The leaders of the US, India, Japan and Australia wrapped up their first virtual summit, vowing to promote security in the Indo-Pacific, expand efforts to produce Covid-19 vaccines and co-ordinate efforts on issues including climate change and disaster relief.
A joint statement Friday from the so-called Quad included shared goals such as ensuring North Korea denuclearises and holding an in-person meeting of the four nations’ leaders by the end of 2021 – in itself a sign of confidence in expanding vaccine access.
Towards that goal, the group agreed to support efforts to ramp up vaccine manufacturing in the region. Specifically, that includes an effort to bolster vaccine output in India by as many as a billion doses by 2022. To help reach that target, Japan is in talks to provide concessional yen loans for India, according to a fact sheet provided at the meeting’s end.
“We are committed to leveraging our partnership to help the world’s most dynamic region respond to this historic crisis, so that it may be the free, open, accessible, diverse and thriving Indo-Pacific we all seek,” the statement said.
The gathering of the four leaders come as all of them have their particular tension with a country that was not present: China.
It was not mentioned in the final statement, but references to an “open” Indo-Pacific region and shared security interests leave little doubt that the meeting was also a show of unity against Beijing.
“The United States is committed to working with you, our partners, and all our allies in the region to achieve stability,” US President Joe Biden said at the start of Friday’s virtual gathering. The Quad, he added, was dedicated to “practical solutions and concrete results".
When asked about the meeting, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called on countries to refrain from creating blocs. Exchanges between governments should create understanding and avoid targeting third parties, he said during a briefing in Beijing.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the meeting the Quad could collectively address challenges including the pandemic and the environment. “We’ll do our share of the heavy lifting to ease the burden for us all,” he said.
On vaccines, Australia said it would provide $77 million to help nations in South-East Asia buy vaccines and help resolve problems with “last mile” delivery of the medicine. That’s on top of the $407 million it is already providing for vaccine coverage in Pacific Island nations and Timor-Leste, according to the fact sheet.
But India appeared to be the biggest beneficiary, with leaders vowing to help the world’s second-most populous nation ramp up vaccine production. Developing countries have been largely left behind in the race to vaccinate their populations, with the majority of the world’s early doses going to fewer than a dozen wealthier nations, including the US and the UK.
On climate change, the Quad nations agreed to establish a working group to promote low-emissions technology and help nations reach targets they agreed to as part of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also said the recent coup in Myanmar was a topic of discussion.
“I expressed serious concerns about the situation in Myanmar and strong opposition to attempts by China to change the status quo in a one-sided fashion,” Mr Suga said.