South Korea’s G-20 Challenge

BERKELEY – On January 1, South Korea takes over the G-20 chairmanship from the United Kingdom. Korea is not the first emerging market to chair the G-20, but it is the first to do so since the global financial crisis. And it is the first to do so since the G-20 emerged as the steering committee for the world economy.

G-20 chairs can have considerable influence. They coordinate the group’s work. They organize its meetings. Like most committee chairs, they have significant agenda-setting power.

During the UK’s year chairing the G-20, Gordon Brown had a clear agenda. He saw the G-20 as a vehicle for building consensus on coordinated monetary and fiscal stimulus and financial regulation. He also viewed it as a forum to address the problems created for the poorest countries by the global financial crisis. And he used the chairmanship to elicit commitments to resist protectionism.

In retrospect, Brown’s agenda-setting problem was easy. Given the nature and gravity of the crisis, it was brutally obvious what the priorities for the G-20 should be.