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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 1) - A foreign ministry official from China met Gov. Felix Camacho on island Tuesday evening to further discuss the governor's request for approved destination status from the Chinese government.

Camacho said his one-hour meeting with He Yafei, director general of the Department of North American and Oceania Affairs, was a follow-up to Camacho's September visit to China.

Approved destination status would allow Chinese tourists, students and business people to visit Guam. Camacho hopes to secure the special status and then gain a visa waiver from the United States on travel from China to Guam to build up the island's tourism industry. Camacho has said Chinese visitors could double Guam's tourism arrival figures within a few years.

"We are going to begin, in the first quarter, official talks on this entire (approved destination status) process," Camacho said. "I requested for them to send a team out, at least in the first quarter of '04, and do their assessment -- looking at our industry, looking at our infrastructure, and then start hammering out issues dealing with it."

The main issue is the cumbersome U.S. visa process, Camacho said. The governor added that the people allowed to travel abroad by China are most likely to return to China. Camacho said the ministry official told him that Australia and New Zealand are examples of countries with favorable immigration policies.

"They have less than a .05 percentage of over-extended stays. They have a very good system in place right now, and (Yafei) says perhaps the United States and Guam should look at them as model countries with their immigration policies for Chinese visitors," the governor said.

January 1, 2004

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