Argentina pulls out of plans to join Brics bloc

Image caption,Mr Milei said his foreign policy “differs in many ways from that of the previous government”

By Robert Plummer

BBC News

Argentina’s new President, Javier Milei, has withdrawn the country from its planned entry into the expanding Brics club of nations.

In a letter to the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, Mr Milei said decisions taken by the preceding government had been revised.

The Brics countries are often seen as a counterweight to the Western-led world.

Argentina had been among a much-vaunted new tranche of six countries poised to join the grouping next month.

It would have been admitted to the Brics club on 1 January, alongside Egypt, Iran, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Its change of heart comes after Mr Milei, a populist right-wing outsider, won a surprise election victory in November with radical pledges to overhaul the South American nation’s ailing economy.

He succeeded left-wing Peronist Alberto Fernández, whose views were more aligned with those of the bloc’s existing members.

Mr Milei said in his letter that his government’s foreign policy “differs in many ways from that of the previous government”.

He added that although he did not consider it “appropriate” for Argentina to become a full Brics member, he was still committed to strengthening bilateral ties, particularly with the aim of increasing trade and investment flows.

Although the Brics alliance is often portrayed as promoting a more multipolar world, it is economically dominated by China, which accounts for more than 70% of the bloc’s combined GDP.

Argentina’s bid for membership under Mr Fernández had the support of Beijing, but Mr Milei has strongly criticised China.

On the campaign trail, he described the Chinese government as assassins and said he would not work with communists.

Argentina’s changing attitudes highlight the delicacy of its economic and political position as it struggles to reverse decades of economic mismanagement.

It is battling soaring inflation, with prices rising by about 150% over the last year. It is also struggling with low cash reserves and high government debt, while 40% of the population is living below the poverty line.

Mr Milei’s administration has already devalued the country’s currency by more than 50% as his plans for economic shock therapy begin to take effect.

Externally, Brics members Brazil and China are Argentina’s two biggest trading partners, but the US is not far behind, making it imperative to preserve good working relations with all three.

And as a man who has contemplated replacing the Argentine peso with the US dollar, Mr Milei shows signs of inclining more towards Washington than Beijing in future.

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