JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The BRICS group of major emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – is holding its 15th summit of heads of state and governments in Johannesburg from August 22-24.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in attendance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend in person due to an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Ukraine. Putin will attend the summit virtually and will be represented in Johannesburg by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Few details have emerged about what they plan to discuss, but here are some of the key issues expected to be on the agenda.
The leaders are distributed on the expansion of the block by adding new members, including the eligibility criteria.
According to South Africa, more than 40 countries including Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Indonesia, Egypt and Ethiopia have expressed interest in joining BRICS.
China, which is trying to expand its influence while wrestling with the United States over trade and geopolitics, supports the expansion of the BRICS, while Brazil is skeptical.
Russia, hoping to break its diplomatic isolation over the war in Ukraine, is eager to bring in new members, as is South Africa. India is undecided.
The group is also expected to discuss how to boost fundraising and local currency lending within the New Development Bank (NDB), or so-called BRICS bank. Using local currency will help mitigate the impact of exchange rate fluctuations, said South Africa’s Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana.
The dollar has gained against emerging market currencies since Russia invaded Ukraine and the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates in early 2022 to fight inflation, making servicing dollar debt more expensive for those countries.
While the NDB, which was established in 2015, is still looking at the possible use of alternative currencies, there will be no talk of a common BRICS currency at the summit, South Africa’s senior BRICS diplomat said.
The NDB is also expanding and the summit could become an important platform to attract more member states. Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have been members of the bank since 2021. Uruguay is halfway through the accession process, while Algeria, Honduras, Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia have expressed interest.
Leaders are also likely to discuss how to improve economic ties between their various economies.
They are expected to participate in a range of discussions on trade and investment opportunities in sectors ranging from energy cooperation and infrastructure development to digital economy and the labor market.
‘FRIENDS OF BRICS’
The last day of the summit is expected to be marked by talks with leaders from other countries. 67 leaders in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Caribbean were invited to attend the summit, South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said.
France had expressed interest in President Emmanuel Macron’s participation at the summit, but Russia opposed this due to French support for Ukraine against the Russian invasion. Macron was not invited.
Particular attention will also be paid to the relationship between BRICS and African countries to align with the theme of the “BRICS and Africa” summit, Pandor said, adding that BRICS partners were eager to explore opportunities to take advantage of the African continental free trade zone.
(Reporting by Anait Miridzhanian; editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, Tim Cocks and Nick Macfie)