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BRICS welcomes new members in push to reshuffle world order

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JOHANNESBURG: The BRICS bloc of developing nations agreed on Thursday (Aug 24) to admit Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates in a move aimed at accelerating its push to reshuffle a world order it sees as outdated.

The group’s leaders left the door open to future enlargement, potentially paving the way for the admission of dozens more countries motivated by a desire to level a global playing field they consider rigged against them.

The expansion adds economic heft to BRICS, whose current members are China, the world’s second largest economy, as well as Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa. It could also amplify its declared ambition to become a champion of the Global South.

But long-standing tensions could linger between members who want to forge the grouping into a counterweight to the West – notably China and Russia – and those that continue to nurture close ties to the United States and Europe.

“This membership expansion is historic,” Chinese President Xi Jinping, the bloc’s most stalwart proponent of enlargement, said. “It shows the determination of BRICS countries for unity and cooperation with the broader developing countries.”

Originally an acronym coined by Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill in 2001, the bloc was founded as an informal four-nation club in 2009 and added South Africa a year later in its only previous expansion.

The six new candidates will formally become members on Jan 1, 2024, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said when he named the countries during a three-day leaders’ summit he is hosting in Johannesburg.

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