USAI Trustee Tom Ara was recently interviewed by China Film Insider (CFI) about his experiences in the film industry. In the interview, he discusses practicing entertainment law in the United States and in China as well as recent news in the entertainment sector. He describes his involvement with USAI and the Institute’s 40th anniversary. Below is an excerpt from the full article from CFI, which you can read here:
Q: Can you tell us more about the US-Asia Institute and your role within it?
A: Sure—For the past five years I have had the privilege of serving as one of the few Trustees on the Board of Trustees of the Washington, DC-based US-Asia Institute. The Institute is a non-political, non-partisan, non-lobbying, non-profit organization devoted to improving understanding and strengthening ties between the people and governments of the U.S. and Asia. This year is the Institute’s 40th anniversary. The organization was founded in 1979 by influential politicians and business people from the U.S. and Asia, with the support of President Jimmy Carter. In the United States, the Institute has built strong ties with the White House, Congress and other governmental agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the business community and, in China, with the National People’s Congress and other governmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations.
One of the important things the Institute is involved in is planning and hosting congressional delegations to Asia. These trips offer significant benefits to congressional members and their staff, allowing them to gain firsthand experiences in Asian countries, listen to the ideas of their counterparts and share their views, clarify misconceptions on Asia, and be exposed to the cultural and historical aspects of Asia. A large number of our elected representatives in the U.S. have not visited the region, and particularly China, which at this time is the most important economic and political force in the region. Some of the individuals which the Institute invites on these delegation trips are congressional members and their staff who sit on foreign affairs committees and are responsible for legislation and policy that affects a region that they may only know about through reading briefings and reports prepared by others.
Over the past decade or so the Institute’s focus has shifted heavily to China because of its continued rise to power and so most of the delegation trips (over 140 to date) travel to China. These trips are conducted under the U.S. Mutual Education and Cultural Exchange Act and the cost is fully paid by our host countries and no U.S. taxpayer dollars are used to pay for any of the trips. In China, an arm of the National People’s Congress called the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs typically acts as our host and arranges key meetings with elected officials and ministries, among other things. During these delegation trips, much of what occurs is discussion about socioeconomic and cultural issues to understand different points of views. The delegates also have the opportunity to visit with local businesses, both Chinese and American, to see how they are thriving or struggling in the host country.
I have had the privilege of accompanying several of these delegations’ trips to China and recently accompanying a congressional trip with some focus on the entertainment industry. I have found that the delegates that travel on these trips return, especially those who have never traveled abroad or to the region, with their eyes wide open and much more informed and educated about the region. We hope that some of what they see and hear will be valuable to their policy-making back at home, not necessarily in a positive or negative way but simply from the perspective of mutual understanding. With the Institute turning 40 this year, I could not think of a more important time for the Institute to play the role it has historically in helping advance positive relations between the U.S. and China. I hope to be able to play at least a small role in these efforts in my capacity as a Trustee of the Institute.