US rolls out welcome mat for Chinese
The United States government is betting on an expected influx of mainland tourists to boost its economy and employment in the next four years.
Returning from a China visit to promote Washington's latest initiatives on trade, investment and tourism, Nicole Lamb-Hale, US assistant secretary of commerce for manufacturing and services, said China would become the country's fifth-largest source of tourists by 2016 - up from ninth place last year.
'China was the ninth-largest origin for visitors last year and it ranked sixth in terms of spending,' said Lamb-Hale. 'Our national tourism strategy was recently released, and China was named as a focus of that strategy.'
The US government hopes to generate US$250 billion annually in visitor spending by 2021, up from US$153 billion last year - of which Chinese tourists contributed US$5.7 billion.
The assistant secretary said 50 offices had been added across China last year to process visa applications and shorten waiting times, helping to bring more than one million mainland tourists to the US in 2011. That was an increase of 36 per cent from the previous year.
The number of visas granted to mainland tourists was up 39 per cent in the first five months of this year.
Meanwhile, Lamb-Hale said the US was making good progress with its national export initiatives - an effort launched by President Barack Obama two years ago aiming to double US exports to US$3.1 trillion by the end of 2014, from US$1.5 trillion in 2009.
Without giving figures, Lamb-Hale said exports were doing 'really well' in the first five months this year. Statistics from the US Department of Labour, however, showed the export price index for June fell 1.7 per cent - the biggest single-month decline since October and basically offsetting the total growth accumulated in the first five months.
While US exports hit a record US$2.1 trillion last year, its trade deficit with China also surged to US$295 billion as Americans continued to buy low-end consumer goods from China. Computer goods and other machinery are assembled in China and shipped back to the US - which makes them Chinese-made goods even though much of the value was produced elsewhere.
In the first six months this year, the US trade deficit rose 17 per cent year-on-year to US$99.7 billion.
Lamb-Hale said the numbers would improve if Washington could resolve challenges faced by US companies on the mainland - including intellectual property protection, a lack of transparency and discrimination against foreign firms.
The number of US tourist visas granted to mainland Chinese was up this much in the first five months of this year