BRICS+ is an extension of the economic and political cooperation beyond the limits of the BRICS circle. In effect BRICS+ is about transforming BRICS into an inclusive platform that is open to cooperation with any country, block or region in the world economy. The concept was first unveiled in the academic domain in the February 2017 article “Re-thinking the BRICS: on the concepts of BRICS+ and BRICS++” written by Yaroslav Lissovolik for the Valdai club.
The BRICS+ concept was first put into practice by China, with the country’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi declaring in March 2017: “”we will widen the circle of friends of the BRICS and turn it into the most influential platform for south-south cooperation in the world”. In 2017 China was first in conducting the BRICS+ meeting during its chairmanship in the BRICS, which was followed by a BRICS+ event held by South Africa in 2018. In February 2018 Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov unveiled Russia’s vision of the BRICS+ format, stating: “We suggest that our partners consider BRICS+ as a platform for developing what could be termed an ‘integration of integrations”.
Since 2018 the implementation of the BRICS+ concept was put on hold after Jair Bolsonaro from Brazil opted not to conduct BRICS+ meetings during Brazil’s presidency in the BRICS. BRICS+ came back to life in force with China’s presidency in 2022, with the BRICS+ meeting bringing together some of the largest emerging markets outside of BRICS, including the chairs of the largest regional association and groups in the developing world such as CELAC (Argentina) and African Union (Senegal).
The important signal of greater openness of BRICS to other developing economies through the BRICS+ format has engendered an impressive wave of applications and statements from some of the largest emerging markets to join the BRICS/BRICS+ block. In the course of 2022 alone nearly 20 emerging markets have expressed the intention to join the BRICS block, including such heavy-weights as Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Iran, Turkey, Egypt and many others. The key question to be determined still is the future essence of the BRICS+ format – will it simply amount to the addition of new developing economies one-by-one to the block or will the BRICS+ format involve innovative approaches to expanding the block’s outreach to the rest of the world, including via the creation of a platform for regional integration arrangements and their development institutions.