World politics: Quick View – BRICS unlikely to result in major breakthroughs

Content Type
Country Data and Maps
Institution
Economist Intelligence Unit
Abstract
No abstract is available.
Topic
International Relations, Politics, News Analysis, Forecast
Political Geography
Russia, China, India, Tajikistan, South Africa, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, Thailand, Guinea

Event

On September 3rd the heads of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa met for the ninth BRICS summit in the Chinese city of Xiamen.

Analysis

The BRICS grouping includes economies that will eventually comprise the majority of the global economy. China has invited five observer countries-Thailand, Mexico, Egypt, Guinea and Tajikistan-to join the group this year and take part in discussion of an expansion of BRICS, dubbed "BRICS Plus". The theme of this year's summit is expected to push back against global trade barriers: the attendance of Mexico, which is facing US calls to revise or scrap the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA), reflects these wider interests, while the opening remarks of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, called for a rejection of global protectionism.

Free trade and free flows of capital have enabled the five BRICS economies to advance to where they are today, and each would suffer from decisions by Western powers to turn their back on global development. However, disparate national interests among BRICS members themselves have made progress unwieldy; indeed, aside from the establishment of the New Development Bank in Shanghai in 2015, little has been done by way of promoting concrete commercial or trade links between member nations. The long-term rivalry between China and India, exacerbated by recent border tensions, has also raised questions on future cohesiveness-particularly as India largely opposes the Chinese-backed "BRICS Plus" expansion, which it sees as unreasonably strengthening China's position.

The future relevancy of the group will also need to contend with an increasingly assertive China, which in recent years has worked outside of BRICS to pursue its own objectives. China's strong promotion of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), its own geopolitical and economic strategy for the region, has largely overshadowed BRICS. China is likely to continue diverting political and economic resources away from BRICS, particularly as the end of the commodity boom weakens the economic clout of BRICS members and political differences obstruct greater bloc unity.

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