Mar 12, 2021 - World

Biden and leaders of Australia, India, Japan to unveil plan to boost Asia's vaccine supply

Biden visits India in 2013. Photo: Vijayanand Gupta/Hindustan Times via Getty

President Biden and his counterparts from India, Japan and Australia — collectively known as "the Quad" — will announce a plan to increase vaccine supplies to countries in Asia during a video summit on Friday, a senior administration official told reporters.

Why matters: This is the first time that a Quad summit will bring together the leaders of all four countries, demonstrating a growing commitment to a group the U.S. sees as key to countering the influence of China in the Indo-Pacific.

  • The senior official also announced new Quad initiatives on climate change and technology in a press call on Thursday night.
  • These initiatives mark a significant expansion beyond the Quad's previous emphasis on security cooperation, something that government officials in the U.S. and other nations in the region have called for as China's footprint grows.

What they're saying: "President Biden has worked hard to bring these leaders together to make a clear statement of the importance of the Indo-Pacific region. It’s our contribution at the outset to regional architecture for a region we will be defining in the 21st century," the senior official said.

  • The goal is "building habits of cooperation" and strengthening the "bonds and ties that already exist among our four strong democracies."

Driving the news: The main agreement to be announced at the meeting is a plan to boost manufacturing capacity for vaccines to be distributed in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly from companies in India.

  • The countries will also coordinate on building "last-mile capacity" to deliver those doses all the way to the people who will receive the jabs.
  • But a senior administration official said the U.S. would not be announcing any steps to distribute vaccines manufactured in or purchased by the U.S.
  • Between the lines: China's pledges to provide doses to countries in its neighborhood and around the world have put the Biden administration — which is focusing almost entirely on the domestic rollout — on the back foot.

What's next: The senior official confirmed that Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will be the first foreign leader to visit Biden at the White House. Axios' Hans Nichols first reported that the meeting would be taking place next month.

Worth noting: Former defense secretary Jim Mattis co-wrote a piece, published in Foreign Policy on Wednesday, arguing that "making the Quad work could be Biden’s most important task in Asia."

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