With South Africa at the helm of BRICS this year, the grouping has come full circle with regard to its outreach efforts to developing economies. Back in 2013 it was South Africa which hosted the BRICS Summit for the first time and launched the first outreach exercise to its regional partners in Africa.
The onset of this new five-year cycle, marked by South Africa’s chairing of BRICS, will ensure continuity by building on China’s earlier innovations, such as the introduction of BRICS Plus, which refers to the idea of expanding the cooperation of the group with other emerging economies and regional blocks of the Global South.
It will also feature new approaches that advocate for qualitative transformations in the BRICS dialogue with the developing world. From the outset, the outreach programmes of BRICS were framed in a regional context. All five member states invited their regional partners to take part in BRICS summits over the 2013 to 2018 period.
Here’s a recap: Further innovations regarding BRICS Plus may involve a unified formation of regional integration arrangements that featured in the outreach activities of the last five-year cycle of BRICS summits. This formation, then, would feature Bimstec, the Eurasian Economic Union, the African Union, Mercosur (given the difficulties experienced by Unasur) and the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation.
Altogether, the resulting acronym – BEAMS – alludes to these regional integration blocs serving as support structures to BRICS. Hence, BRICS Plus serves to broaden the concept of regional integration by extending BRICS’s interaction with developing economies to include regional developing institutions or regional financing arrangements.
The BEAMS grouping is a direct reconstruction of the sequence of BRICS outreach exercises with regional partners throughout the 2013-2017 period. In effect, it is the “revealed preference” of the BRICS economies for how BRICS Plus should be composed: as an aggregating platform of regional integration groups.
China’s initiation of a diversified, global approach within the BRICS Plus format, taken together with earlier outreach exercises, lays the foundations for what Foreign Minister Wang Yi termed the “most extensive platform for South-South co-operation with a global impact”. In other words, BRICS Plus – with BEAMS as its sub-component – stands as a synthesis of earlier BRICS experiments and innovations in the field of building ties with the Global South.
In light of the possibilities outlined above with respect to the formation of BEAMS and the broader co-operation exemplified in BRICS Plus, the past two five-year BRICS cycles – along with what China has called the upcoming “BRICS golden decade”, comprising the next two five- year cycles – may be presented as follows:
- First five-year cycle: promoting diversity and incorporating South Africa into BRICS;
- Second five-year cycle: engaging regional partners (outreach cycle);
- Third five-year cycle: the BRICS Plus period and the development of the BEAMS integration platform; and
- Fourth five-year cycle: the BRICS Plus Plus period, characterized by an extension of integration from the regional BRICS Plus platform to other parts of the developing world via a combination of regional and bilateral economic alliances.
Source: full article in BRICS Journal’s 6th Issue