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World debut after EU change

THE European Union yesterday confirmed it will make its World Expo debut at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, a change in its usual policy of not participating in Expos outside the union.

The policy switch reflects the fact that the EU attaches great importance to the Sino-EU partnership, said Serge Abou, the EU's Ambassador to China and the head of the EU delegation of the European Commission to China, in a letter to Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng. The EU's Expo participation also reflected the "strength and vitality of the European business and cultural community in Shanghai," said Abou.

The participation was announced by Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, during a meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the EU headquarters in Brussels last Friday.

The EU was considering sharing a pavilion with a member state as time was "pressing," Abou said when he met Zhong Yanqun, deputy director of the World Expo 2010 Shanghai Executive Committee late last month.

The member state will probably be Belgium as the country will hold the EU's rotating presidency for four months during the six-month Expo period and the EU's headquarters is also in Belgium, Abou noted.

The EU plans to showcase policies and efforts in environmental protection, energy saving, transportation and product safety, said Abou.

During the meeting, Zhong expressed the hope that the EU would participate in the event as it was "an important organization with a large trade volume with China."

China has been the largest importer to the EU since 2007, while the EU is China's biggest trading partner. Trading between the two sides reached US$425.58 billion in 2008, 19.5 percent up on the previous year. The growth rate of Sino-EU trade volume was 9 percentage points over the Sino-US volume in 2008.

Zhou said that despite the current financial turmoil, participants were still very "enthusiastic" about the Expo.

The EU is the 231st participant in the Expo 2010, which has attracted 185 countries and 46 international organizations.

All 27 member states of the European Union have confirmed participation.


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