Asian Countries Want Greater Decision-making Role

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WASHINGTON -- Asian leaders gathering at next week's economic summit in Pittsburgh will be demanding a greater voice in the way global financial institutions make crucial decisions. Likewise, the world's established powers will have some demands of their own for the rising Asian nations.

The Western countries who traditionally have wielded power at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations will want Asia to cut greenhouse gases blamed for dangerous climate change and to slash barriers that prevent free trade.

China, with its powerful economy and diplomatic and military strength, will be a leading player at the summit. The other Asian-Pacific G-20 nations - Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and Indonesia - believe their growing importance deserves a bigger say in the world's financial decision-making. The G-20, which represents 80 percent of the world's economic output, is where they will make their case.

"Broadly, they're looking for more input on how the world runs," said Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Pacific Forum CSIS think tank.

It remains to be seen how successful Asian countries will be at getting their points across at a gathering that features 20 leading rich and developing nations, all with competing national interests and often with little in common.

Asia has done well, comparatively, during the world economic crisis. But the region has been criticized for protecting its trade and agricultural industries from competition. At the Pittsburgh conference next Thursday and Friday, the West will want Asia to help jump-start stalled world trade liberalization talks, to increase imports and to reduce large trade surpluses.

Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said major questions will be: "`What are you doing to stimulate your economy?' - and some of them are doing quite a bit - and `What more can you do?'"

Asia will also face questions over climate change. Many argue that if Asia does not make cuts to emissions, progress will stall. Pittsburgh marks one of the last chances world leaders will have to generate momentum before a U.N. conference in December in Copenhagen, Denmark. Countries hope to forge a new agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

Already some leaders worry that disputes among industrialized and developing nations over cuts to emissions threaten to ruin a deal in Copenhagen. Asia is seen as the key to any progress.

Japan also could make a splash on climate change. The Democratic Party of Japan, which won last month's national elections, has made bold promises to reduce the country's greenhouse emissions. The new government will be closely watched to see if it is more assertive than previous administrations, which tended to echo U.S. views.

Fast-developing India is seen as key not only in the climate discussions but in world trade talks as well.

India, along with Brazil, Russia and China, is hoping Pittsburgh will lead to an agreement on proposed new targets to shift voting power in both the IMF and the World Bank to developing countries.

In Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will seek international support for his plan to spend his country deep into debt to keep its economy buoyant. He has pointed to worsening unemployment data and declining retail spending in recent months as evidence that government spending remains critical to future growth.

In Indonesia, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, will be eager to show that newfound stability in the predominantly Muslim nation of 235 million will continue.

South Korea plans to urge advanced nations to extend greater help to poorer countries in their efforts to overcome the economic crisis.

Han Duk-soo, South Korea's ambassador to the United States, said Thursday that his country wants to host a G-20 summit next year. South Korea, he said in Washington, can bridge the divide between rich and poor countries, having gone, in a matter of decades, from a country devastated by war to one with a vibrant, thriving economy.

Steven Schrage, a former U.S. trade official now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, said it would be "a devastating blow to the credibility" of the G-20 if South Korea did not host a summit and "the outcome is that the old boys' club of the G-8 are the only ones that can host summits."

AP writers Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo, Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, and Jae-soon Chang in Seoul contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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