- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2014

In what White House officials described as a “game-changer,” President Obama on Monday announced a new visa deal with China designed to boost both countries’ travel and tourism industries.

Under the new agreement, short-term tourist and businesses visas for those traveling from the U.S. to China or vice versa will now be valid for 10 years. Previously they were valid for just one year.

The two nations also will begin issuing student visas valid for five years rather than one, officials said.

“In terms of the U.S.-China bilateral relationship, this is a game-changer,” said Evan Medeiros, senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council.

The new visa policy aims to take advantage of China’s status as the fastest-growing tourism market on earth. Administration officials said 100 million Chinese travel abroad each year, but last year only 1.8 million visited the U.S.

The White House says the new visa agreement will draw as many as 7.3 million Chinese travels to the U.S. over the next seven years.

The U.S. will begin issuing the new visas on Wednesday.

In a speech at the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing, Mr. Obama said Chinese President Xi Jinping was instrumental in finalizing the deal.

“I’ve heard from American business leaders about how valuable this step will be. And we’ve worked hard to achieve this outcome because it clearly serves the mutual interest of both of our countries,” Mr. Obama said. “So I’m proud that during my visit to China, we will mark this important breakthrough, which will benefit our economies and bring our people together, and I’m pleased that President Xi has been a partner in getting this done.”

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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