WASHINGTON – The United States is looking to convene an in-person meeting of its partners the Quad group of countries – Australia, India and Japan – in the fall with a focus on infrastructure in the face of the challenge from China, President Joe Biden’s policy coordinator for the Indo-Pacific said on Wednesday (May 26).
Kurt Campbell said other countries would be welcome to work with the Quad, which held a first virtual leaders’ summit in March and pledged to work closely on Covid-19 vaccine distribution, climate issues and security.
“We want to look this fall to convene an in-person Quad and the hope will be to make a similar kind of engagement on infrastructure more generally,” Campbell told an online event hosted by Stanford University’s Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Centre.
“And I do want to underscore… this is not a fancy club. If there are other countries that believe that they’d like to engage and work with us, the door will be open as we go forward,” Campbell said.
The March Quad summit was carefully choreographed to counter China’s growing influence and Biden and his fellow leaders pledged to work to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific in the face of challenges from Beijing.
They also agreed an in-person summit would be held later in the year.
Campbell said the “operating system” the United States had helped build in Asia remained intact but was “under substantial strain” in the face of China’s rise.
“It’s going to need to be reinvigorated in a number of ways, not just by the United States, but other countries that use the operating system and that means Japan that means South Korea, Australia, countries in Europe that want to do more in Asia and across the board,” he said.
Campbell said it was important for the United States to have a “positive economic vision of what it wants to contribute, what it wants to engage on in Asia.”
“We can do everything right in Asia, but without a economic strategy, it’s hard to be successful. That’s what Asians are looking for as we go forward. I think we’re ambitious about the Quad,” he said.
Biden, who pushing for big infrastructure spending at home, said in March he had suggested to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that democratic countries should have an infrastructure plan to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The BRI is a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure scheme launched in 2013 by China’s President Xi Jinping involving projects from East Asia to Europe and seen as a means to significantly expand Beijing’s economic and political influence.