The decline of the US dollar remains a work in progress, with continuous challenges being faced by the currency. Recently, Russia has expressed the idea that BRICS should take further action and has proposed the creation of a common currency. This notion gained momentum when the Russian foreign minister stated in January that "Serious, self-respecting countries are well aware of what is at stake and want to create their own mechanisms to ensure sustainable development. It is in this direction that there have been recent discussions about the need to consider creating our own currencies within the framework of BRICS." This idea is currently gaining traction, and reports suggest that a proposal will likely be presented at the BRICS summit in August, held in South Africa.
BRICS refers to an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Initially, the term BRIC was coined in 2001 by Jim O'Neill, an economist at Goldman Sachs, to refer to Brazil, Russia, India, and China, which were expected to become dominant suppliers of goods, services, and raw materials by the mid-21st century. South Africa joined the group in 2010, leading to the acronym BRICS. These five countries are all members of the G-20 and collectively represent approximately 42% of the world's population, 23% of global GDP, and 17% of world trade. The BRICS countries collaborate in various areas, including trade, investment, finance, and technology, holding annual summits to discuss matters of mutual interest. They have also been exploring ways to challenge the dominance of the US dollar in international trade and finance. This includes increasing the use of their own currencies in trade among themselves. In 2014, the BRICS countries established the New Development Bank (NDB) to provide an alternative source of funding for infrastructure projects in developing countries. The bank is capitalized at $100 billion, with each member contributing $20 billion equally. Additionally, the BRICS countries have been advocating for reforms within the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to give emerging economies greater representation and voting power. They have also called for the creation of a new international reserve currency less dependent on the US dollar.
Why the need to create a new currency? Russia has been advocating for the creation of a common currency among BRICS members since last year. The Russian president supports this idea, and last year he stated, "The matter of creating an international reserve currency based on the basket of currencies of our countries is under review." Russia has its own motivations for pushing this idea, as it faces Western sanctions and limitations on access to the global banking system. It also cannot freely use the US dollar, leading to its push for a new global reserve currency. Other BRICS members are also open to the idea as they aim to challenge the dominance of the US dollar. A Russian lawmaker, Alexander Babakov, the deputy chairman of Russia's State Duma (lower house of parliament), proposed that India and Russia, as two of the largest emerging economies, would benefit from the creation of a common currency that could be used for payments. Babakov referred to it as the "most viable" route to pursue at this time. He further emphasized that China, with its large population, would also play a crucial role in the development of the common currency.
The Russian lawmaker highlighted that transitioning to settlements in national currencies is the first step, followed by the circulation of a new digital or fundamentally new form of currency in the near future. Some progress has already been made in this direction. For instance, India and Russia have an agreement known as the Rupee-Rubble mechanism, where India pays for Russian goods in rupees and Russia earns in rubles. This arrangement, facilitated through special Vostro accounts, has boosted bilateral trade. In 2022, India's trade with Russia reached a record value of $30 billion, primarily driven by oil purchases. Russia has high expectations from India and seeks further support. In fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin has outlined his foreign policy view, stating that Russia will continue to build a particularly privileged strategic partnership with India to enhance cooperation across various mutually beneficial areas.
Russia also looks to China for support, as the realization of the BRICS currency plan requires assistance from both India and China. However, gaining support from these two countries will not be easy. Even Jim O'Neill, the former chief economist of Goldman Sachs who coined the BRIC acronym, has advocated for the BRICS bloc to expand and challenge the dominance of the US dollar as a means to mitigate the destabilizing effects of dollar dominance on monetary policy. He expressed this view in an article published in the journal Global Policy, noting that the US dollar's dominant role in global finance often leads to significant consequences and fluctuations when the Federal Reserve Board adjusts its policies. O'Neill sees this as a burden for countries with dollar-denominated debt, as their monetary policies become destabilized by exchange rate fluctuations.
The strength of the Russian ruble amid severe sanctions from the US and European countries indicates a high level of opposition to the dominance of the US dollar. The BRICS countries view this as an opportunity to capitalize on the growing discontent toward the US dollar and its hegemony. However, it is important to note that the realization of a BRICS currency and its potential impact on America's economic future is uncertain, and various geopolitical and economic factors will play a significant role in shaping the outcome.