While debt-ceiling negotiations required President Biden to call off the Australia leg of his recent trip to the region, this did not stop progress on a number of major initiatives across the Indo-Pacific. At the G7 in Hiroshima, Japan, key global leaders discussed a wide range of salient issues, from countering economic coercion and redoubling support for Ukraine to clean energy and nuclear disarmament. The leaders of all four Quad countries were also able to hold a rescheduled Quad Leaders Summit on the sidelines of the G7 and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and President Biden also met one-on-one and struck a deal adding a climate and clean energy "third pillar" to the alliance. With a sizeable agenda amid condensed timelines, what was prioritised in the discussion between Quad leaders? Did the outcomes from the G7 meet expectations? What is next for the White House's Indo-Pacific team following President Biden’s Asia trip?
To discuss these issues, the United States Studies Centre hosted a webinar with White House National Security Council Indo-Pacific Coordinator Dr Kurt Campbell, White House National Security Council Senior Director for East Asia and Oceania Edgard Kagan and White House National Security Council Director for Indo-Pacific Strategy Dr Mira Rapp-Hooper in discussion with USSC CEO Dr Michael Green.
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Kurt Campbell: Hey, Mike? It's Kurt Campbell. I'm so sorry we're having technical difficulties. But if it's okay, I've got, Edgard Kagan and Mira Rapp-Hooper with us. We'd be happy to give you the time. And with just sincere apologies.
Michael Green: Oh, that's all right, Kurt. Thank you. We have a very patient audience and with your permission, and we'll get started because I think people are very keen to hear your reflections and deep brief on the visit.
I was just going to say, welcome and to those of you joining us from the Indo-Pacific and from Washington. Thank you for your patience. I'm Mike Green. This is the United States Studies Centre, joining you from the land of the Gadigal People in Sydney, Australia. Delighted to have Kurt Campbell, the Senior Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific at the NSC. And his colleague, Edgard Kagan and Dr. Mira Rapp-Hooper, to tell us about the President's trip. So Kurt thanks, Edgard, Mira, thanks for your patience and delighted. We can see you, I think, and certainly can hear you.
Kurt Campbell: Yeah, we're good. Hi, Mike, it's Kurt. Can you hear me now? Okay. so, Mike, let's first of all, let me just pay my respect to you and the wonderful work that you're doing at the Studies Centre, where we follow your progress closely and carefully. And you know, frankly look forward to engaging with you as you go forward. I just want to just take a couple of minutes. I'll set the scene if I can, and then have Edgard go through some of the specifics of the visit.
So first of all, Mike, since you've served at the White House, you know what it's like when you are called into the meetings with the Chief of Staff and the senior team. And you're told, look, we're facing very difficult circumstances.
Last week Edgard, Mira and I were engaged on the challenges that we're grappling with. Now with respect to the budget impasse, with respect to the Republican Congress, and approaching hourly by the prospect of a default. I'm relatively confident that we will be able to get through this like we've gotten through it in the past, but the consequences are real, as you saw the President was forced to postpone his engagement in PNG and Australia.
And, having lived through that during the Obama Administration, during previous budget challenges from a different generation of Republican legislators. I think his decision was that he could not postpone the entire trip. He thought that that would be catastrophic. Mike, you know what it's like. There are obvious concerns and worries. Can the Indo-Pacific count on the United States? Can we be a steady, predictable force in the politics and strategy of the region? And I think our determination was, and the President’s was, that look, we're going to go to the G7, we're going to try to resurrect as much as possible with respect to having the Quad in Hiroshima with the Australian’s in the chair. making sure we have a strong bilateral meeting, and then put in place a number of things to try to signal our determination to follow through on all [INAUDIBLE] that Secretary Blinken to go to Papa New Guinea there, we rolled out a series of our initiatives that are about stepping up our game in the Indo-Pacific, bilaterally there, with respect to signing the Shiprider Agreement, also the first of its kind security relationship between the United States and PNG. We also, the President reached out directly, both on the airplane and in advance to Prime Minister Albanese, deepest regrets. Really sincerest concerns about the consequences of this postponement. The President invited Prime Minister Albanese to the United States for a State visit, which he accepted, in October President indicated he had every intention to reschedule the trip. We were able to have a consequential Quad meeting Mike in Hiroshima and also a strong bilateral meeting between the President and Prime Minister Albanese. We took steps to make sure that we're on track with all elements of AUKUS, both pillar I and pillar II, and the President, the Prime Minister, signed a blockbuster agreement on climate and the provision of critical minerals, which Edgard Kagan, I think, very successfully negotiated. So the President also made clear to the Pacific Island leaders, Tony Blinken carried the letter to the Pacific Isle leaders, and invited them back to Washington, DC for a second summit, following the General Assembly here in Washington, DC. That we will bring all the leaders together for a substantial set of interactions. And also, Mike, as you probably saw the President in his meeting, his trilateral meeting with Prime Minister Kishisa and President Yoon of South Korea invited both leaders to Washington, DC for what we believe, will be a substantial, sustained, trilateral engagement among leaders, where we seek to build on the substantial progress that has been made in bilateral relations between Japan and South Korea over the course of the last couple of months.
So we had a very consequential G7 meeting. I'm going to ask Edgard to go it to go through some of those deliverables there with respect to economic coercion and indebtedness. A degree of cohesion and agreement among G7 partners that I've never witnessed before, plus a larger set of engagement with partners to the G7. Enormous enthusiasm about India's participation in Hiroshima, and clearly a desire to deepen engagements with a variety of States that were invited, and obviously on the last day the historic visit of President Zelensky of Ukraine which, frankly, highlighted how much the Indo-Pacific was committed to sustaining and supporting critical engagement with Ukraine during a very challenging period. So not only were European States strongly in support of the challenging situation that Ukraine finds itself in, but very strong, deep public support from Indo-Pacific partners more generally. I will say, Mike, that Prime Minister Kishida, managed the affair masterfully. It was a case study of Japan playing a very important diplomatic role. I don't think there is another State that has had such an important innovative diplomacy over the last 5 or 7 years, and Prime Minister, Kishida has demonstrated a very adept touch in Southeast Asia, his outreach to the global South was important, and clearly this G7 was probably more consequential than any of recent memory. I'm going to ask Edgard to go through some of the specifics in both Hiroshima, Papua New Guinea, and also what we hope to do with Australia going forward. Thank you, Mike. Here's Edgard.
Edgard Kagan: Hey, Mike. I want to say thank you very much to Kurt for his typical, outstanding lay-down. What I would add is that first of all, I think that you know this, there are a lot of work that’s gone into this trip, and some of that was despite the fact that the PNG and Australia stop was postponed, that we were able to benefit from the outstanding work that had gone into preparing for this. And I think that really showed up. I think that in terms of the G7 I would say that the things that really stood out, one, and I think everyone probably is aware already, the China language. The fact that, you know, so soon after Macron’s trip to China. So soon after, there was a tremendous amount of discussion about, you know, with questions about divisions between G7 countries on China. The fact that the G7 came together with, you know what I think is pretty extraordinary language about their shared view of China, their shared you on technology, I think it's very, very important.
Another thing is, I think everybody is familiar with the fact that you know, 10 months ago the Inflation Reduction Act became a source of friction with a number of us allies and partners. What's really remarkable is that in a comparatively short period of time the G7 was able to come together and make clear that the Inflation Reduction Act is increasingly an area of cooperation. It is an area where we all look at the problems by climate and the opportunities posed by the energy transition in a similar, not identical way. I think that the other thing that was really significant was the impact of President Zelensky’s visit. I think there's no question that that really, really shook things up, and the warmth of the welcome, the range of meetings he had, the eloquence of his remarks really stood out and, I think, it highlighted that, despite the concerns that you know, there would be some for Ukraine fatigue, despite concerns that the G7 were increasingly divided on China, in fact, the opposite showed up.
That, you know, there's tremendous unity on China. There's a growing, you know, commonality of views about how to deal with some of the most complex challenges today, including climate. And there's still a tremendous unity on Ukraine. I think that in terms of the quant I’ll leave that to Mira to talk about, in terms of the bilateral between meeting between Prime Minister Albanese and the President, I mean, it was potentially awkward. I think that I, Mr. Albanese, was extremely gracious. President Biden was very clear in his regret, and I think that that's helpful to break the ice. And you know it comes against the backdrop of the fact that they've seen each other a number of times, they’ve had very good conversations, you know, they that you know, obviously, honestly when they went to Japan for the Quad a year ago, immediately after taking office. They've seen each other at other fora, Prime Minister Albanese came out to San Diego for the AUKUS launch.
So this comes, you know, on the backdrop of a great deal of understanding and a very close relationship. And in a time when the US-Australian relationship is extremely strong. That doesn't mean that there, you know, wasn't disappointment, and look, we were disappointed. You know we obviously were extremely disappointed that this was pulled down. I think all of us understand the challenges that the President has to face and but you know for us the question was, how do we move forward? And I think that ultimately what you saw was a series of meetings that the meeting with Prime Minister Kishida went extremely well, as you would expect. The Prime Minister Albanese, I think that’s going very well, and, you know, the signing of the climate statement, what were generally a discussion on a range of issues that just show generally how aligned are we are looking at the region? And then the trilateral meeting, which was brief but actually quite significant, between Prime Minister Kishida President Yoon and President Biden and we thought that was very important. Okay, the G7 schedule was incredibly packed. There were a lot of other things that the President was trying to do so it was hard to squeeze in, but we thought it was really central to do, and then I'll be happy to go into the PNG stuff later, but I think that that most important takeaway is how appreciative the country, or first of all, how gracious the Pacific leaders were. Virtually every leader at the Pacific Island forum meeting with Secretary Blinken went out of the way to say, look, we're politicians, too. We understand the need to address the message challenges, and this is one that's more than just domestic.
I think that the other thing is that we heard a great deal of appreciation for what the US has done, and they recognize that in a relatively short period of time the US has stood up a pretty significant effort to reach out to the region, including opening embassies, opening peace, or like, we're turning out Peace Corps volunteers, to working more closely on climate issues, working on how you do fishing, and so I think there's a great deal of appreciation. That doesn't mean that they don't have questions about our same power. It doesn't mean that they aren't waiting to see, like, okay this time, how serious are you? And I think we have to recognize that. But at the same time we feel that, you know, we made really significant progress. And in a situation, where, arguably, we were going to face a real setback. So with that, let me just hand it over to Mira, see if there’s anything you want to add, and then we’ll be happy to take questions.
Mira Rapp-Hooper: Sure, great to see you, Mike. Thanks so much for having us, and we do apologize again about the technical difficulties. I'll say just 2-minutes worth on the Quad, and then we're really looking forward to getting to your questions.
The Quad leaders, of course, met on the sidelines of the G7 in Hiroshima. This was their third in-person meeting and their fourth summit since President Biden took office in early 2021. And I emphasize that mostly because it's important, I think, to stop and reflect on the fact that what we are already thinking of in many ways, as part of the regional architecture is, in fact, still a relatively young organization and then the last time, a ton of momentum behind it. And despite the fact that, of course the summit did not take place in Sydney, where we were so looking forward to the Sydney Opera House sails being lit up with the Quad flags, it was a really successful meeting among the leaders, that showcased, I think, their interpersonal relationships and warmth, their alignment on strategic issues and their excitement about the practical work the Quad is doing. So I'll take each of those 3 points briefly.
First, I think from all of our perspectives – those of us who were lucky enough to be in the room – at the headline from this meeting was really that the Quad leaders get along, like each other, and love being a part of this club. There was a lot of personal exchange, a lot of support for one another, foreign policy initiatives, a lot of commendation from one leader to another about what each had achieved since the last time we met.
And I thought that was just a really nice - we thought that was a really nice indicator of the fact that everybody supports one another and is really happy to be together whenever the Quad can be. That's not a small thing, right? As Mike knows well, the interpersonal dynamics amongst leaders matters a great deal, and every time the Quad leaders get together, these dynamics seem stronger and stronger, and for a relatively young institution that matters a lot.
The second point that I would make is that the leaders had a good exchange on strategic dynamics, both in the region and beyond, and it won't surprise you to learn that they are extremely aligned.
Now, when the Quad began 2 and a half years ago, and there was a lot of alignment in our leader-level meetings then, but that has only grown sharper and clearer since. And one of the things that is great about having relatively frequent Quad interactions is that the 4 Quad leaders don't have to explain their positions to one another anymore.
They get to start from a common base of information, a common understanding of where one another's greatest national interests, greatest concerns and greatest opportunities lie and dive right into what they should be thinking about and how they should align in the current environment they're facing. And that occurred very much whether we're talking about the question of China's cost or in the region, and its sort of next path more broadly, or whether we're talking about Russia's war against Ukraine.
Finally, the final point I'll make is that there was a lot of excitement amongst the leaders themselves about some of the individual, very practical initiatives that the Quad put forth at the Hiroshima Summit.
The leaders were unequivocally enthused about the progress that that Quad has been able to make on the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness announced at the Tokyo Summit last year, because the 5 partners had managed to actually deliver that capability to significant corners of the region in just a year's time.
And in many ways, this is the most practical and most all-encompassing project that the Quad has been able to execute in a very short time with each Quad member taking leadership over a different aspect of this maritime domain awareness architecture, and I'm happy to say more about that in Q&A.
The leaders also talked about their excitement and enthusiasm for the Quad’s work to support an Open RAN deployment to Palau, which will bring secure connectivity to the Pacific Islands – a huge potential step. Their statement about a new submarine cable consortium which will ensure Quad cooperation to ensure that future submarine cables end up in the hands of companies that are going to be able to provide secure connectivity, enthusiasm for an effort to offer infrastructure fellowships to mid-career officials throughout the Indo-Pacific to help them teach them new things like evaluating contracts and conducting usability studies so that our partners in other governments can make smart choices when they enter into infrastructure projects; and of course, a lot of excitement about the continuation of the Quad Fellowship, which is well underway, supporting a hundred students to come to the United States this year and planning for a long-term future. President Biden is especially excited about that piece of things.
So, all in all it's a briefer meeting than expected or planned, but I think a very fruitful one. And as Prime Minister Albanese said upon convening the group, really underscored the Quad’s long-standing mantra, which is the idea that it is a flexible grouping devoted to getting the work done. And if anything was on display in Hiroshima, it is that these 4 leaders are flexible and committed to just doing the work, so I'll stop there and look forward to your questions.
Michael Green: Thank you very much. That was an excellent, both debrief, but also explanation of the kind of colour and dynamics in the room. And just since we don't have name plates, we heard from Dr Kurt Campbell, Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific at the NSC; Edgard Kagan, Special Assistant to the President, Senior director for East Asia and Oceania; and Dr Mira Rapp-Hooper just now, the Director for Indo-Pacific-Pacific Strategy at the NSC.
And you know, it's a historical fact that, having been on, or having watched presidential trips for a long time, it's a fact that the press never, ever says “That was a great job. The President's crushing it”. There's always something.
And you know, for you guys, the criticism was about, obviously, the shortened trip, which was hard to miss, and you took some heat from the usual corners.
What I think people might have missed is how much alignment there was. Usually these presidential trips, even good ones, there are stories about friction. Maybe there was an agreement reached, but man there was a lot of broken crockery. Or, later, it's interpreted differently by the different parties. I've seen very, very little, basically none of those stories. There really was in the G7, the Quad, the trilateral and Pacific Island leaders, to all we could see it absolutely – the alignment of views that you described. So I'll tell you the questions I tend to get are: what comes next? What do these different statements, agreements, initiatives, actually mean? And I want to ask you about a couple. The first one is the G7 Statement countering coercion, economic coercion.
As Edgard said, for Macron and others to be aligned on that, it's pretty powerful. But what exactly does it mean? What comes next? Is this a first step in a G7 or multilateral process on countering coercion? Can you tell us what you expect on that one?
Edgard Kagan: So it's a really good question Mike. I think, first of all, look, this is as you said, this is hard. Getting the G7 aligned on this, particularly given their history and range of views was not easy. I think that what it really means is that there's now an agreement that economic coercion is something that is a real problem that needs a common solution. I think that one of the challenges of dealing with economic coercion is that in general there's always a first-mover disadvantage in the sense that, you know, everyone's worried like if I do something that nobody else will. And so I think the fact that we were able to get this statement is actually pretty powerful in and of itself.
I think that the honest answer is that this is still a work in progress. What we have is a set of principles, and look, getting a set of principles was not easy. I think that we are - what we also have is to recognize that every situation is going to be different. But having this alignment, I think does 2 really important things. One is, it allows for further discussion about what our different tools are. One of the things that you very quickly realize, and we've been working on this, is that every country has a different set of legal and policy tools that they can use and that it is a hard thing to come up with a truly like integrated response, because I think, in every country, people kind of feel like, ‘Gee! Our set of tools aren't exactly right for this problem’. But by working together and bringing everybody's tools together and putting them all on the table, it actually allows for a much more effective response.
I think the second thing, and I think that this is really the power of doing this is, is there's a deterrent value. And look, I don't want to oversell it. It is very hard to know, and it's very hard to know what the calculus is, but the prospect of united action by the major economies in the world and knowing that a number of other key countries share a lot of the same concerns – I mean, I think it's not a surprise. Australia, India, the RoK, all in the Indo-Pacific, all have concerns like coercion. There are many countries that aren't part of the G7 that have been victims of economic coercion, so the fact that you have this platform, I think has a real deterrent effect. It's hard to quantify and look, obviously our fervent hope is that there will not be a need to test this out. I think that we are realistic, and we are working with our partners, including some of the ones that aren’t in the G7 that I’ve named to figure out how we can try and get our tools aligned, how we could figure out what each country can do in cases where this might be an issue. But if we're really successful, this won't be an issue, because the mere fact that there's this much unity will be a deterrent in and of itself. Mira, anything?
Mira Rapp-Hooper: Nothing to add.
Michael Green: So, it is then, like, you know, historic G7 agreements in the past, an agreement on principle that's unprecedented, and the plan is now going to have to be constructed, and the specifics. The other one that really got attention here in Australia, as you'd expect, is President Biden and Prime Minister Albanese’s agreement to create what some people here are calling a third pillar in the US-Australia alliance on climate and critical minerals. We did a survey at the US Studies Centre late last year and when we asked Americans and Australians, ‘What do you most want to see out of the Alliance?’ the answer was more cooperation on climate change. 77% of Australians, 70% of Americans. And if they were in their twenties it was close to 100% of both countries. So you know, at least in principle, the President and the Prime Minister have delivered a plan to do that. The questions people are asking about it in particular, though, are what does this mean for the Inflation Reduction Act? And is there a mechanism to ensure that Australian companies under this agreement, Australian entities, consumers, are not penalized by some of the things in the IRA that you know emphasize buy American, have other provisions that would disadvantage allies, partners, international corporations, NGOs. Is there a sort of action plan, working group things to follow? To make sure this is implemented in a way to address those concerns?
Edgard Kagan: Look, the short answer is yes. There's already been a fair amount of work going, and it goes in different streams. I would start off with the premise that Australia is uniquely advantaged by the Inflation Reduction Act, because it's an FTA partner. Like, you know, if you look at the language, there's very special treatment for FTA partners, and so that immediately gives Australia a major leg up. And I mean frankly, something is very resented by non-FTA Partners which I shall not name. Also, Australia is in a very unique position in terms of the IRA, which is in addition to being an FTA partner, it's an FTA partner that has a very, very significant mining industry. Arguably the, you know, strongest, most capable, most technologically sophisticated mining companies in the world are all Australian or co-located within Australia. But essentially, you know, Australian in their complexion.
And also Australia has resources. Australia has a very wide range of mineral resources. So all those things make Australia a natural partner. So I think that you know, very honestly, I think that there's been a lot of focus on 'Oh IRA’s gonna somehow be bad’. And the truth is, IRA does 3 really significant things. One is it explicitly carves out IRA partners – I'm sorry, FTA partners.
The second advantage – the second is it turbocharges, which is probably the long metaphor, demand for electric vehicles and accelerates energy transition. What we can see is that since the IRA has been announced, it has accelerated major investments in batteries, in electric vehicles, in solar. I mean, a wide variety of things in the United States, but also globally, because what countries can see is that there is going to be a market here, and also that there's some scale and scope of the technological transition and development that is being accelerated by this, is going to spill over into other countries.
So you know, more demand for EVs in the US is also going to translate to much more production, bringing down costs, etc., which is going to accelerate the deployment of EVs in other places. And the third point is that there is a tremendous amount of linkage already between Australia and the United States in areas having to do with technology, in areas having to do with clean energy. And so this, this plays to those strengths.
So I think for us, what we see is tremendous potential. And I think that Australian companies, from what we can tell, are all very, very eager to take part in this and the Government has been very supportive. Mira?
Mira Rapp-Hooper: The only point I’d add to that Edgard, and that beautiful lay down, is that we also recently announced that the President will seek to designate Australia as a domestic source under the Defense Production Act for critical minerals, which is a really important provision which basically means that the US Government can mobilize US government resources to purchase, and for the production of, critical minerals in Australia. And to the point that Edgard already made that the IRA you know, protects FTA partners and advantages them. This is actually going a step further, and signalling that in this particular regard Australia is to be treated as though it was a source of domestic critical minerals, which really is a significant potential elevation, even though there is this process left to bring us to there.
Michael Green: Excellent! Let me, I won't keep you too much over the hour, we started late, but I know you have – well, if I remember my days at the NSC you're coming up on 7 or 8 pm which means you're only halfway through your day. But a few more from me and from the audience if I could. And people can use the Q&A function to jump in the queue, we'll see if we can get them all. I was really struck, I think a lot of people were struck by the President's comparatively optimistic tone about relations with China in the Press Conference when he anticipated a foreign improvement. Beijing didn't reciprocate with equally optimistic language, of course. But I think that struck a lot of people. Damien Cave from the New York Times asked a question related to that: Is the change in tone, you know, things like using de-risking instead of decoupling, the President's optimistic or relatively optimistic note in his press conference about relations with China. Where does this come from? Damien asks is it out of humility or weakness? Is it out of listening to allies? Is it where the President wanted to take this discourse, and it's about the right time? How would you explain the note we heard from the President about China on this trip? Because it was all about alliances, partnerships, alignment. But there was clearly this note to Beijing as well.
Edgard Kagan: Look, I think this fits into the basic mantra that the Administration has had, very much the President views, which is the invest, align, compete. And what we've seen in some ways this conversation, have been a number of things which are investment in our old domestic sources of strength the IRA being obviously one of them
Another major initiative, and line of effort, is aligning with our allies and partners, and I think that you've seen, it's been 2 and a half years now, a really sustained effort to try and strengthen our relationships in every possible place with allies. And just, you know, looking at what's already happened is here between Japan, Prime Minister Kishida’s visit, the President's visit to Japan, the bilateral they have now. It's extraordinary progress in the alliance.
If you look at the Korean states visit, President Yoon’s state visit here and the Washington Declaration, that's again strengthening of an absolutely critical alliance. And one that is also truly important in terms of technology. I think that if you look at the Philippines, President Marcos' visit again, a very, very significant step towards restoring, I think, an extremely important alliance with an extremely important partner. You look at the G7 statement. I mean, you can see work with allies, to align views in the areas historically, has been very hard, I mean, yes, you know. G7, you know, at times has been criticized as being a talk shop. But in that talk there's a lot of disagreement. The fact that there was so much agreement on China, and our view is very much this the result of sustained efforts. It's sharing our vision, listening.
Because I think the President is very focused on the fact that we cannot strengthen our relations with allies and partners if we just try and jam our views down their throat. That's not who he is, and I think that he has been very sensitive to the importance of listening, making sure we incorporate that. That doesn't mean we agree with everything we hear, but I think that you can see those things come together in this. In terms of the attitudes on China, I mean, I think the President has long been very clear that he does not want conflict. He wants to have a more positive relationship with China, that he recognies there is going to be very serious competition – that’s the third part of the align invest compete mantra.
But the competition doesn't need to be conflict. It doesn't need to be. It doesn't need to lead to hostility, that, you know we both have strong interests, important interests. But that doesn't mean that we can't find ways in which we're able to at least sit down together, work together, where possible.
So I think that's very consistent. And I think that, you know, the combination of the G7 itself, and then the second part, where there are additional partners invited, combined with things like the Quad and the trilaterals. All of those things strengthened the US position in terms of being able to engage effectively and support our view that we need to be able to compete effectively with China. Mira?
Mira Rapp-Hooper: So the only thing, I'll add, Edgard, might give the piece that you said [unintelligible] which is, in addition to the policy which I heard very clearly just laid out the invest, align compete piece of it, I think the tone that the President struck also exists as an important tool of alliance management. We all know that the rest of you follow the Indo-Pacific closely, that our allies and partners, whether in the region or outside of it don't want to feel like they're being forced to choose between 2 competing great powers. They don't want to feel like they're being sort of trampled by a headlong clash.
The President is very clear. I'm confident in his diagnosis of the competition with China, and believe that that competition does not preclude constructive diplomacy. So he chose to signal that to the rest of the world as well, because for so many allies and partners having that bit of breathing space where they feel like they, too, can engage China on constructive terms if they need to, or want to, is really important, and it actually helps to reinforce the degree of alignment and unity that you saw in back to back events, whether that was at the G7, or the Quad, or the trilateral meeting. So when those alignments are strong, and it's even easier to create that bit of breathing space that allowed our allies and partners to pursue their best judgment of how to calibrate themselves with respect to China.
Michael Green: I think you may, look ––
Edgard Kagan: Mira's exactly right. The key point is that we are in, the President believes we are in a stronger position, and that this is, this is a way in which we can further strengthen our position by showing that we want to engage. This helps us with allies and partners, but it's also very much in our interest to engage wherever we can, if we're able to get meaningful results and make sure that our lines of communication, so that we're able to manage competition in a way that doesn't turn into conflict or hostility.
Michael Green: I was going to say at some point a political scientist or a journalist somewhere is going to do a chart that shows the tempo of your Administration's engagement, state visits, agreements. And it's going to be much higher than previous administrations throughout the year, which, I think also explains why the alignment was so successful despite shortening the trip. There's obviously a lot more urgency to the region and the geopolitics than there was for previous administrations. But kudos to you, and leads to a question from Demetri Sevastopulo from the Financial Times, who gives you a hats off for all the work done but wants to know, this sounds a little bit like you're doing your performance review, wants to know what initiatives, what aspects of the Indo-Pacific strategy are proving elusive? Presumably you can't all retire now. So what's on the to do list, in the strategy? Not what are the upcoming summits and things, but what are some of the things that you've been looking to achieve, that are in the Indo-Pacific strategy that are still works in progress?
Edgard Kagan: Look, that's an obviously tough question to answer. What I would say is, the first thing is, what we saw I think on this trip is to some degree, and I hate to sort of abuse the George Shultz gardening metaphor, but we're seeing the - we're seeing some of the very initial harvest of the investment, of the planting, the pruning, the weeding, the tending that has been done in the last 2 and a half years. I mean, there's no question that, you know, the basic message, I would argue, hasn't really changed.
But the difference is that it's now been delivered very consistently, very clearly. It's been delivered in a respectful way. We have listened. We've made clear that we're trying very hard. We're really very willing to take partners, allies, concerns into account, and that has helped tremendously.
I mean, you know, look if you look at what we were trying to do at Harvest Bay, it wasn't that different, but the difference was that there wasn't a level of trust that the President has developed and the Administration has developed in the last 2 years, internally, 2 and a half years since taking office and 2 years since Harvest Bay. So I think that is one key thing is that we are in a good position of having built a lot of confidence and trust.
On the other hand, we're not going to stop working at that. So I would say, the first priority is to continue showing that we are very serious about putting allies and partners first; that we are very serious about updating alliances; modernizing partnerships; and that is something that we just can't rest on our laurels. We have got to keep working at this. And I think the second is looking for more ways in which we should bring a wider range of partners in. I think that you know you've seen the effort to bring, you know, to, to encourage Europe to play more of a part in the Indo-Pacific. You've seen the effort, sadly, that was not really driven by us, but to get the Indo-Pacific to play more of a part in Europe and support that's been given to Ukraine. But I think that looking for how we can bring initial partners is really critical, and look a good example of that is, you know, the President was supposed to go to PNG, but Secretary Blinken went instead. But he was going to be bookended by Prime Minister Modi, who was in PNG, in fact, you know the day that Secretary Blinken was there with him.
And then that all the Pacific leaders are going to Seoul for a summit with President Yoon. And I would argue that that is exactly the example, the kinds of things that we want to keep working on, how we bring new partners to play a larger role in the region. I don't want to suggest. India has had the specific construct for, and since 2014, so this is not completely new. But I think that they are stepping up their efforts because they see that there is a need in the Pacific. I think this is new for Korea and I think that that's the kind of example of what we'd be looking for. And then obviously following through like one of the things that was then very powerful in Secretary Blinken’s remarks to the Pacific leaders, was going through a checklist of all the things that we've promised in the past year, and I think all of you know that our capacity to promise things is often greater than our capacity to deliver on them. And so the fact that he was able to go through and say, we said we would do this, and we have done x, y and z. And he said, and so examples are opening embassies, like we committed a year ago, a little less than a year ago, the Vice President announced to the Pacific Islands Forum that would open three embassies in the region. We've actually opened two. We were very close on the third, and working on a port we've since announced Vanuatu. We said that we were going to open a USAID mission in other regional, for me in Fiji. We are on track to do that in the coming months. We said that we would get Peace Corps back to the region. We have done that in a number of countries on track to get more. And so I think things like that are very significant, and that will be one of the things that we're going to try and make sure that we do going forward is continue to deliver on the things that we promised, and, at the same time, make clear that this is a collaborative effort. This is not the United States telling country. You need to do this for us. This is the US working with partners, working with allies to try and address what they see as challenges. Not that we're always going to agree, but that it is in our interest to try and find as many common things to work on as possible. So start going on your final item.
Mira Rapp-Hooper: Finally, I would just flag Mike, because I know you're going to flag it if I don't, the region is obviously looking to us for continued economic leadership. I think we are able to provide that in a number of regards, but we have a couple of important opportunities that are coming to fruition later this year. So that remains very much on our to-do list. We're really looking forward to hosting APEC in San Francisco in 2023, which is going to be a great opportunity and a really substantive agenda. And, of course, we're very much in the thick of IPEF negotiations and want to return IPEF components that are really significant and meaningful to our partners.
So those remain high on our list of things to check off before the calendar year.
Edgard Kagan: And look, I would add to that that, you know, as an example of walking and chewing gum at the same time, is there was an IPEF round in Detroit that’s been very successful. Now it hasn't been – it hasn't closed everything. There's still work to be done, but I think that for those, and there are many who are skeptical of IPEF, I think that the fact that it continues to move forward, can continue to make, probably significant progress, I think, is a sign that the administration is committed to following through on what is set.
Michael Green: Thank you. I think you gave Dmitri something to work with there. Let me ask one more question, then we'll let you go with going over a little over a little because we started late. And, by the way, I think your point about India is, and Japan is really, really important and I hope people picked up on that. I mean the the alignment we saw in the G& had a lot to do with your diplomatic efforts, but it was Japan's leadership, as you noted and probably would not have been successful without Kishida and the Japanese Government sort of showing the way, and the India piece is critical. Of course, Modi came to Australia, went to the went to PNG. I thought that the Zelensky visit to the G7 was a sign of solidarity. But the really interesting part was the engaging with Modi. And India taking what seems to be a different, a more proactive role on Ukraine, not where the US, or Europe, or Japan are, but not where India was. So those key partners are stepping up and doing interesting things.
The question I want to ask is from someone on the line, John Skill from Southern Cross Venture Partners. You know. now that you've got the Quad and the US, Japan, Korea trilateral moving forward, and the Washington Declaration with President Yoon and all these pieces in place, it raises the obvious question, how do countries like Korea or Canada or Indonesia plug into these groupings like the Quad or AUKUS? Is this going to remain a kind of al a cart thing? How are you thinking about the complicated geometry of all these different initiatives and groupings.
Mira Rapp-Hooper: Yeah, I'm happy to take first crack at that and then talk to pass to Edgard. So in the case of both the Quad and AUKUS, the original membership of that structure remains the original membership for the time being. So the Quad has no plans to expand its membership. AUKUS has no plan to expand its membership in Pillar I, which, of course, is the submarine program.
But both of these partnerships are over time going to provide an increasing set of opportunities for other like-minded partners to engage with a broad suite of work that each is doing.
In the case of Quad, there are a few different ways to think about that. I mentioned in my opening remarks the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness, which is already bringing via radio frequency data and improved maritime domain awareness capability to different parts of the region. Now that already has the Quad interacting on a regular basis with countries and the Pacific Islands in Southeast Asia and in the Indian Ocean region. So the Quad is actively partnering with countries who are not Quad members.
Over time we can see that becoming an expanded set of countries. If, for example, there was another like-minded partner like Korea or like Canada, that has something to bring to the table on a submarine cable project or on a global health effort. But our understanding, for the time being, is that those outside partners, the collaboration with additional partners, will be on the basis of practical outcomes and work that's ongoing rather than expanding the membership itself.
AUKUS, of course, has the potential to add additional partners through its Pillar II efforts which will be focused on expanding partnership in a number of areas of advanced capability. And similarly, the thought to bringing partners in will mostly be based on who is the best fit for the technological area in question? Who can contribute the most, bring those to the table? And who is a great contributor to the overall effort? So I think what these partnerships have in common is that while the central mission may be designed around a relatively small number of fixture members, the broader mission has much wider opportunity set for collaboration. And one could see a world in which that work continues to expand, and the partners with whom the original membership is collaborating rose by extension. There's a lot of potential there.
Edgard Kagan: Yes. And look, I think that the key thing also to think about is that the idea wasn't really about, you know, being exclusive. The idea was about bringing countries together to address tangible challenges, and it was, what are the countries that want to do this the most? I think it is a very positive thing that, you know, more countries want to do things with [inaudible].
And look 2, 2 and a half years in or 2 and a quarter years in, it's pretty significant that, you know and, as Mira said, this is the fourth meeting, third in person, and there's been personnel change. I mean, they've been changing a different Japanese Prime Minister in the first 2 meetings, a different Australian Prime Minister in the first two meetings and yet their successors have proven equally enthusiastic about the Quad.
And you know, look, what I was really impressed by was that there was plenty of reasons to think that the Quad in Hiroshima was going to actually be a little awkward because, you know, essentially there in big plans, a lot of work had been done, and suddenly we were trying to jam it all into a much shorter period of time. As Mira said, what was really striking was, the leaders know each other so well, they're so comfortable with each other that actually, they don't really need talking points. They don't look at paper. They just talk. And there is a real exchange. It was a real dialogue. And what was striking was this was essentially about an hour. I would argue that this was a more productive meeting, by far, than the very first. Certainly the very first, you know, virtual meeting, but even the first in person – which was a good meeting, don't get me wrong. But this is the benefit of building on what we've done. So I think that the idea has been very much like, let's do things, and what is great is suddenly we have a growing number of partners and allies who want to join in doing things. You know, that is a good problem to have, and I think that we are very confident that we could find ways to take advantage of it to support, you know, to deliver and public goods for the region, but also support all of our interests.
Michael Green: It it's a really important point, in diplomacy, especially in summits, there's a difference between quality and quantity the thing people call speed of trust. If you trust your counterparts and get right to the point the length of the meeting is not actually as important as the outside world might think.
So, look, thanks for taking time at the end of a busy day, or maybe the middle of a busy day. Thank Kurt for his opening briefings. I hope you get some rest and get over your jet lag, but I know the White House, and I know you probably won't. But good luck. Keep on keeping on. I really appreciate the time you spent with us, Edgard, Mira and our best to Kurt. Thank you.
Edgard Kagan: Thank you so much, Mike.