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Villaraigosa planning 9-day trade mission to South America

November 9, 2012 |  5:13 pm

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa plans to travel to South America on a nine-day trade mission later this month with a delegation of business leaders and city officials. 

The delegation list is still being developed but will include port, airport and tourism officials as well as representatives of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, AEG Brazil and Forever 21 Chief Executive Don Chang, who has become a fixture on the mayor’s trade missions.

The group will travel to Brazil, Chile and Colombia, focusing on trade and touting Los Angeles as a premier tourist destination for South America’s rapidly growing middle class.

“The future of Los Angeles is tied closely to our neighbors in South America,” Villaraigosa said in a statement. “As we strengthen and build our local economy, we must leverage our assets in this global marketplace to create jobs here in Los Angeles.”

The mayor will travel Nov. 24 to Dec. 3, touring the port in Santiago, Chile, meeting with sugar industry executives in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and speaking with aviation officials in Brasilia. He will also attend Ciclavia and a Forever 21 fashion show in Bogota, Colombia.

Los Angeles World Airports and the Port of Los Angeles will pick up the trip’s $252,000 tab for all city employees. Non-city employees on the delegation will pay their own way.

Port and airport officials say they hope to educate trade leaders abroad about the facilities’ expanding capacity. LAX is currently undergoing a $4.1-billion expansion and renovation. L.A.’s port, the nation’s busiest, has nearly completed $1.2 billion in improvements, including deepening channels to accommodate larger cargo ships.

“If we don’t compete and we just sit around and wait, the cargo will go elsewhere,” said Stephen Cheung, director of international development at the Port of Los Angeles, who will accompany the mayor. He added that ports including Miami and Houston are aggressively seeking a greater market share.

Villaraigosa has previously traveled on trade missions to Asia, Mexico and El Salvador. Over the last two months, the mayor has also crisscrossed the country campaigning for President Obama and on behalf of the Democratic National Committee.


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