Leaders of the United States, Japan, India and Australia, countries that share concerns about China, will be meeting in person as a group for the first time at a summit on COVID-19 vaccines, infrastructure and technological cooperation.
The meeting of the Quad, as the grouping of the four major democracies is called, will take place just over a week after the US, Britain and Australia announced the AUKUS security pact under which Australia will be provided with nuclear-powered submarines, a move that has been roundly denounced by Beijing.
The Quad leaders - US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison - will meet as a group at the White House on Friday.
"We have what we call deliverables in infrastructure, on broader health engagements on science and technology, on space, on cyber," a senior US administration official told Reuters.
Specific agreements would include one to bolster supply chain security for semiconductors - an area of fierce competition with China - that will involve mapping overall capacity and identifying vulnerabilities, the official said.
Another would be a 5G deployment and diversification effort to support governments in "fostering and promoting a diverse resilient secure telecommunications ecosystem."
The countries would also share information to combat illegal fishing and boost maritime domain awareness and take steps to help monitor climate change, the official said.
He said the summit would "have much to say" about the next steps in plans to supply a billion COVID-19 shots across Asia by the end of 2022, an initiative agreed at a virtual Quad summit in March, but stalled after India, the world's largest vaccine producer, banned exports in April amid a massive virus outbreak at home.
"The specific issues associated with what India is going to commit to do, and our specific deliverables, with respect to vaccines, will be unveiled tomorrow at the Quad summit," the official said.
India has said it is ready to restart vaccine exports in the October quarter, prioritising the COVAX international vaccine initiative and neighbouring countries first, but has also been seeking a waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines and more access to raw materials.
While the leaders are also expected to discuss regional security, US officials have sought to play down the security aspect of the Quad - even though its members carry out naval exercises together and share concerns about China's growing power and attempts to exert pressure on all four countries.
"I do want to underscore that the Quad is an unofficial gathering," the senior US official said, adding that it was "not a regional security organisation" and was unconnected with AUKUS.
China has made no effort to differentiate the two, denouncing the Quad as a Cold War construct and saying that AUKUS alliance would intensify an arms race in the region.
In his address to the United Nations General Assembly this week, Chinese leader Xi Jinping said there was a need to "reject the practice of forming small circles or zero-sum games."
Australian Associated Press