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S Korea urges world leaders to address growing social disparity


SEOUL, NOV 8 (AP): South Korea's president called for world leaders in an Asia-Pacific trade group to consider the growing social disparities caused in part by the business-friendly policies they are pursuing.
President Roh Moo-hyun called on the leaders -- including U.S. President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao -- to discuss the issues at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit he is hosting in the southern port city of Busan on Nov. 18-19.
Roh's call comes after Bush's push for a free trade zone in the Americas collapsed in acrimony over the weekend at a regional summit in Argentina, with nations such as Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil arguing it would hurt their citizens.
APEC's main goal is to remove barriers to trade and investment, Roh said, stressing the social results of such actions also be considered.
"The more you emphasize a business-friendly environment, social disparity tends to get wider," Roh told a luncheon meeting of foreign correspondents in Seoul at the presidential Blue House. "And if that happens as a result, the deprived tend to get excluded from the market, which also brings the result of reducing the market.
"In the long run, it could be also an environment that is not favourable to business," he said.
However, Roh said he didn't expect any concrete results from his proposal at the summit, but just hoped to spark initial discussions.
The main goal of the APEC meeting will be to make progress on eliminating trade barriers among the 21 member economies by 2020. To that end, Roh said the leaders were expected to adopt a "Busan declaration" setting out a roadmap to accomplish the goal.