Depicting himself as "salesman in chief" for Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa returned Thursday from his two-week trade mission to Asia and defended the trip as necessary to bring business to the city.
"I probably should have gone there more often," Villaraigosa said at a news conference at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. "One-third of the Chinese imports come in to Los Angeles. Our tourism from China is up 151 percent compared with five years ago.
"This is without question where we want to be if we want to get investment, trade and tourism in Los Angeles."
The trip to China, Japan and South Korea cost an estimated $295,000, paid by Los Angeles World Airports and the Port of Los Angeles. Business executives who accompanied the city delegation paid their own way.
Agreements were reached with a number of firms to increase their investment in Los Angeles. Among these was China Shipping, which plans to double its terminal space, and Hyundai Merchant Marine Co., which pledged a major investment to help build the Port's Pier 500 project.
Several other agreements were signed to increase investments in Los Angeles and to expand mutual trade.
"One of the things I saw is that they are making a major investment in their infrastructure, things we should be doing here," Villaraigosa said. "Instead, Congress is dithering around and can't even get a jobs bill passed.
"They are putting 46 percent of their money