Biden To Host Quad Leaders At White House

U.S. president Joe Biden will host leaders from Australia, India, and Japan in person for the first time at the White House this Friday.

Biden hosted a virtual meeting of the group, referred to as the “Quad,” in March, according to AP News. The in-person meeting looks to boost cooperation amongst countries in the Indo-Pacific region to push back against China.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, and Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga will come to Washington to discuss COVID-19 vaccines, climate change, partnering on emerging technology and cyberspace, and the promotion of a free and open Indo-Pacific, AP News reports.

“Hosting the leaders of the Quad demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s priority of engaging in the Indo-Pacific, including through new multilateral configurations to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” U.S. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a White House statement.

U.S. visits of the Quad leaders will coincide with the United Nations General Assembly in New York, which Biden will address on September 21st.

Biden’s Indo-Pacific coordinator, Kurt Campbell, said in July that this long-planned in-person meeting should bring concluding decisions on vaccine diplomacy. In the U.S., Biden has been pushing for big spending on infrastructure and suggested something similar to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Reuters said that Biden’s push for infrastructure in democratic countries was to gain against China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to expand from East Asia to Europe.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing on Tuesday said, “China believes that any regional cooperation framework should go with the trend of the times and be conducive.”

The Quad meeting comes after Biden’s image has been battered over U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and France’s anger at the U.S. and Australia over a derailed submarine deal, according to the Washington Post.

U.S. officials said the end of America’s longest war allowed the administration to divert resources to tackle China-related issues.

The first summit’s vaccine initiatives were delayed after a tremendous and overwhelming wave of COVID-19 hit India, stopping vaccine exports. At the March summit, Quad leaders agreed that Indian drugmaker Biological E Ltd. would produce at least a billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, mainly for Southeast Asia and Pacific countries, by the end of 2022.

Another controversy concerning the Quad leaders is the fact that Prime Minister Suga will visit Washington despite his term as prime minister ending on September 30th, according to Japan’s Kyodo News. Suga was the first leader to hold a face-to-face at the White House summit with Biden in April, emphasizing Japan’s central role in U.S. efforts to rival China.

Suga’s ratings from the Japanese population have dropped considerably after hosting the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, despite the high COVID-19 case counts in Japan, according to the Japan Times.

In order for substantive change within these countries to occur, the Quad must make conclusive decisions about the objectives of this summit. Controversies surrounding the U.S. and wealthy nations about COVID-19 vaccine’s availability must be emphasized. Vaccine diplomacy should be about these countries distributing the vaccine around the world, instead of hoarding and capitalizing off of it.

Jadenne Radoc Cabahug