Chinese officials tour Illinois port for business deals

GRANITE CITY -- As another delegation of Chinese officials toured America's Central Port on Wednesday for a possible business deal, the port director said any agreement will not develop quickly.

"It's like any good business relationship, but unfortunately it takes time," Executive Director Dennis Wilmsmeyer said. "This is another part of that process in building that relationship between our two countries."

On Wednesday, U.S. Department of Transportation officials, including Deputy Secretary John Porcari, plus U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, and Wilmsmeyer hosted China's Vice Minister of Maritime Affairs Xu Zuyuan and other Chinese delegates in a tour of the 1,200-acre port district and business park.

Wilmsmeyer said numerous Chinese delegates have toured the port district in recent years to learn more about potential business development in the Central United States. For the past five years, other local civic leaders have been working to establish MidAmerica St. Louis Airport near Mascoutah as a cargo hub for direct flights into and out of China.

In September, St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern and MidAmerica St. Louis Airport Director Tim Cantwell were among about 30 delegates to accompany Gov. Pat Quinn on a trip to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. On Wednesday, a receptionist at the county chairman's office said Kern is expected to return from another trip to China by next week.

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