Oil powers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been invited to join the BRICS group of developing nations in their first expansion in more than a decade.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said, Thursday, during the conclusion of the group’s annual summit in Johannesburg, that next year the member states of the group will also join Iran, Egypt, Ethiopia and Argentina.
All invited countries have already expressed interest in joining.
“The membership will come into effect from January 1, 2024,” Ramaphosa said.
The group currently includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
In a video message, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated the new BRICS members, adding that the bloc’s global influence would continue to grow.
“I would like to congratulate the new members, who will work on a large scale next year,” Putin said.
“And I would like to assure all our colleagues that we will continue the work that we started today on expanding the influence of BRICS in the world. (By this) I mean to establish practical work with the new members and with those who will work in communication with our BRICS partners and want to work with us,” the Russian president added.
Putin also said that the issue of a common currency for the BRICS countries is a “difficult issue” but added that “we will move towards solving these problems.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping described the bloc’s expansion as “historic,” which reflects its size Determined to “unite and cooperate with developing countries”.
“(It will) inject new impetus into the BRICS cooperation mechanism and enhance the strength of world peace and development,” said Jinping.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also welcomed the expansion, saying his country has always believed that adding new members would strengthen the bloc.
The announcement places Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude oil exporter, in the same economic bloc with China, the world’s largest oil importer.
It also means that Russia and Saudi Arabia – both members of OPEC +, a group of major oil producers – will join each other in a new economic bloc. The two countries often coordinate their oil production, which in the past has put Saudi Arabia at odds with its ally the United States.
The expansion of the bloc raises the issue of the possibility of canceling the dollar. It is a process through which members gradually switch to using currencies other than the US dollar to conduct trade. However, analysts said a BRICS Currency “Unlikely” In the near future.
The expansion also occurs at a time when some members of the BRICS grouping, namely Russia and China, are experiencing increasing tensions with the West.
Experts said choosing to include countries that are openly hostile to the West, such as Iran, could push the group further into an anti-Western bloc.
Building on a term originally coined by former Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill to describe major emerging markets, the group has survived despite the profound differences in political and economic systems among its members.
“Economically, not a lot of the countries applying are particularly big,” O’Neill told Bloomberg earlier this week.
He added that the current BRICS members “have had enough difficulty trying to agree just between the five countries”. “So, outside of the very strong symbolism, I’m not entirely sure what it would accomplish by having more countries there.”
BRICS held its first summit in 2009 with four members and then added South Africa the following year. The New Development Bank was launched in 2015.
“We appreciate the UAE’s inclusion as a member of this important group,” UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said on X, previously Twitter.
— Manfina Suri, Mustafa Salem, Lizzy Ye, Mingchen Zhang, and Nadine Ibrahim contributed to this article.