By OLIVER STUENKEL
Geopolitical divisions in the West could give Brazil and its partners a chance to increase their influence.
Brazilian President Michel Temer’s third and final trip to the BRICS Summit may well be his most meaningful. The 10th annual meeting, which will bring together the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa from July 25 to 27 in Johannesburg, comes amid profound uncertainty about the future of the global economic order – and doubts about the West’s continued ability to set the agenda for international affairs. This creates an opportunity for the BRICS to assume a more prominent role.
The current state of the G7, a grouping of the world’s largest developed economies, is a case in point. At the group’s most recent meeting in Canada, President Donald Trump insisted on removing the term “rules-based international order” from the meeting’s communiqué, then withdrew the U.S.’ signature altogether. It is increasingly evident that Trump is seeking to undermine the European Union, too, by providing active support for Euroskeptic forces across the continent. In light of such monumental global changes and a vacuum of power not seen since the end of the Cold War, the BRICS countries may currently agree with each other on more than do the world’s most advanced economies.
This marks a major turn of events. Over the past decade, critics of the BRICS have repeatedly pointed to the many disagreements between its member states to argue that their different worldviews make meaningful cooperation unlikely. After all, Brazil, India and South Africa are democracies, while Russia and China are authoritarian regimes; India and China even face an unresolved border dispute.
Yet contrary to such expectations and despite internal differences, the grouping has not only continued to organize yearly presidential summits, but also undergone an impressive process of institutionalization. The creation of a joint development bank, tens of yearly minister-level intra-BRICS meetings, and close cooperation on issues ranging from IMF reform to counter terrorism, are key examples of the kind of productive multilateralism that Trump is dismantling elsewhere.