For anyone looking at the large newly emerging developing countries, and there is a growing audience, the ‘who’ of the group is a major question. I suppose this shouldn’t be a big surprise. International relations experts almost always focus on the question of ‘definition.’ Here it is no different. So, when Goldman Sachs, as early as 2001, first turned the lens on these economies it created the BRICs - Brazil Russia India and China. Here at CIGI Distinguished Fellow, John Walley and his colleagues created BRICSAM - Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, ASEAN and Mexico. Subsequently CIGI’s Andy Cooper raised a question: is Russia part of BRICSAM or rather the indusrialized developed club - the G7. Thus Cooper described it as the B(R)ICSAM. And the ’slicing’ and ‘dicing’ goes on today. But of what importance is this?
Well in fact these different definitions reflect different understandings of power in international relations and the basis of global governance and global governance reform. It is therefore not unimportant to understand why there are differences. Let’s take the one that is generically most identified - the Goldman Sachs BRICs. A quick reading tells you Goldman Sachs is indeeed an economic organization. Here their definition is built on economic growth, GDP (however measured) and even per capita GDP. In this implicit model, these states are Rising BRICs because of their exploding growth. Unsaid - but apparent - this BRIC economic growth and economic power will translate into influence and leadership for these states in the effort to ‘control’ global and regional governance.
In contrast, however, there are the folk at CIGI. Here exploding economic power is important but there is apparently, something else. Call it ‘diplomatic weight’ or ‘diplomatic leverage’ but in any case there is something that extends beyond just economic power and that allows a South Africa or Mexico to be identified as a member of the Rising BRICSAM. Certainly on the basis of economic power alone neither South Africa or Mexico would rank anywhere near the triumvirate as I call it - China, India and Brazil.
Recently Andy Cooper launched a BRICSAM inquiry entitled “Reaching out to BRICSAM: The Heiligendamm Process (HP) and Beyond.” This Project adds numerous definitions, which for the moment we’ll ignore. But this HP process was launched at the most recent G7/8 meetings in Germany. The HP process targeted the so-called O5 or what the countries themselves refer to as the G5 - China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico. So, the G7/8 too appear to recognize the influence/power of the BRICSAM (all included in this global governanace initiative but for ASEAN of BRICSAM origin.) So in examining the O5 we have asked country authors to look at both economic weight, diplomatic leverage and the their willingness to exercise both. One thing international relations experts of the political science persuasion have long recognized about power is that power may only be potential but left unexercised or power can be actualized and thus the assessment of power can vary significantly from those that estimate the power of an entity. Global governanace influence and reform is not just about the economic power of the BRICs but the use and manner of the exercise of power of the BRICSAM. More on that later.