Rawl­ings to tout city on Asia trip

Visit next week to in­clude time in China and Korean DMZ

The Dallas Morning News - - Metro&state - By TRIS­TAN HALL­MAN Staff Writer thall­man@dal­las­news.com

The last time Dal­las Mayor Mike Rawl­ings vis­ited Seoul, South Korea, some faulty cur­rency con­ver­sion math led him to be­lieve a $1,500 bot­tle of wine was only $150 — lead­ing to some un­wanted lo­cal news at­ten­tion.

Rawl­ings on Wed­nes­day laughed about the mis­take — he re­im­bursed DFW In­ter­na­tional Air­port — and vowed not to re­peat it dur­ing next week’s trip to South Korea and China, which was of­fi­cially an­nounced Thurs­day.

The mayor and rep­re­sen- tatives from ma­jor North Texas busi­nesses and trade groups will visit the two coun­tries amid es­ca­lat­ing ten­sions between their neigh­bor North Korea and the U.S.

Rawl­ings plans to visit the demil­i­ta­rized zone that di­vides North and South Korea while he’s in the coun­try. He joked that he won’t tweet while there be­cause of the loom­ing threat of a nu­clear war — a dig at Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s at­ten­tion-grab­bing 140-char­ac­ter-or-less so­cial me­dia mis­sives aimed at North Korean Pres­i­dent Kim Jong Un.

Trump also plans to visit South Korea and China next month. The mayor said Trump has in­creased the at­ten­tion he’s re­ceived on re­cent trade trips to Canada and Mex­ico. Rawl­ings ex­pects much of the same in Asia.

“With the Trump world that’s hap­pen­ing, peo­ple are fas­ci­nated by Amer­i­cans,” he said. “They say, ‘Are you buy­ing what Trump’s do­ing or do you have a dif­fer­ent at­ti­tude about things?’ And so telling the story about a pro-busi­ness, in­clu­sive, pro­trade city is a good story there.”

The mayor said the main goals of his trip are to close the deal on a North Amer­i­can head­quar­ters for a Chi­nese com­pany and pro­mote the city, the air­port and North Texas among ma­jor global trade part­ners. This time, he won’t be joined by his usual travel buddy, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.

In Shang­hai, Rawl­ings will try to pro­mote tourism to Dal­las. And in Seoul, Rawl­ings will speak at an in­ter­na­tional may­ors con­fer­ence about “lev­el­ing the play­ing field for small and medium-sized en­ter­prises in cities.” He said he will also talk about his poverty task force — the city is try­ing to tackle its high rate of poverty, es­pe­cially among chil­dren — and his Grow­south ini­tia­tive.

Rawl­ings has in­creas­ingly touted the idea of “eco­nomic in­clu­sion” and small busi­ness growth. He re­cently hailed a Gold­man Sachs ini­tia­tive for small busi­nesses in Dal­las.

But Rawl­ings said the most im­por­tant part of the trip is rais­ing the city’s pro­file in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“There is no ques­tion it’s go­ing up ev­ery time,” he said. “Just the amount of press we get, the amount of cu­rios­ity, the level of heads of state that want to talk to us. You can close a busi­ness deal here or there or learn some­thing, but fun­da­men­tally, it’s all about get­ting out of our shell and telling our story.”


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