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BRICS expands: Saudi Arabia officially joins the bloc

Riyadh, 4 January, 2024 (GNP): Saudi Arabia has officially joined the BRICS bloc of countries, as announced by Saudi state TV on Tuesday.

The expansion of the BRICS bloc, initially composed of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, has now welcomed Saudi Arabia, alongside the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Iran, and Ethiopia as new members.

The kingdom’s entry into BRICS occurs against the backdrop of heightened geopolitical tensions between the United States and China, coinciding with an expansion of China’s influence within Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, had previously indicated the kingdom’s careful consideration before the proposed January 1 joining date, emphasizing the BRICS group’s significance in fostering economic cooperation and expressing the kingdom’s intent to study the details thoroughly.

Saudi state TV confirmed the official entry of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Iran, and Ethiopia into the BRICS membership, effective as of Monday.

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Despite maintaining strong ties with the United States, Saudi Arabia has increasingly charted its own course, citing concerns about Washington’s perceived reduced commitment to the Gulf’s security.

The entry of China, Saudi Arabia’s largest oil customer, has advocated for the BRICS to expand, aiming to establish a counterweight to Western influence.

This expansion bolsters the group’s mission to champion the Global South, although Argentina had previously declined an invitation to join in November.

The formal inclusion of the six countries – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Iran, and Ethiopia – into the BRICS bloc signifies a collective representation of over 40% of the world’s population and more than 30% of global gross domestic product (GDP).

Following the invitation extended after the 15th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, the BRICS bloc, renowned for facilitating cooperation among emerging markets and developing countries, has garnered significant interest in membership requests in recent years.

Ullas Rao, Assistant Professor of Finance at Edinburgh Business School of Heriot-Watt University in Dubai, expressed optimism about the expansion, stating, “The inclusion of Saudi Arabia and the UAE into the BRICS bloc presents substantial opportunities for growth through investments, trade, and commerce, given their status as some of the wealthiest nations with significant sovereign wealth funds.”