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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 21:32 GMT
Morgan's US St David's Day mission
Daffodil and New York graphic
First Minister Rhodri Morgan is celebrating St David's Day by flying the flag for Wales during a three-day visit to New York.

The assembly leader mark the annual festival at events in Cardiff before flying the Atlantic to promote Team Wales over a hectic weekend charm offensive.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan
Rhodri Morgan: Selling Wales to the US
One of his first duties on arrival in the US on Friday was to unveil an overseas network of centres wto raise the international profile and image of Wales.

The first Wales International centre will opening in New York later this year, Mr Morgan told the St David's Society in New York.

"I am proud to announce tonight a new chapter in Wales' representation overseas and another step towards raising the profile and image of Wales," said Mr Morgan.

"The Welsh Assembly Government will be setting up centres overseas which will provide a focus for business services and be a visible assembly government-led Welsh presence in a number of key locations across the globe."

The ambition was to develop centres to become a 'virtual Wales' offering, a focal point for international trade, inward investment and tourism.

Briefing the US media on the 2010 Ryder Cup golf tournament alongside Celtic Manor venue supremo Sir Terry Matthews, Mr Morgan and a concert by Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel in New York's Carnegie Hall are on the agenda.

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It is the second trip in six months to the US promoting Wales's image abroad for Mr Morgan.

In September 2001, he headed for San Francisco and California's Silicon Valley intent on luring businesses to Wales.

"Wales has achieved much greater recognition on the world stage since the National Assembly was created," he said ahead of the St David's Day tour.

"But more needs to be done to raise our profile in the world to support the drive to secure inward investment, boost tourism from America and attract overseas students to study in Wales."

Terrorist attacks

The visit will also include a major drive to attract tourists from the US, who currently make up 20% of the Welsh overseas visitor trade.

"Tourism in Wales suffered severely as a result of foot-and-mouth and the US terrorist attacks," said Wales Tourist Board Philip Evans who will be with the first minister.

"So we are now delighted to be looking forward, re-launching Wales to our important American market and working hard to raise Wales' profile all over the world."

During his St David's Day tour, the first minister will visit Ground Zero, the site of the former World Trade Center towers.

He will lay a wreath for the people of Wales in memory of those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks last September.

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