South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called Sunday for leaders of Pacific Rim economies to encourage corporate creativity and innovation through deregulation, saying it will make companies more competitive, spur economic growth and create jobs.
Lee made the remarks during a working lunch session with other leaders attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Hawaii. The host U.S. asked Lee to deliver the lead speech at the session on deregulation after finding South Korea a good example of removing unnecessary regulations, officials said.
This year's APEC summit took place as the world economy has been struggling to stave off negative impacts stemming from the eurozone debt crisis that has battered Greece and shows signs of spreading.
"For economic growth and job creation, it is important for companies to strengthen competitiveness through creativity and innovation," Lee said during the session, emphasizing the need for deregulation, according to presidential spokesman Park Jeong-ha.
South Korea is considered a model case of deregulation. Last month's "Doing Business" report by the World Bank, which assessed a total of 183 countries, put South Korea in the eighth place this year, up from the 30th place in 2007, officials said.
Lee briefed other leaders on Seoul's efforts at deregulation, including the establishment of the civilian-led Presidential Council on National Competitiveness aimed at reforming regulations hindering private investment and corporate activity so as to create a business-friendly environment.
Lee said he made the council civilian-led to reflect the views of those affected by policies.
The council, which was officially launched a few days after Lee took office in February 2008, has convened 26 times so far. Lee attended all of the meetings, officials said, showing how much importance Lee has placed on deregulation.
"With economic and social issues getting increasingly complicated, there have been many cases where regulations are enforced in a multi-layered manner by many ministries and agencies," Lee was quoted as saying. "In cases like these, it was difficult to reform regulations due to different interests of each ministry or agency. This is why we established the council."
During the first session on growth and jobs held a couple of hours earlier, Lee explained to other leaders how South Korea has tried to share the fruits of economic growth with ordinary people, such as by revising taxation in a way that encourages employment, according to officials.
Later in the day, Lee called for improving energy efficiency and diversifying energy sources during the second session, saying they are key pillars of South Korea's "Low Carbon Green Growth" policy.
Lee also briefed other leaders on South Korea's green growth efforts.
Green growth has been one of President Lee's trademark policies. It calls for lessening South Korea's dependence on fossil fuels and promoting the development of alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power, and other technologies that increase energy efficiency.
Lee believes the strategy will provide South Korea with fresh growth engines for its economy and help the country -- one of the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters -- reduce the emission of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases amid growing calls to curb global warming.
The one-day summit concluded with the "Honolulu Declaration" that called for global trade talks under the World Trade Organization (WTO) to use a "fresh and credible" way of negotiation to make progress, among other things. It also urged member economies to reject protectionism and promote energy efficiency and green growth.
Lee headed home right after the meeting's closure.
APEC was formed in 1989 in response to growing regionalism in other parts of the globe. Its 21 member economies account for about 40 percent of the world's population, 56 percent of global gross domestic product and 46 percent of world trade.
The forum is run by consensus, rather than binding agreements.
Since 1993, the heads of state from member countries have been meeting annually. At the end of their summit, they usually pose for group photos dressed in the host country's traditional clothes.