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Conference Aims to Renew IMF-Asia Relationship

Satellite assembly in Daejeon, Korea—venue of Korea-IMF conference and home to many of Korea’s research institutes (photo: KARI/Yonhap)

KOREA-IMF CONFERENCE

Conference to Focus on Asia’s Leadership Role in Global Economy

By Hyun-Sung Khang
IMF Survey online

July 9, 2010

  • Participants to discuss Asia's leading part in recovery from global financial crisis
  • Agenda covers Asia's growing role in global economic, financial policymaking
  • Event signals IMF's determination to transform relations with Asian members

In a bid to boost Asia’s role and voice in the global economy, the IMF and the government of Korea will host a landmark conference July 12–13 in the Korean city of Daejeon—the first time such a meeting has been held by the Fund in the region.

The gathering—which will bring together more than 500 high-level participants, including finance ministers, central bank governors, and business leaders from across the region—is a signal of the Fund’s determination to transform its relations with its Asian members.

The Daejeon gathering, organized under the theme of “Asia 21: Leading the Way Forward,” will discuss Asia’s leading role in the recovery from the global financial downturn. Participants will cover topics ranging from financial sector policies to the unique challenges of low-income countries in the region, as well as Asia’s growing role in global economic and financial policymaking.

It will draw lessons from the past, but it will also seek to forge better ties for the future. It will discuss “how we (the Fund) can, in the future, go forward working with Asian countries, Asian institutions, and regional institutions,” said Strauss-Kahn, who is set to open the conference alongside Korea’s Minister of Strategy and Finance Jeung-Hyun Yoon.

Asia is currently leading the world out of the worst downturn in the postwar era and its recovery has continued into the first half of this year. Earlier this week, IMF economists unveiled their forecasts for the region, revising upward their predictions for growth from an average of 7 percent to 7¾ percent, with the region’s economies buoyed by exports and strong private domestic demand.

At a recent press conference, IMF Managing Director Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn said the conference was an occasion “to rebuild, to renew the relationship with the region, to take stock of what has been done in the past, rightly or wrongly.”

In recent years, ties between the Fund and Asia have been marred by memories of the Asian financial crisis over a decade ago, but the IMF is hoping this conference proves to be a significant step toward building an improved and more collaborative relationship with its Asian members.

Before the Daejeon conference the IMF July 8 launched updates to its flagship publications, the World Economic Outlook and Global Financial Stability Report, in Hong Kong for the first time. The launch was attended by IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard and by José Viñals, respectively the IMF’s Economic and Financial Counselors.

Conference draws top names

Daejeon, dubbed “the city of culture and innovation,” is home to many of Korea’s research institutes. The city was chosen as the conference venue partly because Korea currently holds the chair of the Group of 20 leading advanced and emerging economies.

The G-20 emerged as the premier forum for international economic cooperation during the recent financial and economic crisis. Its concerted and decisive actions resulted in some of the most significant and concrete policy responses to the downturn including unprecedented fiscal expansion, unconventional monetary policy instruments, and the creation of the Financial Stability Board. Korea is now leading that international response to the crisis. It is hosting a series of major gatherings this year—including the Daejeon conference—which will culminate in the November meeting of the G-20 leaders in Seoul.

In Daejeon, the economist Michael Spence, who won a Nobel prize in 2001 for his groundbreaking work on the dynamics of information flows and market development, is set to address participants who will also hear a keynote speech from top banker Josef Ackermann.

The conference has attracted a slew of top names from the world of government, finance, business, academia, and beyond. Among the delegates are Nobuyuki Idei, the former CEO of Sony; Victor Fung, the Honorary Chairman of Hong Kong SAR’s International Chamber of Commerce; Abdul Maal Abdul Muhith, Bangladesh’s Minister of Finance; and Geoffrey Lamb, Managing Director for Public Policies at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A final-day roundtable, under the heading of “Asia 21, Leading Global Growth,” will include among the discussants the Finance Ministers from Thailand and Singapore, Korn Chatikavanij and Tharman Shanmugaratnam; the Governor of the Bank of Korea, Choongsoo Kim; Haruhiko Kuroda, President of the Asian Development Bank; and Peter Sands, CEO of Standard Chartered. At the end of the conference, the delegates will hear from Il Sakong, Chairman of the Presidential Committee for the G-20 Summit in Korea.

IMF deepens engagement with Asia

Among the IMF’s top officials attending the conference is Deputy Managing Director Naoyuki Shinohara, who will be hosting a private breakfast meeting for Asian officials, as well as recently appointed Special Advisor Min Zhu, who will open the conference session on “Transforming Asia’s Low-income Countries into Tomorrow’s Emerging Markets.”

The occasion will also be an opportunity for the Fund to continue its transformation into a more open, interactive, and listening institution. The head of the IMF will hold a town hall meeting with more than 100 Korean and international students, the third such discussion with student groups around the globe in recent months. Strauss-Kahn hopes to hear student views on Asia’s role in the world and on the role of the IMF in the post-crisis world.

In a bid to deepen the Fund’s engagement with the region, top officials at the IMF have been involved in a full program of shuttle diplomacy over the past year, with frequent trips to Asia including Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, India, China, Hong Kong SAR, and Vietnam. Daejeon is just one of a series of trips that will take Strauss-Kahn back to the region over the next few months.