US set to end delay over Expo
The United States could break ground on its pavilion for the Shanghai 2010 World Expo as early as the middle of this month, the Sunday Morning Post has learned.
Negotiations have been going on for weeks and the US appears very close to signing a formal participation agreement with Chinese officials, according to a source familiar with the talks.
Expo planners have been increasingly worried that the US has not signed a participation agreement nor broken ground at the site.
Jose Villarreal, the new US commissioner general to the 2010 World Expo, is expected in Shanghai this week and there is a strong indication that all outstanding issues could be wrapped up by then and a participation agreement signed.
US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke could officiate at the groundbreaking ceremony. He is said to be considering a visit to the region.
Frank Lavin, chairman of the US pavilion steering committee, declined to confirm groundbreaking was imminent, saying: 'We have had a lot of positive movement in recent weeks but we will hold off on any announcements until all the details have been worked out.'
Last week Expo official Zhou Jun noted that the US had not confirmed its participation but said: 'There are still possibilities and we are now actively pushing forward with it.'
Expo planners have been concerned other nations might see the US absence as an excuse to back out.
Momentum for construction of the US pavilion has been building for weeks.
Fund-raising has picked up since Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton discussed the Expo with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi during her February trip to Beijing.
In a statement last week, Mrs Clinton said the US pavilion 'demonstrates America's commitment to a forward-looking, positive relationship with China'.
She is said to have phoned business leaders to get them interested in the US$61 million Exco project.
Washington has now collected more than US$20 million - more than enough to cover construction of the pavilion. That total includes big corporate contributions, among them US$5 million from PepsiCo.
The 2010 World Expo will run from May 1 to October 31
The official estimate for the number of visitors to the event in Shanghai is: 70m