'Quad' group seeks to set security standards for global tech industry

USA, India, Australia, and Japan pledge to build own 5G tech, share space data, secure rare earth supply chains, and more


The Quad group of nations – the USA, India, Australia, and Japan – has announced several joint initiatives to share technology and spur its development, among them a plan to set new global security standards for the technology industry.

The four nations' leaders met late last week and announced a set of initiatives, among them development of shared "Quad Principles on Technology Design, Development, Governance, and Use".

A joint statement outlines the aims of that document, including the following call to action for the technology industry:

We expect technology suppliers, vendors, and distributors to produce and maintain secure systems, and to be trustworthy, transparent, and accountable in their practices. Technology developers should also build in safety and security-by-design approaches so that robust safety and security practices are a part of the technology development process.

The joint statement also spells out the Quad leaders' desire that the Principles "will guide not only the region but the world towards responsible, open, high-standards innovation".

The Quad was formed in 2004, formalised in 2007, ignored for a decade, then revived in 2017. The four member nations have since increased collaboration, culminating in last week's summit. The language used regarding information security standards for the world represents a new level of global ambition for the group.

The bloc also pledged to launch a "Quad Senior Cyber Group" that will see "Leader-level experts … meet regularly to advance work between government and industry on driving continuous improvements in areas including adoption and implementation of shared cyber standards; development of secure software; building workforce and talent; and promoting the scalability and cybersecurity of secure and trustworthy digital infrastructure."

Four-way collaborations of this sort are rare.

Another four-way effort will see the Quad "jointly facilitate enabling environments for 5G diversification, including with efforts related to testing and test facilities" – essentially a plan to ensure that all can enjoy 5G that's not built by China.

The four nations also intend to "start discussions to exchange Earth observation satellite data and analysis on climate-change risks and the sustainable use of oceans and marine resources", with climate change adaptation the goal rather than military collaboration.

The four nations promised to establish contact groups on Advanced Communications and Artificial Intelligence "focusing on standards-development activities as well as foundational pre-standardization research".

A semiconductor supply chain initiative will be conjured into existence, "to map capacity, identify vulnerabilities, and bolster supply-chain security for semiconductors and their vital components".

"This initiative will help ensure Quad partners support a diverse and competitive market that produces the secure critical technologies essential for digital economies globally," a Quad communiqué states.

No timeframes for delivery of the plans mentioned in the communiqué were set – a great many meetings must be held and documents drafted before anything concrete emerges.

But the Quad members left the world in no doubt what they're up to. As the joint statement read: "We stand for the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes, democratic values, and territorial integrity of states."

That's all aimed squarely at China and its insistence that Taiwan is a rogue province that will be re-unified, rather than a sovereign nation.

The communiqué also made it plain that the Quad is not acting alone, referencing ASEAN and European union positions on security and trade in the Indo-Pacific.

China has dismissed the Quad as a flimsy arrangement, but also expressed its displeasure that the four member nations are attempting to contain its growth. ®


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