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QUAD summit to announce major COVD-19 vaccines, climate change and tech initiatives: US officials

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Washington: The first Quad summit of the leaders of the US, India, Australia and Japan on Friday will result in them announcing a historic agreement to expand the COVID-19 vaccine capacity and a key climate change initiative, according to senior officials involved in the major foreign policy initiative of the Biden administration.

Known as the “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue,” representatives for the four member nations have met periodically since its establishment in 2007.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will attend the virtual summit, which is the first conclave of the top leaders of the Quadrilateral alliance.

The four countries plan to establish a series of working groups that will focus on climate change; critical and emerging technologies, including working to set technology standards and norms and jointly developing some of the critical technologies of the future, officials said.

The meeting to be held virtually on Friday is expected to last about 90 minutes, during which all the four leaders would also lay out their vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. amidst China flexing its muscles in the region.

Biden, who has initiated this leadership summit of the Quad, which has been in the making since 2004, would attend the meeting from the State Dining room of the White House along with the Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan among others.

“It will be about each leader laying out a series of views on strategic issues that are important to them. We’re going to talk about each of our conceptions of what we call the “free and open Indo-Pacific”, a senior administration official told reporters ahead of the historic meeting.

In addition to major COVID and climate initiatives to be announced, the leaders will also put in place a number of working groups in initiative, which are really all about building habits of cooperation between these countries and thickening the bonds and ties that exist already among the four strong democracies, said an official who spoke on condition on anonymity.

The US, working closely with India and Japan, have put together complex financing vehicles that will allow for “a very substantial, frankly dramatic, increase” in the capacity to create vaccines, up to a billion by 2022.

“In addition, working with all the countries in the Quad on delivery mechanisms, on issues associated with what we call ‘last mile capacity’ that will allow these vaccines to be into the arms of the key people across Southeast Asia,” the official said.

Describing it as a historic agreement to expand COVID-19 vaccine production capacity, which will be a key deliverable for the Quad summit, a second senior administration official said that the leaders of the four countries understand that, as long as the pandemic continues to spread, none of them are safe.

Achieving global vaccination and ending the pandemic absolutely requires expanding vaccine manufacturing and delivery, and through the Quad, the leaders have identified several concrete areas where they can work together.

“We are in discussions, including through the US Development Finance Corporation, working with companies in India, as well as with the Government of Japan, the Government of India, obviously, and the government of Australia, with a focus of significantly increasing capacity for COVID-19 vaccines that are authorised by the World Health Organisation or stringent regulatory authorities,” the official said.

The summit is also expected to establish a senior level Quad vaccine expert group. The focus of this expert group will be to implement this new deliverable, but also to focus on downstream cooperation to bring vaccines to people in the Indo-Pacific.

In addition, the official said Quad partners will also be taking important steps on climate change.

“They’ll be pledging to fully implement the Paris agreement, to work together on global climate actions, and to cooperate on climate mitigation… and climate finance,” the official said.

The four countries also plan to establish a series of working groups that will focus on climate, on critical and emerging technologies, including working to set tech standards and norms and jointly developing some of the critical technologies of the future.

Senior administration officials said Quad countries are interested, both in cybersecurity, and all of them have been subjected to cyberattacks.

“It is also the case that each of these countries are acutely interested in standard settings for 5G and other global technologies that are going to be critical in the 21st century,” the official noted.

Describing Quad as a bipartisan initiative since 2004, the official said Biden wants to put his stamp on this at the leader level and that’s why he has basically summoned the capacity of the US government, to apply its strategic ingenuity on the most important challenges that are confronting them.

Responding to a question, the officials said that one of the many great things about this Quad partnership is that India is already producing vaccines that are providing the rest of the world with access to vaccinations including through Covax.

“Some of the first vaccines that were delivered through Covax came from India…On expanding access and in manufacturing, we’re looking at global benefit through expanding supply of vaccines coming out of India,” the official added.

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