BRICS summit: Leaders eye expansion, common currency

The BRICS leaders, from left: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Xi Jinping, Cyril Ramaphosa, Narendra Modi and Sergey Lavrov. [BRICS/Handout/AA/picture alliance]

The leaders of the BRICS countries have agreed on a roadmap for how to allow new states to join their group of up-and-coming economies, South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor told Ubuntu Radio - a station run by her own ministry.

"We have agreed on the matter of expansion," she said.

"We have a document that we've adopted which sets out guidelines and principles, processes for considering countries that wish to become members of BRICS...That's very positive," Pandor said.

She added that further details would be provided by the BRICS leaders by the end of the summit, currently taking place in Johannesburg.

Expansion of the bloc was one of the main topics on the agenda. More than 40 countries are interested in joining, with at least 22 - including Iran, Venezuela and Algeria — having already made formal requests to become members.

Brazil backs BRICS common currency

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva spoke in favor of setting up a new common currency to be used between the BRICS members instead of the US dollar.

"The decarbonization of our economies needs to be accompanied by dignified jobs, industrialization and green infrastructure and services for all," he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

He added that the BRICS New Development Bank in Shanghai, headed by former Brazilian president and ally of Lula, Dilma Rousseff, would be able to take on the challenge.

"The creation of a currency for transactions between the BRICS countries reduces our vulnerabilities," Lula said.

The Brazilian president didn't go into further detail on his proposal.

Lula calls for end to war in Ukraine

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called for a speedy end to the war in Ukraine on the second day of the BRICS summit in South Africa.

"We see it as a positive development, that a growing number of countries, including BRICS countries, are in direct contact with Moscow and Kyiv," Lula said.

"The BRICS countries will support efforts to end this conflict through dialogue, mediation and negotiations," he added, stressing the global consequences of the war which began with Russia's full-scale invasion in February last year.

Most BRIC members have shied away from fully condemning Russia's invasion, instead calling for both sides to agree to an end to the conflict.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not attending the summit in person due to an international arrest warrant being issued for him over alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

 Russia to host next BRICS summit

While the summit in Johannesburg is only about halfway through, Russian President Vladimir Putin has already looked forward to the next gathering.

"We plan to hold the next BRICS summit in October 2024 in the city of Kazan," he told the other BRICS leaders.

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi. [Reuters]

He announced that over 200 political, economic, and social events would be held under Russia's BRICS presidency in the coming year.

Russia had to attend this year's summit virtually as an international warrant is out for his arrest over alleged crimes in Ukraine.

All the other BRICS leaders attended this year's summit, which ends on Thursday, in person.

Modi calls for BRICS cooperation in space

During his speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed the creation of a BRICS satellite constellation, highlighting India's moon mission.

He spoke just hours before India's attempt to land a spacecraft on the moon's south pole.

Modi called on BRICS to create a "space exploration consortium."

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi gestures at the plenary session during the 2023 BRICS Summit in JohannesburgPrime Minister of India Narendra Modi gestures at the plenary session during the 2023 BRICS Summit in Johannesburg

Modi said BRICS countries could work together on space research and weather monitoringImage: Gianluigi Guercia/Reuters

The Indian leader was expected to watch live coverage of the moon landing from South Africa.

South Africa's Ramaphosa, who is hosting the summit, congratulated India, saying the moon landing would be a "momentous occasion for BRICS.

Xi calls for accelerating BRICS expansion

President Xi Jinping urged the BRICS group to accelerate their expansion efforts.

"We should let more countries join the BRICS family and pool wisdom to make global governance more fair and reasonable," Xi said in open remarks at the BRICS leaders summit.

President of China Xi Jinping looks on at the plenary session during the 2023 BRICS Summit in JohannesburgPresident of China Xi Jinping looks on at the plenary session during the 2023 BRICS Summit in Johannesburg

The Chinese leader emphasized that the summit in South Africa is taking place during global turbulence and change.

 He said BRICS should "bring to the world more certainty, stability, and positive energy," despite the "cold war mentality is still haunting our world."

Xi also urged BRICS countries to work closely together.

Ramaphosa says discussions on use of local currencies continue

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa said BRICS were increasingly concerned that the global financial and payments systems are "being used as instruments of geopolitical contestation."

"Global economic recovery relies on predictable global payment systems and the smooth operation of banking, supply chains, trade, tourism and financial flows," Ramaphosa said at the summit's open plenary session.

"We will continue discussions on practical measures to facilitate trade and investment flows through the increased use of local currencies," he said.

Reducing the global reliance on the US dollar is high on the agenda of the summit (see entry below), but no concrete agreement has so far been reached. 

Putin tells summit war in Ukraine 'unleashed' by the West

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he wanted to end the war that he said had been "unleashed by the West and its satellites" in Ukraine.

China President of China Xi Jinping. [Reuters]

The Russian president repeated old talking points, saying the war was a forced response to actions by Kyiv and the West.

"Russia decided to support people that fight for their culture, for their traditions, for their language, and for their future," he insisted.

Western nations and Ukraine have repeatedly rejected Putin's narrative.

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is the host of the summit, said BRICS believed the conflict was best brought to an end by negotiation.

Putin is not attending the meeting in Johannesburg in person as South Africa was compelled to arrest him on an International Criminal Court warrant over alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is leading his country's delegation.

Russia's war in Ukraine creeps into agenda

Russian President Vladmir Putin is not attending the meeting in Johannesburg in person as South Africa was compelled to arrest him on an International Criminal Court warrant over alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

He, however took multiple shots at the West, using a prerecorded speech that was aired on giant screens on Tuesday to rail at what he called "illegitimate sanctions" on his country

He also threatened to cut off Ukraine's grain exports permanently.

 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is leading his country's delegation to the BRICS summit in South Africa.

BRICS currency talks

While BRICS' political ambitions dominated coverage of the Johannesburg gathering, creating a common currency was also on the agenda.

During a leaders retreat on Tuesday night, they discussed reducing global reliance on the US dollar.

The dollar is the most commonly used currency in global business and has successfully overcome previous challenges to maintain its dominance.

No concrete proposals have emerged in the run-up to the summit.

The bloc, however, supports the increased use of members' national currencies for trade and the introduction of a common payment system in the long term.

Expansion tops BRICS agenda

Leaders of the BRICS countries are mulling over admitting new members to the bloc during a summit in Johannesburg, South Africa.

More than 20 nations have applied to join BRICS, according to South African officials.

They include countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates.

BRICS expansion a 'powerful global symbolism'

A major proponent of enlargement is Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"Whatever resistance there may be, BRICS, a positive and stable force for goodwill continue to grow," his Commerce Minister, Wang Wentao, said at the business forum.

"We will forge a stronger BRICS strategic partnership,... actively advance membership expansion," and "help make the international order more just and equitable."

Russia is also keen to expand membership, and South Africa's President Ramaphosa voiced support for the idea at the meeting with Xi.

On Monday, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra stated that India has a "positive intent and an open mind," but is cautious against hasty expansion.

Brazil is worried that the expansion of BRICS will reduce its influence. However, on Tuesday, Lula expressed his desire to see Argentina join the bloc.

BRICS leaders seek to counter Western dominance

The BRICS leaders summit officially kicks off Johannesburg, South Africa on Wednesday. But on the eve of the summit, leaders of the five-member group had already fired their first salvo.

Speaking at a business forum on Tuesday, they made it clear they want BRICS to be a counterweight to Western dominance of global institutions.

"Some country, obsessed with maintaining its hegemony, has gone out of its way to cripple the emerging markets and developing countries," China's President Xi Jinping said. "Whoever is developing fast becomes its target of containment."

He added that "the course of history will be shaped by the choices we make."

"We want to sit at the negotiating table on an equal footing with the European Union, the United States or any other country," Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said in a social media post on Tuesday.

Officials say more than 40 countries have shown interest in joining BRICS  from across the Global South, and 20 countries have already requested to join.

"It goes to show that the BRICS family is growing in its importance, in its stature and also in its influence in the world," South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

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