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US appears closer to Expo commitment

THE US government's appointment of a commissioner general for the 2010 World Expo and remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly indicated that the country would attend the 2010 event.

But the Shanghai World Expo organizer said yesterday that the long-awaited official confirmation had not been received. And the steering committee for the US Pavilion said it had raised only about a third of the money needed to build the structure.

The US group is trying to come up with US$61 million for the pavilion. But it has received commitments for only around US$20 million so far, and an additional US$40 million is under negotiation, Franklin Lavin, co-chairman of the project's steering committee, told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

The fund-raising is on track and corporate response is growing steadily, but the group still needs another three to six months to collect the cash, he said.

The US State Department on Wednesday appointed Jose Villarreal, an attorney from San Antonio, Texas, to head America's Expo participation and oversee the construction of the US Pavilion.

"Our national pavilion will showcase American business and technology, as well as cultures and values to foster stronger friendship between the American and Chinese peoples as it also demonstrates America's commitment to a forward-looking, positive relationship with China," Clinton said after announcing the appointment.

It will be "a perfect opportunity to highlight US innovation, particularly in environmental initiatives, and to share ideas with countries from around the world on ways to create better cities and communities for all our people," she said.

Clinton's remarks, although similar to those in a letter she sent to the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai in March, caused many Chinese and foreign news organizations to assume that the US had confirmed its participation in the World Expo.

The US hopes to build a 5,600-square-meter pavilion, one of the largest at the Shanghai event. But US law prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for World Expo participation.

So far, the pavilion has eight sponsors: PepsiCo, 3M, Dell, General Electric, Yum, Cargill, Golden Eagle and the USA-China Education, Science and Culture Association.

No deadlines will be set for countries and organizations to sign up for the Expo or to begin their pavilion, Zhou Jun, director of the International Participants Department of the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination, said earlier.

Among all the countries that have diplomatic relations with China, only the United States and Andorra, a principality in Europe, have yet to confirm Expo participation. SanMarino, the world's smallest and oldest republic, signed up yesterday to attend.

The participants could sign up for the Expo "even a week ahead of the event," which has been common in previous Expos, Zhou said.


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