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By Jayvee Vallejera Staff Reporter

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (August 30, 2002 – Saipan Tribune)---Meetings with nongovernmental organizations in Japan could pave the way for potential financial assistance for the CNMI.

This was stressed by Rep. William S. Torres, who is currently with Gov. Juan N. Babauta in Tokyo.

He was interviewed yesterday via a telephone patch arranged by Special Assistant for Federal Relations Sonya Artero.

Besides meeting with government officials, Torres said the CNMI delegation also met with several non-governmental groups, which he said are extremely important.

"The meetings were important in light of the fact that the government of Japan cannot directly provide financial assistance to the CNMI government because of our relationship with the United States," said Torres.

With non-governmental groups, Torres said that some kind of assistance through this forum could be tapped as additional sources of funding for the CNMI.

Under the Covenant, the U.S. government handles foreign affairs matters for the Commonwealth. Therefore, the CNMI cannot independently act on foreign affairs matters without consulting the State Department.

"The Governor, at the outset, gave credit to a former member of the Japan Diet, Mr. Tokuo Yamashita, who is not only chairman of the Board of Trustees of Senshu University but also is chairman of the NMI Parliamentary League of Friendship," said Torres, when asked with which nongovernmental groups the delegation had met.

Torres, who is chairman of the House Committee on U.S. and Foreign Affairs, was also extremely pleased to have met with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Howard Baker, with whom he had communicated often this year regarding a request for assistance in promoting the CNMI through the embassies of the United States.

"We finally met him and discussed the issue and the tremendous resources that the U.S. Embassy here in Japan could provide to the CNMI," said Torres.

That assistance, he added, does not only refer to tourism promotion but also to trade and commerce, with the U.S. Embassy bringing its considerable resources and credibility to bear.

Washington Representative Pete A. Tenorio said that Baker was very impressed with the list of people in the delegation he met with during the last few days.

"I think we have a very good friend in former Senator Baker. The Vice Speaker and Rep. [William S.] Torres were very effective in presenting a resolution inviting the Ambassador and Mrs. Baker to come to the CNMI and visit us," said Tenorio.

The Washington Rep quoted the Ambassador as saying he will make arrangements to visit the CNMI in the near future. "So that is a very good sign of the interest of the United States in pursuing common goals in improving our tourism," said Tenorio.

He added that the delegation obtained a commitment from the U.S. Embassy in Japan that it would do whatever is necessary to help the CNMI.

"All we need to do is remind them—write them occasionally and remind them of the needs that the CNMI has in terms of tourism and other kinds of opportunities that we certainly need to pursue," said Tenorio.

Torres related that he couldn’t be more pleased over the outcome of the trip. "I think we have met our mission, both the diplomatic mission and the investment-economic mission."

He said that this trip was an affirmation of what he has always been pushing for—reaching out to the CNMI’s economic partners outside of the Commonwealth.

Torres also supported Senate President Paul A. Manglona’s proposal for the CNMI to conduct more of these types of missions, and he suggested that the Governor next visit the Republic of Korea and the emerging market of China.

He said this trip to Japan was his first as a lawmaker.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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