Iran and Saudi Arabia among six new countries asked to join trading bloc to rival G7

By Isaac M August 25, 2023

A group of trading nations known as BRICS, which is hoping to rival the G7, is set to grow in size after inviting six new countries to join – including Iran and Saudi Arabia.

BRICS – which has, until now, comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – announced the proposed expansion at the group’s three-day summit in Johannesburg.

The bloc has invited Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates to join. They will be formally admitted on 1 January 2024.

BRICS, founded in 2009, hopes to champion ‘the global South’ and serve as a counterweight to the politically dominant G7 nations. The G7 consists of the UK, US, Canada, France, Italy, Japan and Germany.

BRICS officials have argued against concerns the bloc is developing an anti-West position under the influence of China and Russia.

Its five founding countries are home to 40% of the world’s population and responsible for more than 30% of global economic output.

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‘A new chapter for developing countries’

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told the summit: “BRICS has embarked on a new chapter in its effort to build a world that is fair, a world that is just, a world that is also inclusive and prosperous.”

“This membership expansion is historic,” China’s President Xi Jinping said following the announcement. “It shows the determination of BRICS countries for unity and cooperation with the broader developing countries.”

The expansion is BRICS’ first but looks unlikely to be the last, as the group says another 16 nations have also formally requested to join.

“We have consensus on the first phase of this expansion process and other phases will follow,” Ramaphosa said at a media briefing.

Four out of the five BRICS leaders are in Johannesburg for the annual summit.

Putin attacks West – remotely because of arrest risk

Vladimir Putin did not travel after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest for the abduction of children from Ukraine in March.

Russia has instead been represented in Johannesburg by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov while Putin delivered a 17-minute pre-recorded video address on Tuesday.

All eyes are currently on Russia amid the claim by authorities there that Wagner mercenary group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has been killed in a plane crash, but Putin has yet to acknowledge the reports.

Vladimir Putin attends a plenary session of the BRICS summit via a video link in Moscow, Russia
Pic:Sputnik/Reuters
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Putin has attended the summit’s meetings via video link. Pic: Sputnik/Reuters

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Vladimir Putin has spoken at the BRICS summit in South Africa via video link

In a second BRICS summit appearance via video, the president promised that Moscow will deepen its ties with African countries and be a reliable supplier of food and fuel – before taking aim at Western powers and ‘neo-liberalism’.

Putin also said Russian fuel supplies will aid African nations in keeping price rises to a minimum and said the global transition to a low carbon emission economy will have to be “gradual, balanced, carefully calibrated”.

He then claimed former colonial Western powers “seek to solve their problems at the expense of others, continuing to shamelessly siphon resources from developing countries”.

“They are trying to replace the system of international law with their own so-called ‘order’ based on rules that no one has seen,” he claimed.

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