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January 4, 2010

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US nears cash target for Expo

THE United States is approaching the fund-raising goal for its Shanghai 2010 World Expo pavilion construction and operation after months of fighting against financial difficulties in a dismal American economy.

The country, which signed its participation almost at the last minute, has managed to raise more than US$53 million to date, Jose Villarreal, the US Commissioner General to the World Expo, told Shanghai Daily during a promotion session in Pasadena, California, on Saturday.

The figure accounts for about 87 percent of the American target of US$61 million announced last year.

"In spite of the extraordinarily difficult economic environment, we have now raised US$53 million," Villarreal told an audience of business leaders during the Expo promotion.

"But we still have a little bit more to raise, so we encourage you sincerely to dig deep into your pockets or help to identify some additional funding sources."

At the same time, he hailed the generosity of private-sector donors to date.

Different from other government-financed national pavilions, the USA Pavilion must rely entirely on funding from the private sector as federal laws ban the use of public money.

Villarreal described the fund raising as "a daunting task."

However, he said millions of dollars in donations from American corporations, including PepsiCo, General Electric, Dow Chemical and organizations like the American Chamber of Commerce, had helped enormously to ensure the country's financial ability to build and run a national pavilion during the 184-day event from May 1.

The US finally signed documents to confirm its participation at the Expo last July, more than three years after the Chinese government sent out an invitation letter.

It was the 240th confirmed Expo participant, with about half the targeted money in hand by then.

Being optimistic about meeting the financial target, Villarreal said there was just one major concern.

"Surveys show that the USA Pavilion will be the second most popular after China," he said.

"I'm worrying about how to accommodate such a large number of visitors (a projected 70 million overall)."


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