President Lee Myung-bak has proposed upgrading the G20 group of major developed and developing nations into a permanent body like the United Nations. "I believe it would be a good idea to establish a G20 secretariat," Lee said Saturday. "Korea will play its part to make this happen."
In an interview Saturday with the Press 20 Club, a group of media organizations from G20 countries initiated by the Chosun Ilbo, Lee said, "Even after the financial crisis, the global economy faces many tasks to achieve balanced growth, and this requires close international consultation." He added this would require negotiation among member countries.
Cheong Wa Dae thinks Korea, the first country outside the G7 group of advanced countries to host a G20 gathering, is a prime candidate as home to the secretariat, according to a presidential official. It could find itself in competition with France, which also wants a permanent office to be set up and is hosting the next G20 Summit.
Turning to additional talks between Korea and the U.S. about a free trade agreement signed in 2007 that has been stuck in both parliaments, Lee hinted the government may accept some of Washington's demands about the automobile portion so the deal can be ratified. "Saying we are making concessions in the automotive area is not entirely correct," Lee said. "But we can say that we are making adjustments" to Korean emission standards for imported cars, the thorniest issue.
Regarding the global currency dispute, a key G20 agenda item, he said a solution could be to address account imbalances like the massive U.S. deficit versus China's huge surplus. "Adverse trade conditions cannot be blamed solely on exchange rates, and it is more useful to approach the issue comprehensively through current account balances. There will be progress at the Seoul G20 Summit in creating a detailed guideline to resolve the current account imbalances."
On North Korea, Lee pointed out that the Stalinist country recently completed a third-generation dynastic succession of power and urged the North to use that "as an opportunity to open up." "I would like to tell them to learn from China," he said. The resumption of six-party nuclear talks "depends totally on North Korea's attitude," he added.