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Learn about BRICS

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa

The idea of the BRICS was formulated by Chief Economist at Goldman Sachs, Jim O'Neill, in a 2001 study entitled "Building Better Global Economic BRICs". It became an analytical category in economic, financial, business, academic and media circles. In 2006, the concept, itself, gave rise to the grouping, incorporated into Brazil, Russia, India and China’s foreign policy. In 2011, on the occasion of the Third Summit, South Africa became part of the group, who adopted the acronym BRICS.

The economic weight of BRICS is certainly considerable. Between 2003 and 2007, the growth of the four countries accounted for 65% of the expansion of world GDP. In terms of purchasing power parity, BRICS’ GDP today already exceeds that of the U.S. or the European Union. To give an idea of the pace of growth in these countries, in 2003 the BRICs accounted for 9% of the world's aggregate GDP, and in 2009 this figure increased to 14%. In 2010, the aggregate GDP of all five countries (including South Africa) totaled US$ 11 trillion, or 18% of the world economy. Considering the GDP by purchasing power parity, this figure is even higher: US$ 19 trillion, or 25%.

Until 2006, BRICs were not gathered within a mechanism that allowed their articulation. The concept expresses the existence of four individual countries that have characteristics which allow them to be grouped together, but not as a mechanism. That changed at the Meeting of Foreign Ministers, of the four countries, organized on the sidelines of the 61st General Assembly of the United Nations on September 23rd, 2006. This was a first step for Brazil, Russia, India and China to begin working collectively. It can then be said that in parallel to the concept “BRICs”, a group came into existence that began to act in the international scene, BRIC. In 2011, after South Africa’s entry, the mechanism became BRICS (with the uppercase “s” at the end).

As a group, BRICS has an informal character. There is no charter, it does not work with a fixed secretariat nor does it have any funds to finance its activities. Ultimately, what sustains the mechanism is the political will of its members. However, BRICS have a degree of institutionalization which is defined as the five countries intensify their interaction.

An important stage to enhance BRICS’ vertical institutionalization was to increase the level of political interaction, which since June 2009, with the Yekaterinburg summit, reached the level of Heads of State/Government. The Second Summit held in Brasilia on April 15th, 2010, advanced this process. The Third Summit took place in Sanya, China, on April 14th, 2011, and demonstrated that the political will to follow up on the dialogue between the countries was still present even at the highest decision-making level. The Third Summit reinforced BRICS’ position as a space for dialogue and consensus within the international scene. Moreover, it expanded the voice of the five countries on issues of the global agenda, in particular those relating to economy and finance, and gave political impetus to the identification and development of specific joint projects in strategic sectors such as agriculture, energy, science and technology. The Fourth Summit was held on March 29th, 2012, in New Delhi, while the Fifth Summit was held in Durban, South Africa, March 27th, 2013.

Besides vertical institutionalization, BRICS also opened to horizontal institutionalization by including in its scope several fronts of action. The most developed front, doing justice to the origin of the group, is the economic-financial one. Ministers in charge of the area of ​​Finance and Governors of Central Banks have frequently met. BRICS’ Senior Officials Responsible for Safety Issues have already met twice. The topics of food security, agriculture and energy have also been treated within the group at ministerial level. The Supreme Courts signed a cooperation document and, on this basis, a course for BRICS’ magistrates was held in Brazil. Moreover, events seeking the approximation between academics, businesspersons, representatives of cooperatives have already been carried out. Furthermore, agreements were signed between development banks. Statistical institutes have also met in preparation for the Second and Third Summit and published a compilation of data. Updated versions of the compilation were launched at the Sanya summit and the New Delhi summit. All three publications may be found in this site.

In summary, BRICS opens for its five members a space for (a) dialogue, the identification of convergences and consultation regarding various topics, and (b) expands contacts and cooperation in specific sectors.

Learn more about BRICS (in Portuguese)