US confirms it will attend Shanghai World Expo

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 July, 2009, 12:00am

Putting to rest months of growing concern and fretting by officials on both sides, the United States yesterday confirmed it would participate in next year's World Expo in Shanghai.

Speaking at a contract-signing ceremony yesterday, organisers claimed that work on the US national pavilion, which was postponed due to fund-raising difficulties, could be finished 'on time and on budget' despite public speculation on the timing of its opening.

'I don't think we are behind schedule,' said Jose Villarreal, the newly appointed US commissioner general of Shanghai Expo.

'I think we will expeditiously get the structure built and open it on time for the grand opening.'

Mr Villarreal was designated by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week to oversee the national pavilion and handle issues relating to the expo. But he did not give details about the groundbreaking schedule.

'Our pavilion will begin to be erected as soon as all of the steps [are done that] need to be taken.'

Mr Villarreal said the US had already raised half of the funds and much of it had been collected in the past couple of weeks thanks to Mrs Clinton's strong commitment and support for the event. He also expressed confidence in the rest of the fund-raising effort.

'We are completely certain that we will be able to raise the funds necessary to build a pavilion that will make all of us very proud,' he said.

The US set a budget of US$61 million for the pavilion, which sits on the biggest plot given to a foreign country. But for months, pavilion organisers have been struggling to raise money because of a law that prohibits the use of government funds and the economic downturn spooking private donors.

'We all knew this would be a challenge, but the past year brought developments such as the global financial crisis that made this task even more difficult. Today we can finally say that we are rising to the challenge,' US Consul General Beatrice Camp said.

According to the original plan the US national pavilion, under the theme 'Celebration 2030', is expected to provide a glimpse of an American city of the future with a focus on clean energy, healthy living, sustainable farming and green technologies in the backdrop of the year 2030.

With the US participation, a total of 188 countries have committed themselves to Shanghai's largest-ever showcase, which will run for six months from May 1 next year and attract an estimated seven million visitors from home and abroad.

Meanwhile, the European Union yesterday also signed the participation contract with expo organisers, becoming the latest international organisation to make the commitment.

EU Commissioner to China Serge Abou said it was a landmark decision as the EU had not participated in any expos held by non-EU members.

'We are participating because the European Union is a strategic partner with China. We share a long history of friendship and a responsibility to keep our world in peace,' he said.