LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, making one of his final trips while in office, met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing today to talk trade, tourism and business investments between Los Angeles and China.
The meeting was part of a trade mission by the mayor and local business and transportation officials to cultivate and strengthen ties with Los Angeles' top trade and tourism partner.
Trade with China makes up nearly 40 percent of business at the Los Angeles port complex, according to mayoral spokeswoman Vicki Curry.
Last year, about 460,000 tourists from China visited Los Angeles, more than from any other country, she said.
During today's meeting, Jinping underscored the importance of building a solid relationship.
"Los Angeles is the epicenter of the sub-national U.S.-China relationship," Jinping said. "In China, we have a saying: for a nine-story building, construction starts with a strong foundation on the ground level."
Villaraigosa has met Jinping twice before, once on a 2011 trade mission to Asia, and a second time in 2012 when then-Vice President Jinping visited Los Angeles.
This time, Villaraigosa promoted creating direct, non-stop flights between Los Angeles International Airport and Chinese cities such as Chengdu, Shenzhen and Tianjin, Curry said.
Each of the direct routes could generate $623 million a year for Los Angeles and support 3,120 jobs, she said.
The two also discussed trade, with Jinping complimenting Los Angeles on environmental measures implemented at the ports, according to Curry.
Villaraigosa will also meet with representatives from China Shipping, Dalian Wanda Group and the Chinese Real Estate Chamber of Commerce, before returning to Los Angeles later this week.