BRICS is an organization currently comprised of five countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The countries together account for more than 40% of the world’s population and 25% of the global economy.
Initiated by Russia in 2009, it is not a formal multi-lateral agreement such as the United Nations or World Bank. Instead, the heads of state and government convene annually and its focus is economic collaboration and increasing trade and development.
Recently BRICS decided to expand the coalition, inviting six new countries to join. The additional six will join in 2024 and includes Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Ethiopia, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates.
The block operates by consensus. More than 40 countries have expressed interest in joining. The countries want to lower their dependence on Wester trade and increase benefits in development finance and increased trade.
BRICS is also discussing the development of a new currency to be used for cross-border trade with its members. Foreign governments want to detach themselves from reliance on the U.S. dollar. Estimates are that currently 84.3% of cross-border trade use the U.S. dollar, compared to just 4.5% for the Chinese yuan.
The biggest achievement of the group is financial; the countries pooled $100 billion of foreign currency what can be lent to each other, and founded the New Development Bank that has approved more than $43 billion of loans – mainly for water, transportation, and infrastructure.
Should others join?
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
- Poll students: Can they define the current five countries in BRICS?
- What do they think the purpose is of the BRICS alliance?
- Show video about BRICS: https://www.reuters.com/world/what-is-brics-who-are-its-members-2023-08-21/
- Discuss with students the benefit of the new countries joining BRICS. What is the reason for the addition.
- Divide students into six teams. Have each team research one of the new BRICS countries in regards to population, trade, imports, exports, political structure, etc.
- Discuss the results and how the new countries joining BRICS might impact U.S. trade.
Source: Acharya, B. (21 August 2023). What is BRICS, which countries want to join and why? Reuters; Erlanger, S. Pierson, D., Chutel, L. (24 August 2023). Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt invited to join emerging nations group. New York Times.