Mayor Hopes to Sell Asia on L.A. Commerce

When he embarks on his Asian trade mission next month, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will try to deliver on an ambitious spate of deals that could generate significant new investment and jobs for Los Angeles.

Villaraigosa hopes to reach agreements with major Asian banks that would pump vast sums of money into real estate projects in downtown and Koreatown.

He plans to announce the opening of a tourism office in Beijing that would promote Los Angeles to a burgeoning Chinese market.

Mayor's Far East trip: A map accompanying an article in Thursday's California section about Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's upcoming trip to Asia placed the Japanese city of Nagoya in the wrong spot. The map at left shows the correct location. —

And his team will even hold a fashion show in Shanghai to highlight clothes made in Los Angeles, with the idea of selling the apparel in Chinese department stores and generating a brand name for Los Angeles in the Middle Kingdom.

"L.A.'s relevance as a world-class international city will be driven by our willingness to engage in the economic forces driving globalization," Villaraigosa said.

Villaraigosa will lead a delegation of business leaders and city officials on a 16-day mission to China, South Korea and Japan beginning Oct. 7.

Speaking at a City Hall news conference Wednesday, the mayor was short on specifics about his agenda but said he would pitch Los Angeles as a haven for trade and commerce in a region that is vital to the city's future.

He said that trade between Los Angeles and the three Asian countries generated $125 billion last year in business through the Port of Los Angeles.

"Selling L.A.'s brand will be an important part of this trip," he said.

Aides to the mayor and others involved in the trip said that about 30 to 45 people would take part, including some City Council members, half a dozen mayoral aides and representatives of various businesses, including Warner Bros. and women- and minority-owned firms.

Some of those business people appeared with Villaraigosa at the news conference and said afterward that the Asia trip could generate a windfall for their firms.

Ernest Garcia, co-owner of West Coast Metal in South Los Angeles, has been working on a deal in China to import metals for his company of 52 employees. He thinks that Villaraigosa's involvement could make the difference, allowing his business to grow.

"This will slam dunk the deal…. We're talking about millions and millions of dollars for my company," Garcia said. "I'm hoping the mayor will talk to the Chinese government to seal the deal."

Noemi Prado, owner of Southwest Molding in Sun Valley, said she decided to join the mission at the city's invitation to learn from her Chinese counterparts.

"I want to go there with a very open mind and look at the opportunity of buying and the opportunity of selling," said Prado, who has 48 employees. "I want to see what I can do to help my business."

City officials said that business leaders on the mission would pay their own way. The cost for the mayor and other officials, estimated at about $500,000, will be picked up by the city's port, airports and L.A. Inc. — the city's convention and visitors bureau — they said.

Taking a page from his frenetic schedule in Los Angeles, Villaraigosa will try to maintain a nonstop pace, visiting nine cities in a little more than two weeks.

He will attend eight to 12 events each day, visiting schools in China, attending tourism dinners and meeting with airline executives and government officials.

It is a schedule that aides acknowledge could quickly unravel amid traffic jams, flight delays and other logistical snarls that come with trying to move dozens of people through densely populated and unfamiliar cities.

Aides said they expect Villaraigosa to have something to announce every day of the trip, and the mayor said that environmental themes would get significant attention. He is scheduled to deliver a major environmental speech in Hong Kong, a densely populated port city beset by pollution similar to what Los Angeles experiences.

"The issue of the environment, climate change, of what we can do around cleaning up our ports, will be issues that we will be discussing in many of these countries," Villaraigosa said.



Villaraigosa will visit Far East

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will lead a local delegation on a 16-day visit to Asia in October, hoping to boost commerce between Los Angeles and the Far East.
Oct. 8-10Beijing
Oct. 11Tianjin
Oct. 12Shanghai
Oct. 13Hong Kong
Oct. 14Guangzhou
South Korea
Oct. 15-17Seoul
Oct. 18Busan
Oct. 19-20Tokyo
Oct. 21Nagoya
Oct. 22Tokyo
Source: Los Angeles mayor's office