Is it time to add free trade to his agenda?

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US President Joe Biden will welcome Quad leaders to the White House on September 24. | Photo credit: AP

Highlights

  • As it stands, the combined GDP of all Quad countries is valued at $ 34 trillion, with Washington holding the highest share, followed by Tokyo, New Delhi and Canberra.
  • Several experts insist that if the Quad is to become a more formalized structure, the establishment of an agreed business architecture within the Indo-Pacific is warranted.
  • In response to the fallout from the pandemic, Japan proposed a Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) with India and Australia

Thirteen years have passed since representatives of the four Quad countries first met on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum summit in Manila to reportedly voice their concerns over the growing influence. of China in the region and discuss “topics of mutual interest”.

Yet the unaligned interests of individual member countries, from former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s favorable policies towards China, and India’s reluctance to betray its cautious approach to forming strategic alliances, have largely meant that any formalization proposal has fizzled out. .

It was really in 2012, when the then Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, rallied to re-launch a dialogue between the four nations for the safeguard of “the common maritime space which stretches from the region from the Indian Ocean to the Western Pacific “, that the embryo of a Quad 2.0 was formed. And the first-ever in-person summit between the four Quad leaders on September 24 represents another opportunity to move the alliance forward.

Currently, Quad countries have chosen to focus on three critical areas: the development of a Quad Group of Vaccine Experts, a Quad Critical and Emerging Technologies Group, and a Quad Climate Working Group. . However, since the resumption of the Quad Dialogue, one aspect – free trade – has been conspicuous by its absence, and now takes on greater importance as a result of an awareness of the over-dependence of countries on from China.

As it stands, the combined GDP of all Quad countries is valued at $ 34 trillion, with Washington holding the highest share, followed by Tokyo, New Delhi and Canberra. However, it’s worth mentioning that China continues to be the biggest trading partner of three of the nations that make up the Quad. Several experts insist that if the Quad is to become a more formal structure, it is justified to establish an agreed business architecture within the Indo-Pacific.

In response to the fallout from the pandemic, Japan proposed a Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) with India and Australia. The need for the SCRI was also discussed in early September at the 2 + 2 ministerial meeting between New Delhi and Canberra.

The SCRI then represents one of the first steps in the transformation of the Quad program from a conceptual framework into a reality. The creation of a new supply chain infrastructure between India, Japan and Australia to enhance economic cooperation for mutual benefit is widely seen as the logical progression in the future of Quad.

There have also been discussions on concluding commodity trade agreements with Australia, one of the world’s largest energy importers. Australia, it should be noted, is the largest producer of iron ore in the world. In the wake of Canberra supporting an investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 virus, relations between Australia and China are not exactly copasetic at the moment, with the Australian economy reeling from the sanctions imposed by Beijing.

The first signal that the Quad’s program could go beyond combating China’s military aggression in the Indo-Pacific appeared at the 2017 Quad meetings, where statements promised new connectivity projects and increased financing of infrastructure for countries in the region.

However, the Blue Dot Network, originally launched by the Donald Trump administration and the India-Japan MoU for the Colombo East Container Terminal, has since failed. In addition, India’s reluctance to sign the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Regional Economic Trade Agreement (RCEP) also highlights the challenges ahead to strengthen the economic relationship between the Quad Group.


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