Lingle to meet with Chinese vice premier
A delegation of about 150 government officials and business leaders from China is stopping in Hawaii next week before continuing onto Washington, D.C., for an international trade conference.
The group is being led by Vice Premier Wu Yi -- the highest-ranking female member of the Communist Party's Political Bureau -- and is scheduled to attend the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade on April 11 in the nation's capital.
In Honolulu, Gov. Linda Lingle plans to meet with the vice premier and jointly sign a cooperative agreement aimed at increasing tourism between Hawaii and China. Wu also is scheduled to participate in seminars with members of Hawaii's business and tourism sectors.
"It will be the first time I've met her, so most likely it will be just to develop some rapport with her and talk about the future of our state and her country," Lingle said. "We're going to be focused on tourism, investment, and I'll probably talk a little about the Olympics coming in 2008 (in Beijing) and any help that our companies can give to them."
Lingle said she also plans to discuss the possibility of increasing more flights to and from China, to help promote tourism.
Hawaii is one of only two states -- Nevada is the other -- that have been granted permission by the Chinese government to open a tourism office there.
Although federal restrictions prevent more widespread travel between the United States and China, Lingle has said her administration is working with various agencies to try and make it easier.
Other officials in the delegation include Shao Qiwei, chairman of the China National Tourism Administration, and Ma Xiuhong, vice minister of commerce and transportation.
Wu also is the country's minister of health. In 2004, Forbes magazine named her the most powerful woman in China and second-most powerful woman in the world, behind U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Wu was among the government leaders, which also included Premier Wen Jiabao, who met this week with U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez in Beijing. Gutierrez has been in China this week to meet with top economic officials and review the agenda for the joint commission talks.
The talks are expected to lay the groundwork for Chinese President Hu Jintao's meeting with President Bush at the White House later this month. Gutierrez declined to discuss his meetings with Chinese officials but said Hu's meeting with Bush would let the two governments show they are "key stakeholders in a global community."
The Bush administration faces growing pressure from Congress to deal with a trade deficit with China that hit a record $202 billion last year, a record with any country.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.