,WASHINGTON - The leaders of the United States, Australia, Japan and India pledged to work closely on COVID-19 vaccine distribution, climate issues and security after a meeting on Friday that is seen as part of an effort to counter China's growing influence. "We strive for a region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion," the so-called "Quad" countries said in a joint statement. The group will form a vaccine partnership aimed at accelerating the end of the coronavirus pandemic by expanding vaccine manufacturing and help Indo-Pacific countries with vaccination, according to a fact sheet from the group. The United States will finance increased capacity to support Indian drugmaker Biological E Ltd's effort to produce at least 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2022, it said. Japan is in discussions to provide concessional yen loans to India to expand manufacturing for COVID-19 vaccines for export. The Quad countries also formed a working group to tackle climate issues, including to strengthen implementation of the Paris climate accord, as well as a working group for critical and emerging technology, the statement said. The latter will develop a statement of principles on technology development and use and encourage cooperation on telecommunications deployment and diversification of equipment suppliers. REUTERS
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