Xinhua News Agency

Expo participants not backing out: report

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 February, 2009, 12:00am

No country or organisation that had pledged to attend the World Expo in Shanghai next year has pulled out, Xinhua reported yesterday.

But it did not say if the United States would take part, sidestepping the doubts raised after a US news report said a lack of sponsorship might scuttle American plans to attend.

The 230 countries and international organisations that registered for the event would turn up as planned, despite the global financial crisis, Xinhua said, quoting the event's organiser, the Shanghai World Expo Co-ordination Bureau.

Xinhua said scores of foreign cities and enterprises were proceeding 'as normal' with their preparations for the expo, which expects to draw 70 million visitors and has been billed as the biggest international event since the Beijing Olympics.

The absence of the US would be a huge blow to the ambitions of mainland authorities to use the event to showcase China's growing clout on the international stage.

Two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times reported that the US might not take part in the expo because organisers were struggling to raise funds for a national pavilion, with sponsorship drying up amid the global economic crisis.

According to the expo's website, 30 countries from the Americas had pledged to attend the event, but only 29 had confirmed their attendance.

A short note next to the US entry said: 'The United States government has, in an oral way, formally committed to participating in the exposition, and the Shanghai World Expo Organiser is awaiting written confirmation from them.'

The day after the Times report, expo bureau deputy director Zhou Hanmin urged US President Barack Obama, then still the president-elect, to 'provide necessary help' to ensure US participation.

'US participation will not only be crucial to the event's success, it will also have far-reaching implications on the Sino-US relationship, multiliteralism, and more importantly, the US' own interests,' Xinhua quoted Mr Zhou as saying.