It’s been 12 years since an economist at Goldman Sachs focused the financial (and political) world’s attention on what he called the BRICs, the huge and booming economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. For more than a decade, conventional wisdom held that these emerging nations with enormous populations, territories, and natural resources would become the great global powers of the 21st century. Their leaders seemed to buy into the idea, holding summits and pretending that trade among them might even supplant their dependence on markets in the more industrialized United States and Europe. But it turns out those expectations were exaggerations. Growth rates in all four countries have been declining. China’s is about half what it once was, Brazil’s is less than the United States’, and Russia’s and India’s are lagging badly as well. Paulo Sotero, director of the Brazil Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center, says these countries no longer believe their own hype. Brazil’s traditional establishment “views the grouping as a largely inconsequential forum of countries with little in common,” he wrote on CNN’s website, while it seems enthusiasts used the BRIC concept mainly for international public relations.