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United States now set for Expo

THE United States today signed the long-awaited participation contract with the 2010 Shanghai World Expo organizer to officially confirm it will attend.

"We are not late, we are just in time," Jose Villarreal, the newly appointed Commissioner General for the US participation to the Expo, said after signing the contract with Hong Hao, director general of the Shanghai World Expo Coordination, on behalf of the US government.

The officials from both countries shook hands, toasted each and smiled.

"We finally welcome the 240th confirmed participant to the Shanghai Expo – the United States of America," Hong said excitedly at the signing ceremony.

It had been more than three years since Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao sent an Expo invitation to the US government, he said.

The Expo organizer welcomed the US participation and said he appreciated the enthusiasm the US government, companies and people will bring to the 2010 event.

"Today we can finally say that we are rising to the challenge, we are participating," said Beatrice Camp, the US consul general in Shanghai.

She said the country had actually begun efforts to attend the 2010 event in March, 2008 when the State Department signed a letter of intent with the US Pavilion non-profit group, Shanghai Expo 2010 Inc, to raise funds privately for its Expo showcase. "We all know this would be a challenge, but the global financial crisis has made the task of the US Expo team even more difficult."

"I am personal committed to having a national pavilion that will showcase the best of America and will make both our Chinese hosts as well as Americans proud," Villarreal said.

The commissioner general was appointed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton early this month, and this was widely regarded as a strong indication that the US would attend.

The US group has raised more than half of its US$61 million Expo budget, the commissioner general said.

The budget includes about US$20 million for the construction, another US$20 million for production of the pavilion's shows and promotions, with the rest set aside for overall operations during the six-month Expo period.

The US group will definitely get all the money needed for Expo as the public visibility of Clinton's support has boosted fund-raising efforts.

The US Expo group does not have a Plan A and a Plan B – it has only one plan, that is to build a stand-alone pavilion for the Expo, he told local media.

He said the group has made a detailed timetable to build the pavilion, but declined to say when construction would begin. "We will be on time and schedule," he said.

Construction and fund-raising for the rest of budget would proceed simultaneously, said Ellen Eliasoph, co-chair of Shanghai Expo 2010 Inc, the non-profit company that is undertaking the funding, design, construction and operations of the US pavilion.


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