City of Richmond plans sister city trips to China, Japan

Richmonds mayor will lead a 22-member delegation to China next month to forge stronger business, educational, social and cultural links.

Mayor Malcolm Brodie and six councillors will head the delegation that will be in China from April 25-29.

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The group will also include representatives of Tourism Richmond, Richmond Chamber of Commerce, Richmond School Board, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Trinity Western University and the Richmond Sister City Committee.

According to the city, the highlight of the visit will be the signing of a formal Sister City Agreement between Xiamen and Richmond. A letter of intent to become Sister Cities was signed in 2011, when a delegation from Xiamen visited Richmond. The two have been Friendship Cities since 2008.

The city will only be paying for the mayor and councillors and, although the exact cost of the trip will not be known until afterward, the rest of the delegation will pay their own way.

The visit will also focus on increasing tourism, particularly through expanded air service between Richmond and China, further tapping into the increasing demand for international education and exploring other economic development opportunities.

Xiamen and Richmond have developed close ties since we became Friendship Cities in 2008, said Mayor Brodie.

Weve seen real economic and cultural benefits from our relationship and are looking forward to building on that foundation through an expanded Sister City relationship.

Councillors Bill McNulty and Harold Steves will lead a smaller four-person delegation that will visit Japan from April 18-24.

That delegation will make a special visit to the small fishing village of Onagawa, which was devastated in the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Only 5,000 of the villages 11,000 residents survived the disaster. The Richmond community has adopted Onagawa and undertaken a number of disaster relief initiatives.

Led by several Steveston community groups, more than $150,000 in cash and in-kind donations have been raised to provide assistance to Onagawa. The funds have been targeted to aid the seven schools in the region, as the disaster left many children orphaned.

Among other initiatives, Richmond was able to arrange for Onagawa schools to be provided with life vests to be used by students in case of a similar emergency.

Richmond has also sent more than 40 comfort quilts to Onagawa. The quilts were created by members of the Richmond Textile Arts Guild for tsunami victims, many of whom lost both their families and all their possessions.

The delegation will also visit Richmonds Sister City of Wakayama, Japan. The visit will include work on plans for a visit to Richmond later this year by a delegation from Wakayama and for commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the two cities relationship in 2013.

Finally, the delegation will meet with Japanese naval officials to discuss possible visits to Richmond by Japans two Class A tall ships, the Kaiwo Maru and Nippon Maru.

The two visits were approved by council in March of last year when it adopted a 2011-2013 Work Plan for the Sister City Program. Funding for the trips will come from monies designated for the Sister City program, through a one-time allocation of operating budget surplus.

The Xiamen mission is also being supported by China Eastern Airlines, which is providing discounted airfares for the delegation.

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