Will Argentina join BRICS?

Argentina, under the new leadership of far-right populist President Javier Milei, has formally declared that it will not be joining the Brics bloc of developing economies. This decision marks a significant shift in Argentina’s foreign and economic policy.

In a letter dated a week ago, but released on the last working day of 2023, President Milei informed the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (the Brics nations) that the current moment was deemed “not opportune” for Argentina to become a full member.

Argentina had initially been among the six countries invited in August to join the Brics bloc, expanding it to an 11-nation alliance. The official membership for Argentina was scheduled to commence on January 1, 2024. However, the decision not to join coincides with Argentina grappling with a deepening economic crisis.

Milei’s predecessor, former center-left President Alberto Fernández, had endorsed joining the Brics alliance as an avenue to access new markets. The Brics nations collectively represent about 40% of the world’s population and over a quarter of the global GDP. Yet, Milei’s ascent to the presidency, driven by a desire for change amid economic turmoil, has led to a departure from the previous administration’s approach.

Javier Milei, self-identifying as an “anarcho-capitalist,” has initiated economic deregulation measures, departing from the state interventionism that characterized Argentina’s economy in recent decades. In terms of foreign policy, Milei has aligned Argentina with the “free nations of the west,” particularly emphasizing connections with the United States and Israel.

During his presidential campaign, Milei openly criticized countries governed by communism and declared his intention to sever diplomatic relations with such nations, despite increasing Chinese investment in South America. However, in the letter to the Brics leaders, Milei proposed an alternative approach.

He suggested intensifying bilateral ties and increasing trade and investment flows with each of the full Brics members. The letter also expressed Milei’s willingness to engage in meetings with Xi Jinping of China, Narendra Modi of India, Vladimir Putin of Russia, Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, and his counterpart Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in neighboring Brazil.

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