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Global Times

BRICS foreign ministers meet with expansion in focus; group eyes cooperation, not confrontation

Global Times

By Wang Cong and Liu Xin Published: Jun 01, 2023 10:22 PM

Foreign ministers from the BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - kicked off a meeting on Thursday in Cape Town, South Africa, where they are expected to discuss a wide range of issues, including preparation for the upcoming leaders' summit, a potential expansion of the group as well as trade and economic issues.

The two-day meeting has attracted widespread global attention, as the group's international profile, particularly its attractiveness to other developing countries, is rising rapidly, amid the US-led West's reckless abuse of its economic dominance at the expense of the developing world. Recently, many countries have publicly expressed a desire to join the BRICS group.

However, contrary to the Cold War mentality hyped by Western media that says BRICS countries are seeking to "counter" the US-led West, the group is actually striving to build a platform for cooperation among emerging markets and developing countries, improve global governance and ultimately build a global community of shared future, Chinese experts noted.

The foreign ministers' meeting started on Thursday and was chaired by Naledi Pandor, South Africa's minister of international relations and cooperation. Pandor will continue with the policy of inclusive engagement by inviting 15 foreign ministers from Africa and the Global South to a "Friends of BRICS" meeting to be held on Friday, South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation said in a statement dated May 18.

According to media reports, foreign ministers of Brazil, Russia and India were in Cape Town for the meeting. A vice minister represented China, according to Reuters. As of press time on Thursday, Chinese officials have not announced representation at the meeting.

"The BRICS foreign ministers' meeting is a relatively comprehensive meeting among all the ministerial meetings. It will involve political, security, economy and trade, finance, cultural exchanges and other issues," Zhu Tianxiang, director at the Institute of Foreign Relations of the BRICS Research Institute of Sichuan International Studies University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

One of the top topics for the meeting is preparations for the leaders' summit scheduled for August in Johannesburg, South Africa. Other hot topics also include the Russia-Ukraine conflict, plans to reduce or even cut reliance on the US dollar as well as plans for expansion, according to Zhu.

Even before the meeting started, Western media had sought to hijack it by hyping topics related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Many Western media outlets have been hyping the question of whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the leaders' summit in person and how South Africa will handle the "arrest warrant" issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Russia has dismissed the ICC's accusations as "null and void" and charged an ICC prosecutor and judge over the "arrest warrant," according to Russia Today. On Tuesday, South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation issued a notice in the government gazette on Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges for the upcoming BRICS Foreign Ministers meeting in Cape Town and BRICS Summit to be held in Johannesburg in August, which has been interpreted by foreign media as paving the way for Putin's attendance.

As an important force that seeks to safeguard world peace and security, it is crucial for BRICS countries to discuss the Russia-Ukraine conflict and form a broad direction for resolving it through political and diplomatic means, Zhu said, noting that various BRICS countries have been working to promote political and diplomatic resolutions.

Cooperation over confrontation

Despite Western media's hyping of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the BRICS meeting will focus more on intra-group cooperation on a wide range of areas, including trade, currency and potential acceptance of new members.

"The BRICS cooperation mechanism is an international cooperation mechanism with the theme of development, and it is not a so-called military or political alliance against Western developed countries," Feng Xingke, secretary-general of the World Financial Forum and director of the Center for BRICS and Global Governance, told the Global Times on Thursday. "Since development is the theme, we must hold high the banner of cooperation instead of confrontation."

The topic of expansion has drawn particular attention, as an increasing number of countries have applied to join or expressed interest in doing so, including Venezuela, Argentina, Iran, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Asked about the BRICS' potential expansion at a routine press conference on Thursday, Mao Ning, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that "China has always maintained that BRICS is an open and inclusive mechanism. We support the expansion of BRICS and welcome more like-minded partners to join the BRICS family at an early date."

Officials from other BRICS countries, including Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, also recently expressed support for the group to be expanded.

Underscoring the expansion of BRICS, the New Development Bank (NDB), also known as the "BRICS bank," has been expanding steadily, with Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Uruguay having joined. Saudi Arabia is also reportedly in talks to join the NDB.

"Amid new challenges, development is the top priority for emerging market economies and developing countries, and development is the unchanging theme of the BRICS cooperation mechanism, which is why BRICS is so attractive to emerging markets and developing countries," Feng said.

Another factor boosting the attractiveness of BRICS among developing countries is the US' increased abuse of its dollar hegemony at the expense of many developing nations, analysts noted. The US' irresponsible domestic economic policies and relentless sanctions on other countries have also caused massive damage to many developing countries, they added.

"I think [BRICS foreign ministers] will focus on discussions on how BRICS countries can reduce, or even gradually rid themselves of dependence on the US dollar," Zhu said. He said foreign ministers will likely discuss specific rules and procedures for accepting new members.

Amid the growing interest from emerging markets and developing countries in joining BRICS as well as the rising trend of de-dollarization, Western media outlets have been painting the group as a "counterweight" to the US-led West.

Such claims show the US and some other Western countries are anxious about the growing influence of BRICS; however, they are biased and completely wrong about the group's aspirations, experts noted.

BRICS countries are representatives of the Global South and the leaders of emerging market economies and developing countries... but we never said that we would set up a bloc to compete with or confront the West. People who hype these views up are shortsighted about BRICS," Zhu said, "we ultimately want to build a global community of shared future."



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