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15th BRICS Summit 2023

The 15th BRICS Summit, held in Johannesburg from August 22 to 24, marked a significant moment in the collaborative efforts of major developing economies. BRICS, a group comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, gathered in person for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, along with participation of more than 50 other countries. Collectively, BRICS represent over 40 per cent of the global population and approximately 25 per cent of the world’s economy.


Following South Africa’s assumption of the one-year rotating chairmanship in January, the Summit was hosted by South Africa and centred around the theme “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism”. On the agenda were issues including strengthening BRICS cooperation, the bloc’s expansion and local currencies. Notably, the summit achieved the successful adoption of the Johannesburg II Declaration, a comprehensive document capturing shared views of BRICS members regarding global economic, financial, and political issues of importance.


A major development from the summit was the expansion of the bloc’s membership with the addition of six new members – Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – to join from January 1, 2024. Their inclusion in the group strengthens the group’s representativeness and influence, expected to better promote the interests of not just the 11 members but also the developing nations of the Global South. This expansion follows a consensus reached among the five existing member countries who have agreed upon guiding principles, standards, and criteria for the expansion process.


During the summit, BRICS countries emphasised the importance of using local currencies for international trade and financial transactions among themselves and their trading partners. This commitment was highlighted in the Johannesburg II Declaration, where they encouraged the strengthening of banking networks and settlements in local currencies. BRICS finance ministers and central bank governors have been tasked with investigating the potential use of local currencies, aiming to address the needs of emerging markets and promote economic growth, sustainable development, and multilateral system reform. The goal is to reduce the dominance of the US dollar in international financial markets in order to facilitate trade between emerging economies using domestic currencies.


BRICS have also expanded their fields of cooperation beyond trade, infrastructure and transportation, collaborating in finance, technology, culture, environmental protection, security, and global governance, resulting in deeper ties. BRICS countries are focusing on digital economy, green development, and supply chains as well as economic, trade and financial exchanges. China will establish a China-BRICS Science and Innovation Incubation Park for innovation deployment and aims to collaborate with other members to develop artificial intelligence frameworks and sharing satellite mapping data for agriculture and disaster preparedness.


The economic significance of BRICS was highlighted by its members' expanding trade and investment ties, serving as a major engine of global growth. It is estimated BRICS will be responsible for approximately 32 per cent of global economic growth in 2023. China's trade with other BRICS member economies increased from USD 282.8 billion in 2011 to USD 550 billion in 2022, showing remarkable growth. In the first seven months of 2023, China's trade with these countries continued to rise, with a value of RMB 2.4 trillion (USD 325.7 billion), up 19.1 per cent year-on-year. Chinese exports to BRICS members grew by 23.9 per cent to RMB 1.2 trillion, with imports rising 14.3 per cent to RMB 1.1 trillion in the initial seven months. Machinery and electronic products dominated China's exports to other BRICS members, while energy and agricultural products were major imports.


The 15th BRICS Summit served as a platform for diverse discussions, from deepening cooperation to the expansion of the group and increasing trade in local currencies. The inclusion of new members and the emphasis on economic growth and multilateral cooperation reinforce the Global South's united efforts to reshape international relations and foster inclusive development.


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