UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concerns on Wednesday about divisions within the world's leading economies over global rebalancing and currencies, calling for unity at a what is a "critical time" for the G20. Germany and several other nations have hit out a U S plan to consider limiting current account imbalances, while some countries have come in for criticism for intervening in currency markets to get a trade advantage.
"I am concerned by the divergence of opinions on these issues," Ban told a news conference in Seoul a day before the start of the two-day summit. "This is a time for unity."
The former South Korean foreign minister urged leaders to look beyond their own economies and held up his own country as a role model for promoting development of poor countries. "I grew up in Korea destroyed by war. Today it is one of the leading economies of the world," he said.
"Korea is a bridge between the developed and developing world. This role has never more necessary and important. So there is something very special about this G20 moment." South Korea is the first emerging market economy to host a G20 summit.
The country, which only a few decades ago was poorer than its rival North Korea, is now Asia's fourth-largest economy. It is held up as role model for economic growth and development for developing nations.
Ban applauded South Korean President Lee Myung-bak for adding development to the summit agenda, including it alongside the headline issues of global imbalances, currencies, financial regulation and trade. "The global economic recovery remains fragile. Sixty-four million people have been pushed into extreme poverty this year.
Everywhere there is economic insecurity and anxiety about jobs," he said. "We cannot afford to think narrowly about development and economic growth ... all countries and all peoples have a stake in the management of the global economy.
The voices of the vulnerable must be heard." Lee said earlier the G20 leaders plan to announce a set of concrete action plans for supporting the development of impoverished countries. Lee, who met Ban earlier on Wednesday, said he hoped the G20's development campaign will contribute to the U.N.'s efforts to reach Millennium Development Goals aimed at halving the global poverty rate by 2015, a presidential statement said.