Leahy, Welch Set Policy Visits In China, Vietnam

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), accompanied by Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.), is heading a bicameral, bipartisan congressional delegation to China, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.

The delegation departs Washington on Saturday, April 12, and returns Wednesday, April 23, during a period in which Congress is not in session.

Leahy chairs the Senate’s Judiciary Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee on the State Department and Foreign Operations, and now is the Senate’s President Pro Tempore.  Welch serves on the House Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations. 

Marcelle Leahy and Margaret Cheney are also participating, as will be John Tracy, Leahy’s State Director in Vermont and a Vietnam War veteran, who will be returning to Vietnam for the first time since his service in the war.

Their focus during the visits includes intellectual property laws and rights, human rights, Vermont’s use of the EB-5 program in major developments planned for Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, and humanitarian efforts underway in Vietnam – a legacy of the use of Agent Orange and landmines during the Vietnam War.

In China, the delegation will visit Shanghai.  In Hong Kong they will team up with another Senate delegation for meetings.  In China and Vietnam, they will meet with government leaders, representatives of civil society, Vietnamese law students and participants in U.S.–Vietnam exchange programs, and U.S. business representatives.  In Shanghai Leahy’s delegation also will meet with the United States’ newly appointed Ambassador to China, former Senator Max Baucus.  In Hanoi, they will also see U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy.

In Shanghai and Hanoi, Leahy and Welch will attend presentations by Vermonter Bill Stenger as he continues to enlist investors, under the U.S. EB-5 program, for major developments Stenger has planned in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

In Danang, the group will visit a dioxin (Agent Orange) remediation site, in which USAID is a partner, and a hospital and wheelchair distribution center which also receives help from USAID.  Leahy chairs the Senate Appropriations panel that writes and oversees USAID’s budget, and Leahy sponsored funding for both projects in the annual appropriations bill that his committee produces.

Leahy has long been the leading U.S. official in the two-decade-old international movement to ban anti-personnel landmines.  Leahy also has led in shaping and funding U.S. efforts to remove landmines and other unexploded bombs left from long-ago conflicts that continue to threaten innocent civilians.  Back in the early 1990s, President George H. W. Bush used the Leahy War Victims Fund to provide the first U.S. assistance to the people of Vietnam since the war, to provide artificial limbs and rehabilitation to survivors of landmine explosions.  This program has been implemented by the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped, and other organizations.  Most recently, last month Leahy launched a new series of Senate Floor speeches about the scourge of landmines and urging President Obama to join the international treaty banning them.  His most recent speech was on Wednesday, and he will continue his series of speeches when Congress reconvenes.  China and Vietnam also have not signed the treaty.

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