Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed agreements with Chinese cities Hangzhou and Shenzhen during a trade mission this month.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed agreements with a pair of Chinese cities during a weeklong trade mission to the world’s most populous country earlier this month.
But he didn’t meet with LGBTQ activists in China, which prohibits same-sex marriage, and he called that a disappointment.
The mayor inked a memorandum of understanding between Seattle and Hangzhou to promote economic ties between the two cities, with an emphasis on e-commerce.
Hangzhou is one of mainland China’s most prosperous cities and is the headquarters of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, which has an office in Seattle.
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Murray traveled to Hangzhou with representatives from some Seattle-area companies with e-commerce interests: Amazon, Blue Nile and Costco.
He also signed a memorandum of understanding between Seattle and Shenzhen, a massive city near Hong Kong that’s home to BGI, one of the world’s largest genome sequencers. That agreement will support biomedical research, including the University of Washington School of Medicine and BGI opening a joint institute.
The mayor, who had never been to China, called the trip a success. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Seattle area in September.
“You read about the growth of their economy. But to actually see it was pretty amazing,” Murray said. “I was struck by how important (the Chinese) view Seattle as. We’re not a particularly large city, but they’re interested in Seattle and our companies.”
The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and local titans Boeing, Microsoft and Alaska Airlines each sent representatives, and the Washington State China Relations Council organized the e-commerce-themed tour of Hangzhou.
Murray said his presence alongside the business people made a difference. During his visit, China’s Xiamen Airlines announced it would soon begin direct flights between Shenzhen and Seattle. There are now no direct flights between Shenzhen and the U.S.
Before the trip, the mayor said he would seek to address LGBTQ rights while in China. Murray, who is gay and who was a leader in legalizing same-sex marriage in Washington, mentioned Seattle’s LGBTQ community on his trip but didn’t talk with activists.
“That was integrated into my remarks when I talked about Seattle as a diverse city,” he said. “But we didn’t have the community meeting we were trying to pull together.”
Murray said Chinese officials weren’t to blame. “We were so booked in China, it was a miss on my part,” he said.
The mayor also stopped in Japan, where he met with officials from Seattle’s longtime Japanese sister city, Kobe, and with business leaders.
The East Asia expedition was Murray’s third international trip as mayor; he’s also been to Ireland and Israel.