Putin claims Brics bloc represents 'global majority'

Leaders set out differing visions for the six-member bloc as it looks to expand

Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses the Brics summit from Moscow by video link. AFP
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Vladimir Putin claimed the Brics group of emerging nations represents a "global majority" as he addressed the South African summit.

The Russian President - who is subject to an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for alleged war crimes in Ukraine - was the most notable absence from the Johannesburg meeting and made the comments in a precorded address from Moscow.

“We co-operate on the principles of equality, partnership support, respect for each other’s interests, and this is the essence of the future-orientated strategic course of our association, a course that meets the aspirations of the main part of the world community, the so-called global majority,” he said.

He said “de-dollarisation is an irreversible process", after years of speculation that the world's leading reserve and settlement currency would eventually be edged out.

The dollar accounts for about 60 per cent of foreign exchange reserves globally, and nearly 90 per cent of foreign exchange trading.

The Brics economic bloc started its three-day summit on Tuesday. The summit, which is the first in-person Brics meeting since 2019, will last until Thursday.

Its leaders set out quite differing visions for the bloc.

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attempted to set the tone for the summit, saying that the group of emerging economies – currently made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – is not meant to challenge other international blocs and countries, such as the G7, or the US, but to “organise” the so-called Global South.

“We do not want to be a counterpoint to the G7, G20 or the United States,” Mr Lula da Silva said in a live broadcast as he attended the summit in South Africa.

“We just want to organise ourselves.”

Mr da Silva defended a common trading currency for Brics countries, saying the move would not be aimed at “rejecting” the US dollar but instead facilitating trade between the emerging nations in their currencies.

“We want Brics to be a multilateral institution, not an exclusive club,” he said.

He said he was particularly in favour of Argentina joining the group.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday that the US does not see Brics turning into a geopolitical rival.

“This is a very diverse collection of countries … with differences of view on critical issues,” he said.

However, in recent years there has been increasing talk of the bloc expanding and countries interested in joining, or which have made formal applications to join, are said to number between 23 and 40.

As it stands, the bloc represents about 32 per cent of global gross domestic product, driven by China.

China’s GDP is estimated at about $18 trillion. By comparison, India’s GDP stands at around $3.75 trillion, Russia’s at $2.2 trillion and Brazil’s at $2.4 trillion. South Africa, which joined the bloc in 2010, has a GDP of $730 billion.

China's President Xi Jinping spoke on Tuesday of his country’s determination to deepen relations with South Africa.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said both countries had similar views on expanding the Brics group.

Updated: August 23, 2023, 7:25 AM