Mayor Ernie Kell, Councilman Wallace Edgerton and two harbor officials have left on an 18-day trade mission to the People's Republic of China, South Korea and Japan.
Kell and Edgerton, who is vice mayor, and their wives were expected to meet Harbor Commissioner David Hauser, his wife, and port executive secretary Travis Montgomery in Beijing today.
The trips of Montgomery and the three public officials will be paid for by the city Harbor Department and the governments of China and Korea, said port executive director Jim McJunkin. The officials' wives will pay their own expenses, said Kell and McJunkin.
"There are times when they (council members) are a very useful component of a trade mission," said McJunkin. "Particularly the mayor carries a lot of prestige in many of the oriental countries.
"On this trip we have the two top elected officials of the city," McJunkin added. "They are establishing sister city relationships with two ports, which should be very valuable in the future."
Council members Tom Clark and Eunice Sato also went on trade missions when they were mayor, said McJunkin. "And Mayor (Edwin) Wade used to accompany us regularly." Wade was mayor from 1960-75.
Kell said the port is paying about $1,700 each for his and Edgerton's round-trip airline tickets and that the government of China is paying all costs for the officials' two-week tour of that country. They will visit Long Beach's sister city of Qingdao on the northern coast, he said.
All but the Edgertons will then go to Korean port city Pohang, a prospective sister city, and to the manufacturing plant of the Hyundai Corp., a giant automobile manufacturer that plans a major exporting program to the United States, said Kell. Edgerton will travel to Japan, rather than Korea, to visit sister city Yokkaichi, the mayor said.
Hyundai Corp., which will pay travel expenses in Korea, "has asked us to visit them, and it's quite important that their (new) car comes through the Port of Long Beach rather than the Port of Los Angeles," said Kell.