New Orleans wants to turn itself into a wholesale centre for mainland-manufactured goods in the US, Canada and Mexico, according to the city's mayor, who says the plan could help it recover from the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina. Mayor Ray Nagin said the city was looking for a site to build a massive sourcing centre for Chinese-made products. Speaking in Shanghai, the third leg of a China trip that began in Beijing last Monday, Mr Nagin was upbeat about the plan. 'It is where people in America will come to see Chinese goods. It is going to open up the entire United States, Canada and Mexico markets for Chinese products,' he said. Mr Nagin said work to identify a suitable site had begun. 'We will work very diligently to find a site,' he said. 'We will decide whether it will be a site that is port accessible or in a downtown location so retailers can easily visit. Once we settle this, construction will start very quickly.' As part of New Orleans' recovery plan, Mr Nagin visited Shanghai's port on Friday to look for inspiration and collaboration. The port of New Orleans, on the Mississippi River, is a major transshipment point for steel, rubber and coffee. It was severely damage by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The hurricane flooded 80 per cent of the city, leaving some areas under 3 metres of water. The storm also damaged more than 100,000 homes. Mr Nagin estimated that it would take another five years for the city to fully recover. He said the pace of recovery was faster than the 10 years originally anticipated, but many residents were impatient. 'A lot of citizens are very impatient and they want to fix it, like yesterday; it's almost impossible,' he said. 'My home was damaged and it took me a year and a half before I could move back.' The city's population is 75 per cent of what it was before the hurricane struck. Mr Nagin said building a sourcing centre would benefit mainland manufacturers, North American retailers and ports in Shanghai and Hong Kong. 'The concept is that retailers in the United States, instead of taking long-haul fights to China, can come to New Orleans,' he said. 'They can see the products and place an order. 'Once the orders are made and products are manufactured in China, they will be distributed from the port of Hong Kong or Shanghai to the port of New Orleans. And then from New Orleans the goods would be sent to retailers all over the United States.' Mr Nagin will return to New Orleans today. He also visited Zhengzhou , where he attended an international forum on tourism.