Seiji Naya, left, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, chatted at the Pacific Club yesterday with Wan Jifei, vice chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.

China looks to isles
as bridge, official says

By Russ Lynch

China's acceptance into the World Trade Organization creates significant opportunities for Hawaii, not only in tourism but in agriculture and other trade areas, a top Chinese trade-promotion official said in Honolulu yesterday.

China "will make full use of the geographic location of Hawaii and the educational facilities here," as a bridge between East and West, said Wan Jifei, vice chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade and of the China Chamber of International Commerce, during a luncheon at the Pacific Club organized by the government and private sectors.

He said WTO membership will open up China to international commerce, likely at the expense of its agricultural sector. Hawaii expertise may help alleviate that, he said, through the knowledge available from the University of Hawaii, the East-West Center and other sources.

"CCPIT (his Council) will be a bridge or window between China and Hawaii," Wan said through an interpreter. Tourism can play a big part in building that bridge. "Hawaii is famous in China, the place all the Chinese want to come," he said.

The speech came after Wan and other Chinese delegates did a formal signing yesterday morning of an agreement hatched in December between China and Hawaii, which calls for mutual development in government and business administration and cooperation in entrepreneurship and the development of mediation and other alternatives to international litigation.

After the luncheon, Wan said Hawaii could benefit from a big increase in tourism from China if the United States eased up on its visa policies.

The fear has been a Chinese person allowed to enter the United States as a tourist is could stay and disappear into the community. Wan suggested the United States could do what Australia, New Zealand, Japan and other countries have done: Grant entry visas initially only to residents of the biggest cities in China, where there is a strong legal structure that could help the United States weed out risky travelers.

The opportunities are great, Wan said. Two or three major Chinese cities have enough wealthy people to produce a huge market for tourism to Hawaii, and the islands have a huge attraction as a visitor destination for the Chinese, he said. Between 100 million and 200 million people a week travel inside China, an example of a potential international market.

Meanwhile, despite the decline in economies around the world last year, China didn't fare so badly, Wan said. "China developed a strong trade and currency policy" that increased its gross domestic product and its foreign trade and left it with some $46 billion in foreign capital that the country is now finding ways to spend.

In gearing up for its WTO entry, China has also been lowering its import tariffs, from an average of 15.3 percent in 2001 to 12 percent this year and an expected 10 percent or so three to five years from now, Wan said. China has been through more than 20 years of economic reform and it is working, he said.

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