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October 15, 2009

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Obama 'excited' over visit

US President Barack Obama is "very excited" about his upcoming trip to China and his discussions with President Hu Jintao on issues including energy, climate change and security, US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman told a Shanghai news conference yesterday.

The ambassador's remarks were delivered in front of the US Pavilion for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, which wrapped up major construction yesterday after an aggressive 89-day building effort. The visit was Huntsman's first to the city since he was appointed ambassador in August.

"The US-China relationship is experiencing a very good, prosperous and positive period and has reached a high point in 30 years," he said.

Obama will visit Shanghai and Beijing from November 15 to 18 during a four-nation Asia trip that will also take him to Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

It is unclear whether Obama's Shanghai stop will include a look at the US Pavilion because the schedule is still being worked out.

Marking the completion of the steel structure for the 5,600-square-meter pavilion, Huntsman and Hong Hao, director general of the Shanghai Expo Bureau, signed their names in Chinese characters on the last beam to be put into place.

The US Pavilion, one of the largest at the World Expo, began construction on July 17, lagging most of the stand-alone pavilions.

It is now among the first of a dozen national pavilions to have finished major structural work.

The US ambassador said the rapid progress was due to the "outstanding and patient" collaboration between Shanghai government, the Expo bureau and the non-profit US Pavilion team as well as support from the US government and sponsor companies.

The US Expo project was troubled by a shortage of funds early this year as US law prohibits the use of State Department money to pay for participation in World Expos.

To avoid missing the 2010 event, the US Pavilion group pursued construction and fundraising simultaneously after signing a participation contract in July. The group has now raised more than US$40 million of its US$61 million budget.

The overall theme of the pavilion is "Rise to the Challenge." In keeping with the Expo's theme of "Better City, Better Life," the challenges depicted will be creating environmentally sustainable communities, engaging in a healthy lifestyle and using technology to improve people's lives.

"Our national pavilion will showcase American business and technology, as well as culture 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," Huntsman quoted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as saying.


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