidly growing economies, substantial military capabilities and growing political influence in institutions. of global governance.
According to the International Monetary Fund, China represents more than 70% of the group’s economy, India around 13%, Russia and Brazil around 7% each and South Africa 3%.
Lately, the BRICS have again attracted media attention after the chairman of the organization’s International Forum, Purnima Anand, revealed that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt are planning to approach the BRICS over official membership. His statement came shortly after Russia announced that Argentina and Iran had started the preparatory process to join the BRICS. The apps are the first expansionary move since South Africa joined more than a decade ago.
“All these countries have shown interest in joining and are preparing to apply,” Anand told Russian media. “I think it’s a good step because expansion is always looked upon favorably; this will certainly strengthen the global influence of the BRICS.
She added that while Riyadh, Ankara and Cairo have “already embarked on the (BRICS membership) process”, she doubted all three would join simultaneously.
At the 14th BRICS leaders’ meeting in Beijing in late June, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the acceleration of the organization’s expansion process. In May this year, the Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria, Senegal, United Arab Emirates, Thailand and other invited countries attended a meeting of BRICS foreign ministers for the first time.
In 2018, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a guest at the 10th BRICS summit in Johannesburg, where he said, “I wish they (BRICS members) would take the necessary steps for us (Turkey ) come in and we could take our place in the BRICS. He noted that Turkey sees the summit as an opportunity to develop economic, investment and development cooperation, and that his country also aims to strengthen cooperation with BRICS countries in the field of energy. Erdogan also raised Turkey’s possible membership application during talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Taken together, all of these developments indicate that the BRICS may be undergoing a process of expansion, but it may not happen overnight.
The international media are interested in this possible trend. The US magazine Newsweek, for example, said that while “NATO‘s biggest expansion in decades” was taking place, “Beijing and Moscow were looking to welcome new members” into their own blocs and the BRICS were mentioned.
The impetus for BRICS expansion has grown amid the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, heightened competition between China and the United States, and growing confrontation intense between East and West.
Both East and West aim to consolidate their camps by expanding their networks of friends and partners. BRICS members aim to recruit “node” countries that occupy key strategic locations and growing economies. It is therefore not surprising that there is interest in bringing Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia into the camp.
There is some debate about the potential contributions of these three countries, which have a combined population of around 220 million, to the BRICS if they become permanent members. Much of the discussion focused on material incentives, such as a variety of economic benefits, reduced dependence on other nations, and multifaceted foreign policy options.
Of the three, Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s largest exporters of crude oil, holding 15% of the world’s oil reserves and a founding member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Meanwhile, Russia is a member of OPEC+. This is a larger group that includes the 13 members of OPEC plus 10 other oil-producing nations, the latter led by Russia.
Egypt, the largest of the three potential BRICS members in terms of population (about 102 million), is also a major oil producer and exporter.
Turkey, which has more than 85 million inhabitants, is a member of NATO and thus occupies a unique position in the confrontation between East and West.
Over the past decade, the trend of Turkish, Egyptian and Saudi relations with Russia, China and India has been positive and they are increasingly closely linked in terms of trade and defence. The volume of trade between the two camps has increased significantly.
Although traditionally Western allies, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are actively seeking alternative partners. In part, their tilt toward China, Russia, and India is the result of the evolving role and position of the United States in the region and the resulting shifts in relations with Washington.
BRICS membership could bring them political and economic benefits, but it remains to be seen how the expansion process will actually unfold.
- Sinem Cengiz is a Turkish political analyst specializing in Turkey’s relations with the Middle East. Twitter: @SinemCngz