Return to the Library

The Accession of Arab Countries to the BRICS Is an Important Milestone in the Trend of Diversification in International Politics


A Middle East researcher explores drivers behind Arab countries’ growing interest in BRICS membership, on the back of successful accession of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates to the organization in 2023. He argues that the countries hope to benefit economically from closer ties with China and Russia in the energy field, but also see BRICS membership as a way to accelerate the formation of a multipolar world order more favorable to their interests.

FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrintCopy Link
Original text
English text
See an error? Drop us a line at
View the translated and original text side-by-side

The most important reasons for Arab countries to apply to join the BRICS is to try to reach an Arab consensus by changing the international system and transforming it into a “multipolar” system, and to activate the balancing role that Arab countries have on the international stage. In addition to repositioning the energy field, especially within the framework of the “OPEC+” group, they are simultaneously striving to balance relations with the major powers of the East and West in the process of the diversification of economic and political relations among Arab countries.


A milestone in the trend of diversification


Arab Wall, an influential think tank in the Arab world, published a commentary on August 27 stating that, at the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that the BRICS organization would strengthen its ranks by adding “six” new countries, including “three” Arab states: the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. According to Brazilian President Lula da Silva, starting from January 1, 2024, the addition of these new members will strengthen the group in terms of purchasing power parity. These new members “will enlarge the BRICS share of global GDP from about 32% to 37%.”

阿拉伯世界颇有影响力的智库《阿拉伯之墙》8月27日刊发评论文章指出,南非总统西里尔·拉马福萨(Cyril Ramaphosa)在约翰内斯堡举行的金砖国家峰会上确认,金砖国家组织通过扩员“六个”新国家来加强其队伍,其中包括“三个”阿拉伯国家:阿联酋、沙特阿拉伯和埃及。根据巴西总统卢拉·达席尔瓦的说法,自2024年1月1日起,按购买力平价计算,增加上述新成员将增强该集团实力,这些新成员“将使金砖国家在全球GDP中的份额从约32%增加到37%”。

The accession of three Arab countries to the BRICS is an important milestone for the organization, giving it a major role in changing the balance of economic power on the world stage. The accession of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran gives BRICS countries more say in oil and natural gas, while adding technological advantages in the development of the rare earth industry. In addition, the three Arab countries (the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt) can become candidates for the production and export of clean energy in the coming decades. These clean energy sources will give a competitive edge to BRICS countries over others that rely on fossil fuels.


Motivation to join


There are many reasons why Arab countries seek to join the BRICS, the most important of which are the following:


1. There is compatibility between Arab countries’ desire to join the BRICS and their attempts to change the international system. Through the continuous attempts of Russia, China, and other countries, the world order is rapidly transforming from a unipolar system led by the United States to a multipolar system. Today, Arab countries can transform, leaving behind their uniform identity as just oil and gas exporters and leveraging the BRICS organization to become Arab states with other significant advantages. It is worth noting that the requests of Arab countries to join BRICS are seen as a trend toward the “East.” BRICS seeks a clear goal, namely, “establishing a world order different from the current order.” China, which accounts for 70% of the BRICS GDP, is helping to shift the economic center of gravity to this part of the world by proposing a new economic strategy.

1、阿拉伯国家加入金砖国家的愿望与改变国际体系企图之间有兼容性。通过俄罗斯、中国和其他国家不断的尝试,世界秩序正在迅速从美国领导的单极向多极体系转变,今天可以把阿拉伯国家从仅仅是石油和天然气出口国这单一身份,借力金砖国家组织变成具有其他显著优势的阿拉伯国家。值得注意的是,阿拉伯国家要求加入金砖国家被认为是一种转向“东方”的趋向,金砖国家寻求一个明确的目标,即从“建立不同于当前秩序的世界秩序”的角度来看,占金砖国家GDP 70%的中国通过提出新的经济战略,有助于将经济重心转移到世界这一地区。

2. Activate the flexible balancing role of Arabs on the international stage: The Arab countries applying to join the BRICS hope to implement a “flexible balancing” strategy among major international powers by having Arabs move eastward and join active organizations in Asia and Eurasia, such as the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. However, all this does not mean moving away from traditional strategic allies as represented by the United States and its European allies.


In particular, in anticipation of any political or economic changes, the characteristics of the strategies of Arab countries [will change]. For example, the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict produced changes in various fields such as economics, trade, and security. The countries that represent the center of gravity in the region seem to need to diversify their strategic allies in the region in order to achieve balance in the field of international relations.


3. Diversification of international economic and political relations: Many advantages will be gained as Arab countries gain recognition as members of the BRICS bloc. Although these countries have different national conditions, most of them have common economic needs. On the one hand, Arab states, especially the Gulf states, are seeking to diversify their economic and political relations by pursuing new investment partnerships, especially with China. At the same time, in addition to coordination within the “OPEC+” group, they seek to establish close cooperation with Russia in the energy market.


On the other hand, they are seeking a balance in economic relations. Here, the obvious example is Egypt, which seeks to achieve two goals: First, to move into the future in a strategic and clear-eyed manner in cooperation with “new allies” representing a diverse and powerful economic bloc. Second, to rely on alliances with “multipolar” forces to reduce pressure from the West, at least in terms of economics and finances.


4. Restructuring the energy market: BRICS, with its enormous capacity to control a large part of the global energy market in terms of production and even consumption, especially after the accession of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, has also enabled member countries to play an important role in the restructuring of the global energy market.


Specifically, the new members Saudi Arabia and the UAE are major global oil producers, while China and India are major global oil consumers. Russia, an original member of BRICS, UAE and Saudi Arabia hold a pivotal position in global oil production. At the same time, Russia and new member Iran are also among the top global producers of natural gas.


In addition, according to an analysis by the Dutch bank ING on August 20, BRICS will also benefit from the membership of oil and gas exporting countries, specifically Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran. This is because membership signals tacit alignment with the bloc’s attempts to deepen “trends” around the use of currencies other than the U.S. dollar in oil trading and the siege of the U.S. dollar’s dominance in global trade.


Dual Hopes


Against this background, as many countries are expressing interest in joining BRICS, it can be said that the organization is expected to become a player in global governance, especially given the potential diversity of countries seeking to join. While this is a matter of Arab interest, Arab states do not, however, seem to see their future participation in BRICS as being incompatible with their participation in other (regional or global) economic blocs.


Nonetheless, it is clear that the Arab focus is on benefiting from the common goal of the BRICS countries to establish a multipolar world order, especially in the wake of developments at the global level, specifically in the context of the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the subsequent schism in international relations. Perhaps most importantly, a situation of “dual hopes” has emerged between the BRICS countries on the one hand and the Arab countries joining BRICS on the other, wherein both parties wish to jointly benefit from this accession, especially in the economic field.


To top

Cite This Page

顾正龙 (Gu Zhenglong). "The Accession of Arab Countries to the BRICS Is an Important Milestone in the Trend of Diversification in International Politics [阿拉伯国家加入金砖国家是国际政治多元化趋势的重要里程碑]". CSIS Interpret: China, original work published in China Foundation for International Studies [中国国际问题研究基金会], September 8, 2023

FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrintCopy Link