Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will visit China and Japan with representatives from local businesses such as Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is jetting to China for meetings next week in three cities that are among the country’s most important business and technology hubs.
The mayor will spend time in Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Hangzhou, repaying Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Seattle, Everett and Tacoma in September.
Murray will use his privately supported office fund to pay for his travel, but taxpayers will cover the cost for two staff members, according to the mayor’s office.
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Local heavyweights Boeing, Microsoft and the University of Washington announced agreements with Chinese businesses and institutions; even Kenmore Air, the Pacific Northwest floatplane company, landed a contract worth about $40 million.
The mayor is leading a Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce delegation to those two cities.
Murray has never been to China before, he said in an interview Friday.
“As I’ve said before, people do business with people they know,” he said. “We want to make sure people understand who we are.”
In Hong Kong, the semiautonomous former British colony, the mayor will trade notes on sustainable development and the environment with government officials.
He’ll also meet with real-estate investors interested in the Seattle market, he said.
In Shenzhen — a sprawling metropolis on the mainland near Hong Kong that’s grown since 1980 from a fishing village into a city of more than 10 million people — he’ll drop in on a genome-sequencing center partly run by a Chinese researcher with UW ties.
Murray will also speak with trade officials about Seattle companies and check in on Shenzhen’s push to use more electric buses and taxis, his office said. The mayor has proposed expanding electric-vehicle use in Seattle by 15,000 cars by 2025.
The mayor will then head to Hangzhou, one of mainland China’s most prosperous cities, to tour Alibaba’s corporate campus. The Chinese e-commerce giant has an office in Seattle, and Chairman Jack Ma joined Xi in his trip to the Pacific Northwest last year.
Representatives from Seattle-area Internet sellers Amazon, Blue Nile and Costco will travel with Murray to Hangzhou, according to his office.
“(Hangzhou) will really be about opening up our Seattle e-commerce companies to the Chinese market,” the mayor said. “That will be the focus there.”
Murray said he wants to help Seattle catch up with San Francisco, which in 2008 launched an initiative dedicated to cultivating business ties with China.
“I have one person who works on international investment. We’re having our clocks cleaned,” he said. “The big part for me is to step up our game so we’re not so far behind San Francisco and Los Angeles when it comes to direct foreign investment.”
The week after next, the mayor will move on to Japan. In Kobe, Seattle’s Japanese sister city, he’ll visit a factory that makes parts for Boeing and discuss emergency management with officials. Kobe experienced a devastating earthquake in 1995.
Murray will be the guest of honor in Kobe’s Matsuri Festival parade, his office said.
Last, the mayor will spend a day in Tokyo, where he’ll meet with business people, the Japan Association of Travel Agents and the mayor of the first Japanese ward to recognize same-sex marriage. Murray said his time in Japan will emphasize cultural connections.
The mission to China and Japan will be Murray’s third international sojourn since he took office in January 2014. He met with Ireland’s prime minister during a visit to the Emerald Isle in September 2014, and with Israel’s president on a trip there in June 2015.
The Ireland trip didn’t cost taxpayers, but Murray’s time in the Middle East set the city back about $36,000, including $6,000 for security while the mayor was sightseeing.
Murray’s China and Japan travel will be paid by his office fund, which is regulated by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission and allows the mayor to raise private money for city-related business through donations capped at $250, his office said.
The city will pay for the director of Murray’s Office of Economic Development and a staff member to make the trip, while Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim will pay her own way.
The mayor’s office Friday didn’t immediately provide an estimate of the cost to taxpayers and declined to comment on expenses related to Murray’s security.
In August, Murray said he hoped his trip to Israel would encourage startups from that country to do more business in Seattle. He had no update on that Friday.
Murray, who was a leader in the push to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state and who is gay, spoke about marriage equality while in Ireland and Israel.
He recently signed executive orders banning official travel by city employees to Mississippi and North Carolina in response to new laws there affecting LGBTQ rights.
He said Friday he’ll address same-sex marriage while in China, which prohibits same-sex marriage. His husband had planned to make the trip but won’t, due to a personal matter.
“One of the biggest statements we could have made was Michael being treated as a First Gentleman, something that we made clear to the Chinese government had to happen,” Murray said.