DUBAI: Saudi state TV said on Tuesday that the kingdom has officially joined the BRICS bloc of countries.

The BRICS bloc that previously included Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa was set to double with Saudi Arabia joining the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Iran, and Ethiopia as new members.

Saudi Arabia’s entry comes amid geopolitical tensions between the US and China, and the expansion of China’s influence within the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister had earlier said the kingdom would study the details before the proposed Jan 1 joining date and take “the appropriate

decision”. Prince Faisal bin Farhan had said the BRICS group was “a beneficial and important channel” to strengthen economic cooperation.

Saudi state TV announces the kingdom has officially joined platform

The BRICS memberships of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Iran and Ethiopia officially took effect on Monday.

Despite continued strong ties with the US, Saudi Arabia has increasingly pursued its own path out of concern that Washington is less committed to the Gulf’s security than in the past.

China, Saudi Arabia’s biggest oil customer, has led calls for the BRICS to expand to become a counterweight to the West.

Global South

The expansion could amplify the group’s declared ambition to become a champion of the Global South, although Argentina signalled in November it would not take up an invitation to join.

The six countries were invited to join the group in August 2023 after the 15th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, CGTN reported.

BRICS, originally comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, with five new members — Egypt, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia — formally becoming full-fledged members of the bloc, contains more than 40 per cent of the world’s population and over 30pc of global gross domestic product.

The platform for cooperation among emerging markets and developing countries has received numerous membership requests in recent years.

“Expansion of the BRICS multilateral bloc to include Saudi Arabia and UAE augurs extremely well amid ongoing geopolitical and economic challenges confronting the world economy,” Ullas Rao, assistant professor of finance at Edinburgh Business School of Heriot-Watt University in Dubai, said.

“Both Saudi and the UAE as [among] the richest countries on per capita and home to the biggest sovereign wealth funds, create enormous growth opportunities through investments, trade and commerce.”

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2024

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