Scott Morrison, Joe Biden’s ‘Quad’ meeting to bring four-nation alliance to ‘whole new level’

Washington: Prime Minister Scott Morrison will meet virtually with US President Joe Biden and the leaders of India and Japan on Saturday in a significant elevation of the “Quad”, a strategic alliance between the four countries.

The White House said the leaders-level meeting, the first since the Quad was founded in 2007, showed the Biden administration is deeply engaged with the Indo-Pacific.

US President Joe Biden has signalled his administration will be deeply engaged with the Asia-Pacific region. Credit:EPA

The roll-out of vaccines to developing Asia-Pacific nations is expected to be a major focus of the talks, as the US and its allies seek to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

China pledged to deliver an estimated half a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to more than 45 countries in what has been dubbed a major “vaccine diplomacy” campaign.

When announcing the leaders’ meeting on Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters: “That President Biden has made this one of his earliest multilateral engagements speaks to the importance we place on close co-operation with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.”

She said the leaders would discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, economic co-operation and the climate crisis among other issues.

Morrison said he was delighted that the new Biden administration wanted to take the Quad to a “whole new level” by elevating it to a leaders-level dialogue.

He said it was a step that Australia had been “championing for many years”.

“This was the first thing I discussed with President Biden and I was so pleased the new administration [was] also so enthusiastic about this program,” Morrison said, describing the Quad as an “anchor of peace and stability in the region”.

“The Indo-Pacific is our world. This is where Australia lives.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison: Australia lives in the Indo-Pacific.Credit: Janie Barrett

Experts said the growing importance of the Quad could significantly boost Australia’s global standing given the impressive populations and military capabilities of the fellow members.

The meeting will also involve Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, all nations with a deep interest in the region’s security.

Daniel Russel, a key player in the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” policy, said: “This reflects the Biden team’s conviction that China shouldn’t be the only game in town.

“China’s dramatic rise and assertive behaviour has brought home the realisation for these four countries that they will benefit from a co-ordinated agenda to shape and influence regional trends and global governance.”

Derek Grossman, an expert on Indo-Pacific security issues at the RAND corporation, said: “A lot of folks in the Asia-watching community have said the Quad was kind of a joke, that it doesn’t do much.

“I think it’s going to be a very important forum for the Biden administration.”

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