Chinese President Xi Jinping (center) delivers a speech at the BRICS Summit in Xiamen, Fujian province, China, on September 4, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Kenzaburo Fukuhara / Pool

In 2001, Jim O’Neill, then chief economist of Goldman Sachs, coined the term “BRIC” for Brazil, Russia, India and China as the prime emerging economies. In 2010 the grouping became BRICS with the addition of South Africa, and pursued the goal of mutual cooperation and economic development.

However, nothing substantial has been achieved by BRICS since its inception. It is a group that is too narrow and whose components have  very little in common. But BRICS does has a presence; apart from economic factors, there are also geopolitical and geo-strategic factors. China has taken the lead in global economics, and now the BRICS have a clear leader in the shape of China, which may steer it into becoming a more formidable group.

Chinese President Xi Jinping in his opening remarks at the ninth BRICS Summit in Xiamen said: “We should promote the ‘BRICS Plus’ cooperation approach and build an open and diversified network of development partnerships to get more emerging market and developing countries involved in our concerted endeavors for cooperation and mutual benefits.”

If BRICS Plus is formed, it could pave the way for more economic cooperation among developing countries. Global economic dynamics have changed with the United States’ new inward-looking rhetoric; countries now are looking toward other options for economic trade. Under these circumstances BRICS Plus seems to be a good idea to support open trade and markets.

According to the chief economist of the Eurasian Development Bank, Yaroslav Lissovolik, the idea of expansion could become a new model for the global economy. Previous blocs have been formed on the basis of regionalism, but the BRICS model offers a unique and diversified way that could prove to be vital for increasing the integration process:  formed on the bases of developing economies that could be from any continent.

Pakistan should feature in the BRICS Plus formation, as its economy is developing at great speed. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is the flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative, and is being implemented successfully with effectiveness and efficiency. The success of BRI is also dependent on the completion of the projects under CPEC. This makes Pakistan a bright prospect for the BRICS Plus agenda.

Forming BRICS Plus will not be free from challenges; other member states of the current grouping are not happy about the idea floated by China. They see it as Beijing trying to enhance its presence in the group by adding countries that are friendly to itself.  As well, it is seen as China further asserting itself against US President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies and presenting itself as the new emerging global leader.

However, the BRICS Plus idea should not be sidelined by the skeptics. Its pros and cons should be evaluated and then a final decision made. In today’s profoundly interconnected world, the idea of expanding the group with the aim of boosting economic growth could bear fruit for the common man and add to people’s well-being.

Junaid Ashraf has a Master of Philosophy degree in government and public policy. He has international publications through Taylor & Francis, a leading British publishing body. He regularly write columns for newspapers. His interests include international political economy, geopolitics and good governance. He can be followed on twitter: https://twitter.com/junaidashraf87

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