Medvedev in Korea: new bilateral agreements and the G20 summit

Medvedev in Korea: new bilateral agreements and the G20 summit

On November 10, 2010 a visit of the President of the Russian Federation to the Far East has started. The first part of the visit has already been completed: important talks have been held with South Korean leader Lee Myung-bak and representatives of business elite. After the bilateral meeting in Seoul a “Big Twenty” summit will take place, an informal international organization which is becoming increasingly influential in the world. Later, D. A. Medvedev will travel to Japan to meet leaders of the APES countries.

Diplomatic relations between Russia and South Korea have begun not very long ago. After the disengagement in 1953 the Soviet Union acknowledged only the existence of North Korea. However, 20 years ago, this mistake has been corrected, and is now there is a developed partnership between Moscow and Seoul. However, political and economic opportunities for the development of contacts are far from being exhausted. Russia is only the 14th economic partner for Seoul: trade turnover between the countries amounts to only 11 billion dollars, while that with Turkey is, for example, over 30 billion, and trade turnover with the USA and the EU amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars. South Korea is one of the world leaders in hi-tech products manufacturing, and can therefore make a significant contribution to modernizing of the Russian economy, as it has been mentioned by the two leaders during the negotiations.

The Russian delegation was rather substantial. It consisted of prominent businessmen, including the head of Gazprom Alexei Miller, as well as heads of regional administrations of Russian Far East, university rectors and others. Among the signed documents there was the memorandum of understanding on economic modernization, an agreement on temporary employment, on cooperation in the field of communications, transport, fisheries, through the prosecutor’s offices of both countries, as well as on cooperation between news agencies of Russia and the Republic of Korea, the Itar-Tass and the Yonhap. The governors of Sakhalin and Irkutsk regions have signed agreements on the development of relations with two South Korean provinces, and the leaders of the Russian and South Korean company Mechel and POSCO have signed the memorandum of intent. All these documents will in the future allow raising the relations between the two countries to a new level, providing Russians with quality Korean products, and modernizing the economy in high tech sphere more successfully. South Korea is a reliable partner, a recognized leader for development in many areas; therefore, the improvement of relations with Seoul currently meets Russian national interests.

On November 11 in Seoul the summit of the “Big Twenty” has begun, a new informal club of the leaders of developed countries, which is gaining in popularity and influence in the modern world. 10 years ago, the top club of this kind was the “Big Seven”, the organization which included seven most developed countries at that time: the USA, Japan, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, and the UK. In 2001 they were joined by Russia; however, the organization’s status has been steadily falling. First of all, it was caused by a declining share of these countries in the world economy and, conversely, the increase of that of China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Iran, South Korea, and other developing countries. According to international experts, the new format of G20 is already close to becoming the most influential informal club in the world.

This year’s summit is held on November 11-12 in Seoul center for international conferences. Apart from the leaders of member states, the heads of multinational corporations, prominent politicians and businessmen will also visit the meeting. “I think that the main task of the summit of the Group of Twenty, which will be held in Seoul on November 11-12 is to keep the spirit of unity and commitment to joint action that has allowed G20 to overcome the crisis successfully,” Dmitry Medvedev stated before the summit. Indeed, the main achievement of this informal club is the successful overcoming of the crisis. The leaders hope that this experience will be successfully applied to solve other problems, as well.

In general, the long trip to the Far East shows some change in the priorities of Russian authorities; at least, a multilateral policy is being carried out. Participation in these summits is a kind of alternative to a recent long trip Dmitry Medvedev made to the USA. Russia’s national interests include the maintaining of the balance between the East and the West, the development of relations with the nearest neighbors, South Korea being undoubtedly one of them.

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