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Will the BRICS Ever Grow Up?

In the two decades since Brazil, Russia, India, and China were recognized for their unique growth potential, they, along with South Africa, have so far proven incapable of uniting as a meaningful global force. This comes at the expense not only of the bloc, but of better global governance as well.

LONDON – Having created the BRIC acronym to capture the collective potential of Brazil, Russia, India, and China to influence the world economy, I now must ask a rather awkward question: When is that influence going to show up? Given today’s global challenges and the enormous issues facing the BRICS (which subsequently became a real-world entity and was expanded in 2010 to include South Africa), the bloc’s ongoing failure to develop substantive policies through its annual summitry has become increasingly glaring.

This November will be the 20th anniversary of the BRIC acronym, which I first used in a 2001 Goldman Sachs paper entitled “Building Better Global Economic BRICs.” At the time, I offered four scenarios for how each country could develop over the next decade, and made the case for why global governance needed to become more representative and include these four rising powers.

That paper was followed by a series of others, starting in 2003, which showed how China’s economy could become as large as the US economy (in nominal dollar terms) by 2040; how India could surpass Japan to become the third-largest economy soon thereafter; and how the BRIC economies together could grow larger than the G6 (the G7 minus Canada).