Mint Explainer: Why Argentina decided against joining BRICS

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On Saturday, Argentina’s newly elected government announced its decision to reject an invitation to join the BRICS group (comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had in August invited Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to join the bloc, which has been looking to grow its influence. 

While Argentina’s previous administration had welcomed the invite, the country’s new president, Javier Milei, hasn’t been in favour of the idea. Mint examines the reasons and implications.

What exactly happened? 

The BRICs grouping, during its summit in South Africa in August, invited six countries including Argentina to join it as permanent members, effective 1 January, 2024. On Saturday, though, Argentina’s newly elected government announced it would not be taking up on the offer. President Javier Milei said the decision to join BRICS had been taken by the previous administration and the new dispensation was reviewing such policies.

Who is Javier Milei? 

Argentina’s new president is at the centre of this issue. Milei, a 53-year-old economist and television pundit, won the country’s presidential election in November on the back of promises to revive the nation’s economy and overhaul its government. 

Milei is considered by many to be a radical and right-wing populist. During his presidential campaign, Milei was sharply critical of China and, according to reports, of BRICS as well. Milei argued that “our geopolitical alignment is with the United States and Israel. We are not going to ally with communists.”

Was the BRICS expansion controversial?

At the time of the BRICS summit in August, many speculated that China and Russia were pushing for an expansion of BRICS to turn it into an anti-Western bloc. Reports cited concerns from New Delhi that Beijing and Moscow were intent on adding countries that shared their confrontational attitude to the West. 

At the summit in August, India publicly welcomed the expansion of BRICS. It has, however, insisted on laying down concrete rules and procedures to regulate the entry of new members into the grouping.

What does Argentina’s refusal mean for the bloc? 

The development may be unwelcome for BRICS, which many believe hasn’t delivered on its potential. It was initially conceptualised as a grouping of five major developing economies that would grow rapidly and dominate global growth by 2050. But Russia, Brazil and South Africa have struggled economically, while India and China have performed steadily. 

With India and China at loggerheads, the prospects of closer cooperation among the member nations seem bleak. Argentina’s rejection of BRICS membership will only add to the gloom around the organisation, as questions about its continued relevance linger.

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