First Quad summit to focus on ramping up vaccine supplies

China to figure among talks on climate action, tech cooperation, say U.S. officials.

March 12, 2021 04:07 pm | Updated 10:55 pm IST

U.S. President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian PM Scott Morrison and Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga.

U.S. President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian PM Scott Morrison and Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga.

Friday’s Quad leaders’ meeting — the first of its kind between the heads of government/state — will have as a core outcome announcements on how the four countries are going to cooperate to dramatically increase — by one billion doses in 2022 — the supply of COVID-19 vaccines to meet shortages in southeast Asia.

Other outcomes from the meeting will involve commitments on climate action cooperation, critical and emerging technologies , i.e., 5G, and cybersecurity issues, according to senior U.S. administration officials who spoke with reporters on a briefing call hours before the meeting.

Concerns around China’s role in the world will also be discussed in the private segments of the summit, although the U.S. has repeatedly signaled that China will not be the focus of the leaders’ meeting.

Indo-Pacific agenda

“President Biden has worked hard to bring these leaders together to make a clear statement of the importance of the Indo-Pacific region. And it’s really our contribution at the outset to regional architecture that we will be defining in the 21st century,” one official said about the meeting between Mr. Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan.


The event is expected to last about 90 minutes, with each leader outlining issues that are of strategic importance to them, and defining what a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ means to them, another official said. Also expected to attend from the U.S. side are Vice-President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken (moderator), National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Jeff Zients, the head of Mr. Biden’s COVID-19 taskforce.

“…I believe that the leaders tomorrow in their private discussion will be open about some of the concerns they have [about a free and open Indo-Pacific]. And I do believe that there will be an honest, open discussion about China's role on the global stage,” an official said.

The U.S. side will also bring up in discussions its position that China is committing genocide against the Uighurs in Xinjian province, Press Secretary Jen Psaki had said on Thursday.

Vaccine expert group

An expert group on vaccines will be announced to increase not just the supply of vaccines but also address last mile delivery issues. The U.S. government is in discussions with the governments of the other three countries as well as with the U.S. International Development Corporation and companies in India to ramp up supplies. Quad countries have put together “complex financing vehicles” to achieve this, one of the officials said.

“…The thing that has brought all these countries together is an… insistence on providing practical, concrete help to people in need. And so if the Quad cannot do that, if it can’t address constructively these issues, we will quickly lose relevance and we'll be strategically insignificant,” the official said.

Climate Change

On climate, the leaders will pledge to fully implement their Paris Agreement commitments and to cooperate on various aspects of fighting climate change. The outcomes for Friday will include working groups on climate as well as working groups on “critical and emerging technologies, including working to set tech standards and norms, and jointly developing some of the critical technologies of the future,” an official confirmed.


Quad members will exchange notes on cybersecurity — both India and the U.S. have recently been the victims of cyber security intrusions from adversarial countries (China in India’s case and Russia in the U.S. case). They will also discuss digital hygiene, setting standards for 5G and other types of technology.

A week after the Quad leaders’ meeting, Mr. Blinken and Mr. Sullivan will meet their Chinese counterparts in Anchorage.

The officials on Thursday’s briefing call said the U.S. had already engaged “extensively” with “virtually every” country in both Asia and Europe and “many countries throughout the world” on their views on China and Asia before going into direct diplomacy with Beijing.

The U.S.’s transatlantic allies were also consulted on matters pertaining to the Indo- Pacific, one of the officials said.

“We’ve undertaken a series of substantial dialogues between the United States and Europe comparing notes on issues in China and Asia more broadly…We believe that as we turn our attention to the Indo-Pacific, we want to deepen our ties and contexts with Europe, compare notes, and we've done that consequentially, and that will continue over time,” they said.

Mr. Suga will be the first foreign head of state to be hosted by the Biden administration, one of the officials said on the call. However, a date for his Washington visit was not provided.

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