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City of Richmond plans sister city trips to Asia

Mayor Malcolm Brodie and six council colleagues will head to Asia later this month on a mission to strengthen ties with Richmond’s sister cities.

Brodie will lead a 22-member delegation to China April 25 to 29 to sign a formal sister city agreement with Xiamen. Last year, when a delegation from Xiamen visited Richmond, the two cities inked a letter of intent to become sister cities after courting each other as “friendship cities” for three years.

Richmond council’s visit will also focus on increasing tourism, particularly through expanded air service, education and economic development.

“We’ve seen real economic and cultural benefits from our relationship and are looking forward to building on that foundation through an expanded sister city relationship,” said Brodie in a press release.

Brodie will be joined by councillors Chak Au, Derek Dang, Ken Johnston, Bill McNulty, Linda McPhail and Harold Steves, along with three city staffers and four sister city committee members.

Their travel costs are estimated at $40,000, according to city spokesperson Ted Townsend, and will be paid for by taxpayers. Townsend noted China Eastern Airlines is providing discounts of approximately $15,000.

Also joining city will be representatives from the Richmond board of education, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Trinity Western University, Richmond Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Richmond.

According to a news release from the Foreign Affairs Office of the Xiamen Municipal People’s Government, “the tourism departments of Richmond and Xiamen should sign co-operative agreement[s] to promote travels back and forth.” The release also noted the Foreign Language High School and Xiamen Science and Technology High School have a strong interest in future student exchanges with Richmond.

Xiamen, located on the southeast coast of China, has a population of 2.25 million—over 10 times that of Richmond.

Before the Xiamen trip, the city will spend approximately $15,000 to send a four-person delegation to Japan April 18 to 24. Councillors Bill McNulty and Harold Steves will lead the delegation, which will visit Onagawa, a small fishing village that Steveston non-profit groups have been raising funds for ever since a devastating tsunami nearly wiped out the community.

Also on the itinerary is a visit to Richmond’s sister city of Wakayama, ahead of next year’s 40-year anniversary of the two cities’ sister city relationship. Japanese tall ships Kaiwo Maru and Nippon Maru will also be on the radar of the Richmond delegation, which will be talking possible visits to Steveston from the two vessels.

Last year city council approved $234,410 to strengthen its sister city relationships through to 2013. Richmond is also linked to Pierrefonds, Que., a Montreal borough now known as Pierrefonds-Roxboro. That sister city relationship is now in its 45th year.

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