Oil superpowers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been invited to join the BRICS group of developing nations in its first expansion in more than a decade.
Iran, Egypt, Ethiopia and Argentina have also been invited, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Thursday as he wrapped up the group’s annual summit in Johannesburg.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the kingdom was awaiting details on the nature of BRICS membership and would take an “appropriate decision” accordingly.
All six Invited countries had already expressed interest in joining. BRICS currently consists of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
“This membership will come into effect from January 1, 2024,” Ramaphosa said.
In a video message, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated the new BRICS members and said the group’s global influence would continue to grow.
“I would like to congratulate the new members who will serve in full-fledged form next year,” Putin said.
“I would like to assure all our colleagues that we will continue the work started today to expand the influence of the BRICS organization in the world,” the Russian president added.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called the expansion of the camp “historic”. Committed to “unite and cooperate with developing countries”.
“[It will] Inject new impetus into the BRICS cooperation mechanism and further strengthen the power of world peace and development,” said Xi Jinping.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also welcomed the expansion, saying his country always hoped that adding new members would strengthen the alliance.
Speaking to Saudi Arabian television channel Al Arabiya, the Saudi foreign minister said it has “proved itself to be an effective and important channel to strengthen economic cooperation with the so-called Global South.”
Bin Farhan said at the BRICS summit earlier Thursday Total bilateral trade between Saudi Arabia and the BRICS countries is expected to exceed $160 billion by 2022.
If Saudi Arabia accepts the invitation, the world’s largest crude oil exporter will find itself in the same economic bloc as the world’s largest oil importer, China.
It would also mean that Russia and Saudi Arabia – two members of OPEC+, a group of major oil producers – would join each other in a new economic bloc. The two countries often coordinate their oil production, which has put Saudi Arabia at odds with its ally the United States in the past.
The expansion of the volume raises the question of possible demonetisation, A process whereby members gradually transition to using currencies other than the US dollar to conduct trade. The BRICS countries are also talking about a common currency, an idea analysts say is unworkable and “Impossible” In the near future.
Putin said the issue of a common currency was a difficult question, but added that “we will move to resolve these issues.”
The expansion comes at a time when some BRICS members, namely Russia and China, are embroiled in rising tensions with the West.
Choosing to include countries that are openly hostile to the West, such as Iran, could further push the group to become an anti-Western bloc, experts said.
A term originally coined by former Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill to describe major emerging markets, the group has endured despite deep differences in political and economic systems among its members.
“Economically, many of the countries applying to join are not particularly large,” O’Neill told Bloomberg earlier this week.
He added that existing BRICS members “have enough difficulty agreeing between the five of them.” “So I don’t know what a lot of other countries are going to accomplish there, beyond the admittedly hugely powerful sign.”
BRICS held its first summit in 2009 with four members and then added South Africa the following year. It launched its New Development Bank in 2015.
UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan X, earlier said on Twitter: “We appreciate the inclusion of the UAE as a member of this important group.”
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said his country looked forward to joining BRICS to strengthen economic cooperation among its members, as well as “raise the voice of the global South,” according to the president’s spokesman.
— Manveena Suri, Mustafa Salem, Lizzie Yee, Mengchen Zhang and Nadine Ibrahim contributed to this article.