Exploring Quad+ cooperation

By Dr Pia Dannhauer

The Quad is a diplomatic network of four countries – Australia, India, Japan, and the United States – committed to supporting an open, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific. The Quad mechanism is not a formal alliance. Nonetheless, it allows its members to shape their strategic environment – and to influence China’s rise.

Collectively the Quad represents much of the world’s economic, financial, and military power, wielded by democracies whose interests often overlap. Its agenda is focused on delivering public goods for the Indo-Pacific, including health security, climate change, infrastructure, critical and emerging technology, and many other pressing challenges.

A recent conference organised by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) explored opportunities to expand Quad cooperation to countries whose interests overlap with those of the Quad. At the centre of these “Quad+” discussion was cooperation with the Philippines.

The Philippines shares the Quad’s interest in the prosperity and stability of the Indo-Pacific. Manila is a long-standing security partner of the US, and its territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea has become a flashpoint for great power competition. Like Quad countries, the Philippines faces security challenges in supply chain resilience, food and energy security, and critical and emerging technologies.

There are thus many opportunities for a Quad+. But expanded cooperation will not be without challenges. The Quad is intentionally designed to be an informal and flexible mechanism to bring together four stakeholders with many shared interests but different geopolitical outlooks. India especially has resisted a formalisation of the Quad to avoid alienating China, with which it shares a border. These internal differences also impose limits on the Quad countries’ cooperation with external partners, particularly when it comes to potential responses to Chinese grey-zone activities. There are also some doubts over the Quad’s capacity to see through diplomatic or economic projects. The Quad Vaccine Partnership, for instance, failed to deliver on its promise of safe, effective, and affordable COVID-19 vaccine doses for the Indo-Pacific region.

In light of these constraints, a narrow agenda seems most useful to secure tangible outcomes and deliverables through Quad+ cooperation. This could be as simple as coordinating infrastructure projects to ensure complementarity between Quad investors in the Philippines. Another platform for cooperation is critical technologies. Quad+ countries have different strengths and technological capacities, so they could pool their resources to source and train talent. Whatever the issue, however, a clear focus and effective coordination will be key to success.

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