Brazil’s President Michel Temer, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma. Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
For years, Western newspapers have depicted the BRICS grouping – comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – as either nonsensical or threatening. Indeed, after Brazil and Russia entered recession and growth in China slowed in recent years, Washington-based observers predicted the initiative’s imminent demise.
Well, they’re wrong. This past weekend, national leaders gathered in Goa for the 8th BRICS Summit, showing that BRICS countries have not only continue to exist as a bloc but are, in fact, strengthening their cooperation.
The group has begun to institutionalise, holding regular ministerial meetings in areas such as education, health and national security. And there are frequent encounters between BRICS presidents and foreign ministers.
Perhaps most notable is the creation of the BRICS-led New Development Bank, headquartered in Shanghai, and the contingent reserve agreement, which creates a safety net for times of financial crisis. It will automatically provide liquidity for any member country facing financial distress.
Some had suggested that the political shift in Brazil – from the centre-left Workers’ Party to the centre-right administration of Michel Temer, following the impeachment Dilma Rousseff – would reduce the country’s commitment to the BRICS coalition. But Temer has spoken of the grouping in favourable terms, and travelled to Asia twice in the first months of his mandate.
Putting political differences aside, the BRICS bloc is joining together to work on policy. During the recent meeting in Goa, leaders decided to move ahead with the creation of a BRICS-led rating agency, based on the notion that the existing institutions – Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch – unfairly favour Western countries and companies.
Improving the sanitation and environmental security of informal urban settlements is a shared challenge for BRICS nations. Jitendra Prakash/Reuters
There are four key aspects to keep in mind when considering the future of the BRICS coalition.
First, while lower growth in China currently dominates headlines, it would be a mistake to believe that the global shift to emerging powers was temporary. As Jim O'Neill, who coined the term BRIC back in 2001 (South Africa was added in 2010), recently pointed out: