PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong will attend the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Seoul on Thursday, when leaders of the world's major economies will attempt to agree on how to steer the global economy.

Singapore has been invited for the first time to be one of five observer nations at the two-day summit, owing to its status as a banking hub and leader of the Global Governance Group, made up of 28 non-G-20 nations. The spot has usually gone to the Netherlands, but host South Korea felt Western Europe is well represented at the G-20 and Asia less so.

In an e-mail interview published on Tuesday, Mr Lee told South Korean news agency Yonhap that Singapore was honoured by the invitation. 'It is good that Asian countries will be well represented, not just because the meeting is held in Asia, but because Asia has much to contribute to the global economy,' he said. 'We will do our part.'

He praised Seoul's leadership in rallying Asian support for the G-20, saying Singapore and South Korea enjoyed 'longstanding and excellent relations'.

Mr Lee will be accompanied by Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and senior officials. In his absence, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng will be Acting Prime Minister.

In the interview, Mr Lee gave his take on the summit, emphasising it is crucial for small, open economies like Singapore that the G-20 advance the trade agenda. Such a move will allow global trade to thrive under a 'strong, rule-based multilateral trading system', which is important for a country like Singapore, whose external trade is thrice the size of its gross domestic product (GDP), he said.

PM heads to Seoul for G-20