BRICS Development Paths: Expansion of the Core or 'Integration of Integrations'?
Valdai Club Conference Hall, Tsvetnoy boulevard 16/1, Moscow, Russia
List of speakers

On July 12, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion timed to coincide with the release of the new Valdai Paper “BRICS+: The Global South Responds To New Challenges (in the Context of China’s BRICS Chairmanship)”. Discussion moderator Yaroslav Lissovolik, Programme director of the Valdai Discussion Club and co-author of the paper, outlined the development of the BRICS+ format this year, noting that the group now faces a dilemma – whether to expand its core or involve regional integration groups in its work. The authors of the paper consider the latter option to be the preferred one at the present time.

Ekaterina Arapova, co-author of the paper, is Director of the Center of Sanction Policy Expertise and Head of the Department of Academic Development at the Institute for International Studies at MGIMO University. She stressed that the Global South now needs some kind of consolidated institutional platform to represent its interests in the world arena, equalise imbalances within the group of developing countries and respond to global challenges. In this capacity, both the BRICS 5 and the emerging BRICS+ format, the concept of which is currently in the process of formation, look promising. Arapova presented three possible scenarios for the development of BRICS: expanding the BRICS core, maintaining a two-tier system (with the “five” as the institutional core, while developing the BRICS+ concept in the “integration of integrations” format in parallel), and expanding the core while simultaneously adding one or two states and developing the BRICS+ format.

Pavel Knyazev, Ambassador-at-Large of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Sous-Sherpa of Russia to BRICS, called this year's summit very interesting in terms of developing inclusive contacts between the BRICS and other developing countries. According to him, the summit confirmed that the BRICS format is now in demand and is one of the pillars of multilateralism. “Unlike other interstate groups, we did not deal with a confrontational agenda,” the diplomat stressed, adding that both segments, the BRICS format and the BRICS+ format, were aimed at finding joint answers to key global challenges, and almost all invited heads of state and government have come out in support of a more inclusive and multilateral political and economic architecture.

Nandan Unnikrishnan, Honorary Research Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, noted that the BRICS format "seems to be a kind of alternative to what the West calls 'rules-based order'", but pointed out that the expansion of the core of the group will inevitably face a number of problems and splits due to the lack of clear criteria for the selection of potential members. According to the expert, at this stage the BRICS+ format looks more promising, but it should hardly be based only on regional integration groups, as this can also create tension and contradictions between the participants.

Wang Wen, Executive Dean at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies (RDCY) and Deputy Dean of the Silk Road School at China’s Renmin University, stressed that the West is now intensifying its attacks on the BRICS. In this regard, he identified three traps that the BRICS+ idea faces. First, it is a conflict trap – the idea of ​​a conflict between the BRICS and the West promoted by Western countries. Second, it is a trap which would lead to the BRICS economies having excessive influence on the BRICS+ economies. In the context of possible stagnation generated by the global economic shocks of 2022, other countries involved in this format may also suffer from a recession in the BRICS 5 countries. Third, it is the trap of separation. In the West, many are trying to lure developing countries to them, and it is necessary that the countries participating in BRICS+ win something.

Philani Mthembu, Executive Director at South Africa’s Institute for Global Dialogue pointed out the importance of not only the common features of the BRICS participants, but also the differences between them. “These differences should show the international community that in an increasingly complex world order, countries whose economies and governance systems are not very similar to each other have a mechanism to encourage cooperation. BRICS is an example of the viability and sustainability of such a partnership,” he said. The proposal put forward in 2013 at the BRICS summit in South Africa was part of this trend towards inclusiveness, as it was connected to the creation of a mechanism aimed at involving the countries of the region that are not included in the group. From the development of such mechanisms, according to the expert, the idea of ​​BRICS+ grows.