Monday, 20 September 2021
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The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, is evolving from a maritime security grouping for the Indo-Pacific into a long-term strategic partnership with a wide spectrum of shared values and principles, a common world view, and vital interests that are in alignment. This evolution is possible because, beyond defence, the four democracies that comprise the group – Australia, India, Japan, the U.S. – have more to offer each other and the region.  All four have complementary strengths in technology, healthcare and finance – areas that will shape future economic and social development. The unique mix of the group – three developed and one developing nation, three Pacific and one Indian Ocean nation, three producer-trading nations with one massive emerging market – lends itself to innovation, experimentation and cooperation that can be a template for a new, post-pandemic geopolitical era.   

Why not add an economic and technological dimension to the Quad’s mission, and put its powerful matrix to work? Why should this strategic partnership not be glued with the pragmatism of business and the ideas born of entrepreneurship?   

The idea germinated at Gateway House, Mumbai, in 2019. Conversations with industry executives, technology experts, venture funders, financiers and diplomats from the four countries over six months made clear that everyone wanted to enhance the Quad. As Covid-19 took root in 2020, the importance of the Quad became apparent, as did the urgency of putting collective economic and technological knowledge to best use for the immediate- and the long-term. A series of exploratory conversations led to planning for a Task Force. In May 2020, the Gateway House team identified five areas ripe for economic and technological cooperation among the Quad nations, along with experts in the four Quad countries from industry, academia, politics, the strategic community and government.   

Dr. Lisa Curtis, Director of Indo-Pacific Security at the Centre for New American Security, and Dr. Surjit Bhalla, executive director for India, International Monetary Fund, were named co-chairs. Stressing the urgency of building a coalition of economic interests with technological transparency, both led the Task Force with enthusiasm.  The Task Force’s first meeting was held virtually on March 23, 2021 – boosted by the first virtual summit of the Quad leaders held on March 12. After five months, the Task Force has been able to publish its findings, available in this report 

The Task Force has taken on the study of cutting-edge subjects – emerging technologies, space, creation of new products, new standards and new supply chains essential for the future. Through multiple meetings across four time zones, members used their knowledge and their networks to bring to this report a rich understanding of the subjects.  The outcome is a blueprint for cooperation among the Quad’s members on pressing immediate-term issues and on development of plans for long-term engagement. The recommendations are not just intended for the consideration of the four governments, but for all democratic stakeholders, including business, the technology world, media and academia. We hope all will use the findings of this report to prepare to face the challenges before us.

Quad Economy and Technology Task force report

The Task Force found commonalities on the need to increase economic and technological interdependence among the Quad countries and to establish common and updated rules and standards for emerging technologies in five study areas.

On pharmaceutical industry issues, it recommended the speedy production, distribution and rollout of vaccines to all regions, and suggested the use of licensing agreements as a pragmatic and immediate solution to the controversy over proposals to waive Intellectual Property Rights to accelerate the process. It also proposed using the Quad Plus-Plus to address the common standards for new drugs.

Noting constraints on supply of rare earth and other minerals crucial for future economies, the task force recommended strengthening its supply chains by creating deep financial markets similar to those that exist for bullion and oil. It also suggested a mechanism to monitor the takeover of their supply chains – especially by state-owned enterprises, which can become monopolies that cause artificial shortages.

The group also noted that the four Quad nations can jointly use their capital and their significant niche capabilities in finance and technology, to expand its access in developing countries.

Addressing undersea communications cables, the task force noted that Quad countries currently hold an advantage but that China poses a challenge. It recommended a public-private partnership to create an independent infrastructure provider for undersea cables in the Indo-Pacific region. Furthermore, the Quad and its partners must actively coordinate participation in international institutions to influence ICT standards-setting and that an ICT sub-working group within the Quad’s existing Critical and Emerging Technology working group could be formed.

It argued that a Quad strategy for 6G technology standards must be put in place, with a democratic ethos and transparency built into its research, development and deployment – through the Quad or the D-10 grouping.

You can download the PDF version of  ‘The Quad Economy and Technology Task Force Report: A Time for Concerted Action’ here.

 

Learn more about the Quad

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, is a loose grouping of four democratic countries: India, the United States, Australia and Japan. This strategic partnership of maritime powers is an extension of the bilateral and trilateral relationships within the group, grounded in their shared interests in the Indo-Pacific region. Maritime cooperation between the four members during the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 led to the origin of the Quad. However, the idea was solidified in early 2007, when then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in his much-quoted Confluence of the Two Seas speech during a visit to the Indian Parliament, advocated a rules-based Indo-Pacific. 

The Quad sat dormant for a decade, but a revived Quad came together in 2017 on the side-lines of the ASEAN summit in the Philippines to counter China’s aggression in the South China Sea. In November 2020, amidst the raging Coronavirus pandemic, the four navies took part in the Malabar Exercises, the first joint Quad exercise in more than a decade. In March 2021, the first leader-level summit marked a defining moment in Asian geopolitics and demonstrated the four nations’ commitment to the quadrilateral as a key pillar of their strategies in the Indo-Pacific region. The virtual meeting on 12 March 2021 saw the formation of three working groups: vaccine production and distribution, technological innovation and supply chain resilience, and climate change. The first task force on the Quad focussing on economic and technological collaborations was initiated by Gateway House on 23 March 2021. 

Today, the Quad has gathered strength due to shared concerns about China’s economic dominance and the security challenges it poses. The Quad represents a force for global good, aiming to uphold the rules-based international order in a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” The four leaders of the member nations are expected to attend the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September this year. An in-person meeting is planned in Washington during the same visit, contingent on COVID protocols.

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