[Outlook]Korea as mediator

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[Outlook]Korea as mediator

The second G?20 summit will be held in London on April 2. Korea will play an integral role co-chairing the meeting, together with Britain and Brazil.

Our greatest goal in the summit is to ensure that the event will provide a successful forum for discussing future global economic issues. At its beginnings in 1999, the G?20 was launched as a finance ministers’ meeting aimed at addressing the need to establish a global cooperation system between developed countries and emerging economies. The main goal was restoring global financial and economic stability after the Asian financial crisis. Last autumn, the global financial meltdown served as a trigger for a G?20 summit meeting.

Korea is actually scheduled to chair the G?20 finance ministers’ meeting, not the summit meeting. It seems uncertain if the summit will ever convene again.

It is extremely difficult for the leaders of 20 nations to reach a broad consensus on ways to address major global issues. In this regard, G?7 countries have so far persisted in maintaining their own framework for the summit. The G?7 is still a group of rich advanced industrial economies that account for 56 percent of overall global production.

However, with the emergence of countries such as China, the G?7 faces growing difficulties in resolving global financial problems. Hence, some G?7 leaders are attempting to expand the circle to a G?13, incorporating the BRICs [Brazil, India, China], South Africa and Mexico, or to a G?14, to include Saudi Arabia.

If this G?20 meeting proves to be a failure as a constructive and cooperative endeavor, there is a possibility the group will regress to a G?13 or G?14.

If this happens, Korea will be the first on the list of excluded countries. In reality, it seems difficult for Korea to be included, as well as Japan and China, to represent East Asia.

So what approach should we take to this meeting? First and foremost, we should not be blinded by a greedy desire to play a leading role. We have sufficient knowledge and experience of recovering from an economic crisis to share with other countries in this meeting. However, we should focus more on being a trustworthy, honest broker between emerging and developed economies, such as China and Japan, and Western and Asian countries.

Therefore, Korean government officials in charge of preparing for this meeting should not strive to explore ways to bring attention to our president at the summit. Rather, they should be diligent in listening attentively to the opinions and suggestions of different nations and coming up with ways of becoming a constructive and efficient mediator. This will only be possible if we gain a clear understanding of what each country truly wants and fears, and create a close intimacy with them.

The original purpose of the meeting was to discuss financial supervision and regulation, along with the reform of the global financial order. However, at this juncture, we must inevitably pay more attention to recovering from the global economic crisis and forming an international alliance to this end.

People have high hopes that the meeting will prevent the proliferation of protectionism and trade barriers and establish a policy alliance that will stimulate the international economy.

Unless leaders show a firm determination to reach a tangible consensus on how to realize anti-crisis measures, it will be unlikely that the world will be able to eliminate protectionism and prevent an outbreak of economic panic. The world still has no other international organization to rely on. This is of extreme importance to our export-led industries, which will affect the very survival of our economy.

The future direction of the global and Asian economies, along with political order, will be highly dependent on how China and America, China and other Western countries, and China and Japan continue to forge ties. We can not always take an optimistic view regarding the future of such relationships, as longstanding resentment and historical hostility might lead us to confrontation rather than cooperation.

Korea’s role will contribute to providing a sound basis for our country in the global arena and pave the way for a smooth recovery of South?North relations. So, have we formulated a clear plan on what perspectives and principles we will use in addressing potentially conflictual relationships between China and Japan, and America and China?

Diplomacy should be understood in terms of domestic politics. We should not expect our president and officials to play a leading role in this meeting. Our role should be more constructive than leading. It is high time that we think deeply about our approach to addressing emerging conflicts between China and Japan, and China and the United States.

*The writer is a professor of economics at the Graduate School of International Studies at Sogang University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Cho Yoon-je
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