Representatives Mark Amodei (NV-2) and Judy Chu (CA-27), along with original cosponsor Steven Horsford (NV-4), today introduced a bipartisan bill to spur economic growth by removing the barriers leisure and business travelers from Hong Kong face when visiting the United States. The legislation would allow for Hong Kong's inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to facilitate not only increased tourism to the United States, but also trade.
A special administrative region of China, densely-populated Hong Kong is home to the fourth highest percentage of millionaire households in the world. As a leading international financial center, Hong Kong has a major capitalist economy, characterized by free trade. American citizens currently enjoy extended, visa-free access to Hong Kong. However, because it is technically not a country, the VWP law as written leaves the U.S. unable to reciprocate. More than 140 countries, including allies such as Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, much of Europe, and East Asia, already waive business and leisure travel visas for Hong Kong passport holders.
"We are fixing a technicality that places an unnecessary impediment between two of the world's great economies -- Hong Kong and the United States," said Amodei."We want to invite tourists from Hong Kong to explore our country, especially Nevada's famous hospitality, but we also want to send the message to Hong Kong's business community that they, too, are more than welcome here. Last year alone, Nevada firms exported $560 million worth of goods to China, including Hong Kong."
"This bill does more than break down barriers to travel -- it opens doors to economic growth. The unnecessary burdens currently in place restrict tourists from visiting our shores and business leaders from investing in our companies," said Rep. Chu. "Hong Kong has extended visa-free access to the U.S., but due to an arbitrary technical problem, we have not done the same for them, even though it makes economic sense. At a time when we are inching our way out of recession, nothing could be more beneficial than to embrace open commerce with one of the world's strongest economies."
"This legislation will boost travel to Nevada by simplifying a time-consuming and unnecessarily complicated visa process for visitors from Hong Kong," said Rep. Horsford. "Tourism is our number one industry, it supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in our state, and it helps fund our schools, parks, and vital social services. Our economic recovery and future growth depend on a sensible travel policy and this fix will ensure Nevada continues to thrive as a tourist destination."
Identical bipartisan legislation (S. 703) was introduced in the Senate last month and has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Travel Association, American Hotel and Lodging Association, and National Association of Counties.