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Historic Quad summit to turbocharge vaccine rollout

Andrew TillettPolitical correspondent

Australia will assume the lion’s share of responsibility for distributing coronavirus vaccines to south-east Asian and Pacific nations as part of a combined effort to deliver one billion doses under the revitalised Quadrilateral Security Dialogue to counter China’s own vaccine diplomacy.

The Morrison government will kick in $99 million ($US77 million) for so-called “last mile” delivery of vaccines to ensure people in south-east Asia receive them. This is in addition to its commitment to vaccine delivery in the Pacific.

Scott Morrison participating in the inaugural Quadrilateral leaders’ meeting. AAP

And in a strong message to China following their first leaders level meeting, Australia, the US, Japan and India vowed to have an Indo-Pacific region “unconstrained by coercion” in their joint communique.

The leaders have also agreed to establish a working group to tackle climate change, including developing low-emissions technology and co-operating on climate mitigation, resilience, adaptation and finance.

They will also seek to co-operate on breaking China’s stranglehold on rare earths as well as provide an alternative to Chinese telco equipment suppliers like Huawei by establishing a separate working group on critical and emerging technology.

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This working group will seek to develop a common set of standards on new technologies, encourage cooperation on telecommunications, including diversification of equipment suppliers, monitor trends and opportunities with new technology, including biotechnology and hold talks on critical technology supply chains.

‘New dawn’

Prime Minister Scott Morrison joined US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi overnight for the first leaders’-level meeting of Quad countries.

“As we begin a new day here in Australia it’s not yet dawn, but we join together as Quad leaders of nations to welcome what I think will be will be a new dawn in the Indo-Pacific through our gathering,” Mr Morrison told the leaders in his opening remarks.

“History teaches us that when nations engage together in a partnership of strategic trust, of common hope and shared values, much can be achieved.

“As four leaders of great liberal democracies in the Indo-Pacific, let our partnership be the enabler of peace, stability and prosperity and to do so inclusively with the many nations of our region.”

Mr Biden said: “The United States is committed to working with you, our partners, and all our allies in the region to achieve stability. The Quad is going to be a vital arena for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific”.

Vaccine focus

The virtual summit, scheduled to last 90 minutes, was also attended by senior ministers and officials from the four countries, including US Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne and the secretaries of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Phil Gaetjens and Frances Adamson, sat in on the Australian side.

The Quad was revived in 2017 amid shared concerns over China’s growing assertiveness, raising Beijing’s ire, but the grouping has also taken on fresh impetus with the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery.

The major announcement out of Saturday morning’s meeting was coronavirus vaccine cooperation.

Under the plan, Japan and the US would provide money and loans for India – a pharmaceutical manufacturing powerhouse – to produce one billion doses of vaccines, including Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.

In recognition of Australia’s strong foreign aid presence in the region, Australia’s role , will be to offer logistical support for distributing the vaccine to countries in the region, including boosting the workforce to administer shots and countering disinformation.

Chinese shipments

The Quad vaccine initiative would build on Australia’s $523 million pledge to distribute vaccines in the region and $80 million commitment to the global COVAX facility to supply vaccines to the poorest countries.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has a major advantage over rival jabs in that it only requires one dose rather than two and it can be stored and transported in standard refrigerators, making distribution much easier.

Other vaccines are expected to be made available under the Quad mechanism, with the aim of upping production and the vaccination rate.

China has already begun shipping its vaccines to some Asian countries, including Indonesia, although no late-stage clinical trial information has been provided, raising questions over safety and efficacy.

While Mr Morrison rejected China’s concerns about the Quad ahead of the meeting, the leaders’ communique said they “strive for a region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion”.

“Together, we commit to promoting a free, open rules-based order, rooted in international law to advance security and prosperity and counter threats to both in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. We support the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes, democratic values, and territorial integrity,” the communique said.

The leaders resolved to hold an in person meeting at the end of the year, while also committing foreign ministers to annual meetings.

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Summary | 1 Annotation
hey will also seek to co-operate on breaking China’s stranglehold on rare earths as well as provide an alternative to Chinese telco equipment suppliers like Huawei by establishing a separate working group on critical and emerging technology.
2021/03/13 07:57