By Chen Weihua, China Daily

SEATTLE, Washington - Mayors from both the United States and China shrugged off the ideological conflicts that have come to underscore bilateral trade between both nations and said on [April 19] they only care about the bottom line.

 By Chen Weihua, China Daily

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Yue Huafeng, vice-mayor of Xi'an, Shaanxi province, presents a gift to Rogers Weed, director of the Department of Commerce of the Washington State on Tuesday at the meeting of the US-China Initiative on City-Level Economic Cooperation being held in Seattle, Washington. Chen Weihua / China Daily

SEATTLE, Washington - Mayors from both the United States and China shrugged off the ideological conflicts that have come to underscore bilateral trade between both nations and said on [April 19] they only care about the bottom line.

A 70-member Chinese delegation, comprising businesspeople, mayors and vice-mayors from large and medium-sized cities such as Shanghai, Chongqing and Xi'an, attempted to demonstrate their strong interest in strengthening cooperation with their U.S. counterparts at a [April 19] meeting for the US-China Initiative on City-Level Economic Cooperation.

"The lower the level, the less ideological it is," said Rogers Weed, director of the Department of Commerce of the state of Washington. 

His words were echoed by Mark Funkhouser, mayor of Kansas City (Missouri), who said: "We don't have that [kind of politics], this event is a positive thing."

At the meeting, Chinese mayors tried to impress their U.S. counterparts and potential investors by touting their strengths.

Ma Zhengqi, vice-mayor of Chongqing, a sister city of Seattle for the past 28 years, described the largest city in western China as an undeveloped region. But he painted a five-year blueprint in which Chongqing will make leaps in urbanization, industrialization and internationalization.

He talked about the city's fast improving transportation and infrastructural facilities and inexpensive land and utilities prices in Chongqing.

Yue Huafeng, vice-mayor of Xi'an, Shaanxi province, introduced his city, the site of the terracotta warriors, as a natural history museum on par with Athens, Rome and Cairo.

He said he believes the city's ancient wonder should not cloud people's understanding of modern Xi'an.

He described Xi'an as China's version of Seattle since both cities have a strong aviation industry and are leaders in education and technology.

On [April 19], Xi'an's bureau of commerce and the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle signed a Memorandum of Understanding to boost bilateral exchange and cooperation.

In his presentation, Wang Guozhong, vice-mayor of Wuxi, Jiangsu province, brought along Shi Zhengrong, founder of Suntech, while Xu Liquan, mayor of Weifang, Shandong province, made the city's international kite festival a top selling point. 

A total of 41 U.S. cities sent their mayors and representatives to the conference.

"It's a great thing and a huge opportunity for cities in the United States to talk with cities in China for real economic benefit. This is not a zero sum game and this is good for both sides," Funkhouser said.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said it's important for his city to identify its advantages and build on its strength "so we can successfully trade with Chinese cities and regions which are building their strength in the global economy".

The state of Washington exported US$9 billion in goods to China, making it one of the top U.S. exporters to the country.

McGinn said mayors in both the [United States] and China are facing tough challenges created by the global financial crisis.

Shanghai Vice-Mayor Tu Guangshao, who led the Chinese delegation, described the trip as a result of the second round of China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which was held in Beijing last May, as well as President Hu Jintao's visit to the [United States] in January.

He said cooperation between cities will establish a new platform for cooperation between the two countries. 

Zou Jiayi, an official from China's Ministry of Finance, said the event will pave the way for the third round of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, expected to be held in the [United States] next month. At the state level, the first China-US Governors Forum will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, in July. 

Zhou Qiang, head of Hunan province, and Washington state Governor Chris Gregoire signed an agreement in February to formalize ties, which seeks to foster face-to-face discussions between U.S. governors and Chinese provincial leaders over trade and education.

"Expanding exports is key to our economic recovery," said Gregoire, who chairs the National Governors Association. 

Zhou Qiang called the governors forum a "wonderful platform". 

"We can solve problems from our bilateral trade and economic disputes through the forum," he said. Besides trade and investment, the forum is also expected to address issues of energy, environmental protection, cultural exchange, tourism and education.

Local-level exchanges have grown steadily in recent years. In 2010, more than 110 local government delegations from both countries exchanged visits. So far, 36 U.S. states have set up friendship ties with Chinese provinces while 161 U.S. cities have established sister-city relationships with Chinese cities.

Four U.S. governors, including former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, went to China to promote business ties.

Source: China Daily

 

Editor's Note: A delegation from Shaanxi Province, China, the Sister State of Minnesota, lead by its governor, Zhao Zhengyong, recently visited Minnesota. During their visit they met with Minnesota Trade Office representatives, toured the University of Minnesota, the 3M Company, the law offices of Dorsey & Whitney, met with board members from the U.S.-China People's Friendship Association-Minnesota Chapter, toured the State Capitol and were hosted by Governor Mark Dayton at an Official State Dinner.

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