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Atlanta Lobbies China to Open Direct Passenger Flights
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Georgia State hopes to open a direct passenger airline service linking Atlanta to China, said Atlantic Mayor Shirley Franklin in Beijing on Thursday.


Franklin made the remarks at a press conference held for the visit of a delegation from Georgia State.


Led by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the delegation will visit and meet with senior government officials from Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Wuhan from September 5-13.


According to Franklin, during the visit, the delegation will lobby Chinese government officials for opening direct passenger air service from Atlanta to China.


The delegation is also to promote the establishment of a new consulate of the People's Republic of China in Atlanta, which Georgia officials are actively pursuing, she said.


The delegation will also search for opportunities for Georgia companies to invest in China and absorb investment from China, said the mayor.


The delegation is composed of about 30 academic, business and government leaders from Atlanta city and Georgia state including Atlanta Regional Commission, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Georgia State Senate, University of Georgia, Delta Air Lines and National Association of Chinese Americans.


Numerous Georgia companies have operations in China, including UPS, GE Energy, The Home Depot, Newell Rubbermaid, Siemens and IBM.


The state of Georgia will open an office in Beijing during the first quarter of 2007. The office in Beijing will be the state's 11th international office.


As Atlanta is the host city for the 1996 Summer Olympics, the delegates will visit Olympic venues constructed for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and talk to Chinese officials about the economic development of the Games, said Franklin.


Atlanta is home to nearly 1,600 international companies that employ about 80,000, which represents a 50 percent increase in international companies since Atlanta hosted the Olympics in 1996. The city is also headquarters for 17 Fortune 500 enterprises including Coca Cola, UPS and CNN.


Georgia's exports to China totaled US$979 million last year, an increase of 482 percent since 1998. In 2004 more than US$9.9 billion in goods were imported from China through the Savannah Customs District. Imports from China to Georgia have increased 456 percent since 1998.


Trade volume between China and Georgia through Atlanta, Brunswick and Savannah totaled US$12.1 billion last year, ranking Georgia as the sixth-largest port in the US for imports and exports with China, and the second largest port on the East Coast.


According to the Georgia Ports Authority, Chinese mainland and Hong Kong accounted for more than 40 percent of its trade last year.


"The Southeast is the fastest growing region in US, and China is the fastest growing economy in the world," said Sam Olens, chair of the Atlanta Regional Commission and chair of the Cobb County Commission.


"So it is a smart strategy to strengthen our ties with China as we expand our reach around the world," he said.


(Xinhua News Agency September 8, 2006)

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