(Updates with Biden, Modi meeting)
By Steve Holland, David Brunnstrom, Nandita Bose and Michael Martina
WASHINGTON, Sept.24 (Reuters) – Leaders from the United States, Japan, India and Australia gathered on Friday for a summit that is expected to advance COVID vaccines, infrastructure and technology cooperation -19.
The first face-to-face meeting of the Quad, as the grouping of the Big Four Democracies is called, should be closely watched in Beijing, which has criticized the group as “doomed to failure.”
US President Joe Biden first met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Oval Office, their first face-to-face meeting since Biden took power in January.
Modi told reporters the groundwork has been laid for a “transformative” relationship between the two countries.
Modi, who was not allowed to travel to the United States after the massacre of hundreds of people, mostly Muslims, in the state where he was chief minister, has also met with US CEOs and will speak to United Nations during his visit.
Biden, Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison were due to meet as a group at the White House in the afternoon. Biden will then separately meet Suga after the Quad summit.
The group will announce several agreements aimed directly at China, including one to strengthen the security of the semiconductor supply chain and to combat illegal fishing and strengthen maritime domain awareness, a senior US official said. It will also deploy a 5G partnership and climate change monitoring plans.
The meeting comes just over a week after the United States, Britain and Australia announced an AUKUS security pact under which Australia will be equipped with nuclear-powered submarines, a decision which was strongly denounced by Beijing.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian appeared to criticize the group during a press briefing on Friday, saying “a closed and exclusive clique targeting other countries is going against the trend of the times and of the aspirations of the countries of the region. It will find no support and is doomed to failure. “
INDIA TO EXPORT VACCINES
The Quad will also announce next steps in plans to deliver one billion COVID-19 snapshots across Asia by the end of 2022, an initiative agreed at a virtual Quad summit in March.
The effort came to a halt after India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, banned exports in April amid a massive COVID outbreak in its country.
India said it was ready to restart vaccine exports during the October quarter, prioritizing the international vaccine initiative COVAX and neighboring countries. But he also called for a waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines and better access to raw materials.
“Obviously, there have been challenges in India over the summer,” the US official said. “But … we think it will be important to meet the ambitions we set out at the time.”
US Vice President Kamala Harris met Modi on Thursday and welcomed India’s decision to resume vaccine exports.
U.S. officials have sought to downplay the security aspect of the Quad – even though its members conduct naval exercises together and share concerns about China’s growing power and attempts to exert pressure on the four countries.
China has denounced the Quad as a Cold War construct and said the AUKUS alliance will intensify an arms race in the region.
Suga, who is stepping down from Japan, wants to discuss with Biden “recent efforts by countries to potentially join the CPTPP,” the US official said, referring to China, which recently announced its desire to join the regional trade pact. . (Reporting by Michael Martina, David Brunnstrom, Steve Holland and Nandita Bose; Editing by Michael Perry and Dan Grebler)