CITY NEWS SERVICE
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa left Friday on a 10-day trip to Asia focusing on increasing investment, trade and tourism to Los Angeles.
The shuttle to China, South Korea and Japan will include the announcement that the Los Angeles-based clothing retailer Forever 21 will re-enter the Chinese market by opening three new stores there, an aide said.
Villaraigosa is joined by city officials and business leaders in his second trip to the region as mayor. He also went there five years ago.
“Since our 2006 trade mission, we have worked to develop strong economic ties with Asia,” Villaraigosa said. “This year we will continue to strengthen important relationships, while working to increase investment, trade and tourism in L.A.”
Villaraigosa and the delegation were scheduled to meet with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan and Vice President Xi Jinping, Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng and Seoul, Mayor Park Won Soon. Villaraigosa will speak to the Korean International Trade Association about Los Angeles-Korea investment opportunities.
Villaraigosa hopes to put L.A. in position to capitalize on more than $5.5 billion in improvements at Los Angeles International Airport and the Port of Los Angeles.
“The future of Los Angeles is tied closely to our neighbors in the Pacific Rim,” Villaraigosa said. “As we strengthen and rebuild our local economy, we must leverage our assets in this global marketplace to create jobs here in Los Angeles.”
The delegation will visit Tokyo and earthquake-ravaged Sendai to meet with local government officials, emergency responders and university researchers to learn about how the area responded to the recent natural disaster. Villaraigosa will also attend a disaster emergency briefing and early warning demonstration, with the goal of learning and sharing emergency preparedness best practices, an aide said.
The estimated $295,000 trip is being funded by the Port of Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports. Non-city staff that are part of the mayor’s delegation will pay their own way.
Villaraigosa is joined by seven members of his staff, including deputy mayors for business and economic policy and homeland security.
Two Clinton administration figures — Mickey Cantor, who was commerce secretary, and Thomas “Mack” McLarty, White House chief of staff from 1993-1994 — are part of the delegation.
Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey and Board of Airport Commissioners President Michael Lawson are also accompanying Villaraigosa.
Lindsey said she planned to meet with officials of airports in Beijing and Shanghai and with the heads of a number of Asian airlines.
“For years and years at LAX, we’ve been not sending the most hospitable message that we could to the rest of the world,” Lindsey said. “I’m going to send a message that they can expect a much more hospitable experience at the front door of Los Angeles.”
Lindsey said her message would not be appreciated “by osmosis” and the overseas trip is necessary to honor an Asian culture of hospitality and respect.