Leaders of the World’s Largest and Richest Companies

By Byun Duk-kun

Some 120 leaders of the world’s largest and richest companies will gather here in Seoul, South Korea this week for an unprecedented meeting with the top political leaders of the world’s 20 most advanced and fastest growing countries, organizers said Tuesday.

The business CEOs will begin a two-day summit Wednesday, one day before their meeting with G-20 leaders where they are expected to deliver a list of their recommendations on ways to improve the global economy’s health and prevent a recurrence of any global financial or economic meltdown.

The leaders of the G-20 nations will begin their own summit chaired by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Thursday to further discuss ways to ensure sustainable and balanced development around the world, with the business CEOs’ recommendations in mind.

The meeting of leaders from the world’s top 120 companies will be the largest of its kind ever to be held in South Korea, if not in the world, according to Oh Young-ho, vice chairman of the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) who is also serving as head of the organizing committee for the upcoming CEO summit.

“Meetings between business and political leaders have taken place at other global events in the past, but involving only a handful of CEOs from private companies or international organizations,” Oh said.

“If the summit of business CEOs becomes a regular part of the G-20 process, it will mean a Korean model becoming a global one, and thus marking a success of the Korea initiative,” he added.

To best reflect the various interests of different industrial sectors and regions, the South Korean organizers of the G-20 Business Summit carefully chose their participants.

Out of the total, 29 are heads of banks or financial institutions and 26 come from the energy industry. The manufacturing industry will be represented by top officials from 23 companies, with the IT industry represented by CEOs from 14 companies and the shipping industry by 16 company heads.

Seoul has also named 13 conveners, or chairs of discussion panels, to allow the participating business leaders to set and reach their own agendas and decisions. They include Stephen Green, chairman of Europe’s largest bank HSBC; Lakshmi Mittal, chairman and CEO of the world’s largest steelmaker ArcelorMittal from India; and Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman of the world’s leading food company Nestle.

To ensure the successful hosting of the business summit, the country has also launched a support group of some 140 volunteers, who will provide assistance to the visiting CEOs.

The historic meeting between the business leaders and heads of state of G-20 nations will also help set various other records, including the largest event to be held here in South Korea.

In total, about 15,000 people are expected to visit the country for the G-20 summit slated for Thursday and Friday, also making the event one of the most lucrative for South Korea with its economic impact on the country expected to exceed US$ 28 billion.

Each participant or visitor is expected to spend an average of $ 3,000 during their stay here for a total of $ 87 million, according to KITA’s research center, the Institute for International Trade (IIT).

The direct economic impact of the G-20 summit, however, will reach over $ 230 million with the country’s frequent and massive exposure to the international community during what has been named “the world’s premier forum for economic cooperation” having the equal effect of running $ 150 million worth of advertisements.

“It will be one of the most closely followed events, during which Seoul and South Korea will inevitably and frequently be exposed to foreign media and people,” IIT president Lee Kyung-tae said earlier.

The IIT said the frequent exposure of the country and its businesses to the world during the summit will help push up the country’s total exports by 3.6 percent, or some $ 17.8 billion, in one year following the Seoul summit.

The amount exceeds annual exports of smaller states such as Pakistan, which exported $ 17.7 billion worth of goods in 2009, as well as the entire amount of money South Koreans spent in 2008 for overseas trips.

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