Argentina says no to BRICS, the bloc of emerging powers

On 1 January, the BRICS, an alliance of emerging powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), will expand. A historic enlargement, with the arrival of five new countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran. But contrary to what was agreed at the last BRICS summit in August, Argentina is not on the list. Its new president, the ultra-liberal Javier Milei, does not want his country to join the bloc.

August 2023, BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa with some of the politicians present in the photo: Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Xi Jinping, Cyril Ramaphosa, Narendra Modi and Sergei Lavrov. AP - Gianluigi Guercia

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However, Argentina could be an important player within the BRICS, explains Christophe Ventura, research director at IRIS and specialist in Latin America, contacted by Amélie Beaucour from the international service, because Argentina is an agricultural power (soya, meat) and the BRICS' strategy is to become the essential power in agri-food at the global level – to influence policies against food insecurity in the world.

Another of Argentina's assets for the BRICS is lithium. "When we know the strategic importance of this rare mineral in the decarbonization of the transport industry and the global energy transition, we understand why Argentina was also becoming an interesting partner for the BRICS in this field. And then, the third, of course, is that with Argentina, the BRICS had an additional member within the G20, or an additional relay, to be able to carry more weight in it. However, they are clearly losing an asset in the game, but that does not fundamentally call into question the rise of the BRICS, since the arrival of other countries – from the Middle East, etc. – will contribute to strengthening the BRICS on this trajectory.


Milei: no alliance with the Communists

Already during the election campaign, Javier Milei had made it clear that he was against Argentina's accession to the BRICS. Here is what he said in front of business leaders on the day the bloc had just announced Argentina's imminent arrival in the BRICS, under the impetus (then) of the outgoing Argentine president, Alberto Fernandez: "From a geopolitical point of view, we will be aligned with the United States and with Israel. We refuse to align ourselves with communists!


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This is a reference to China but also to President Lula's Brazil. And if Javier Milei's tone has since softened vis-à-vis Beijing and especially Brasilia, the new Argentine president still sent a letter to the leaders of the BRICS on Friday: "we have decided to reverse some decisions taken by the previous government," writes Javier Milei, who considers that joining this bloc is no longer "opportune".

Javier Milei, on the other hand, wants to relaunch the process of joining the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). Why such a positioning? "This is clearly the choice of an Argentine alliance towards Washington and towards the European countries against China, Russia and Brazil, etc., all for both ideological reasons in Milei, considering that China and Brazil are countries that he qualifies as 'communist', indiscriminately, and of course Russia, which is seen as a one-party country that is authoritarian... Christophe Ventura continues. So clearly, Milei is choosing to enter Washington's reading grid of international relations, that is to say an international world that is divided around a cleavage between liberal and capitalist democracies and against the rest of the world which would be made up of communist authoritarian powers. And perhaps, in the sequence, the calculation may also be to get better treatment from the IMF, to which the country owes $44 billion.


But despite this refusal to join the BRICS bloc, Javier Milei says he wants to strengthen bilateral trade and investment ties with its member countries. China and Brazil are Argentina's main trading partners. Buenos Aires, which is indebted to the International Monetary Fund, borrowed $8 billion from Beijing last year.

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  • Argentina
  • Javier Milei