oneill122_Per-Anders PetterssonGetty Images_BRICS Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images

Does an Expanded BRICS Mean Anything?

Now that the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) will accept new members, one wonders if the grouping can pose a genuine challenge to the prevailing global-governance institutions. As in the past, the group's influence will depend on its effectiveness, not on its composition or size.

LONDON – When I coined the BRIC acronym back in 2001, my primary point was that global governance would need to adjust to incorporate the world’s largest emerging economies. Not only did Brazil, Russia, India, and China top the list of that cohort; they also were collectively responsible for governing close to half of the world’s population. It stood to reason that they should be represented accordingly.

Over the past two decades, some have misread my initial paper as a kind of investment thesis, while others have interpreted it as an endorsement of the BRICS (South Africa was added in 2010) as a political grouping. But I never intended any such thing. On the contrary, ever since the Brazilian and Russian foreign ministers proposed the idea of creating a formal BRIC political grouping in 2009, I have questioned the organization’s purpose, beyond serving as a symbolic gesture.

Now that the BRICS has announced that it will add six more countries – Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – I pose the question again. The decision, after all, does not appear to have been decided on any clear objective, much less economic, criteria. Why, for example, was Indonesia not asked? Why Argentina and not Mexico, or Ethiopia and not Nigeria?