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Shanghai Expo "timely" event, says UNCTAD chief

2010. 15 April

( The World Expo 2010 in Shanghai is a very timely event, not only because its theme is very relevant to the fast urbanizing world, but also because China has emerged as a mature member of the international community, said the chief of the UN's trade and development agency.

"I think it comes at a right time for urban issues. It comes at a right time also to showcase what China can do as a mature member of the global community," Supachai Panitchpakdi, secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), told Xinhua in a recent interview.

The theme of the Shanghai World Expo is "Better City, Better Life," the first time that the Expos have chosen "city" as their theme.

"It's very relevant because as you know we are moving into an urbanized world," said Supachai.

"In a couple of decades from now more than half of the global population will be living in urban areas ... some people are even saying 70 percent in the next couple of decades," he said.

"So I think this is a timely event, timely in a way that is very much forward-looking," he added.

Supachai, also former chief of the Geneva-based World Trade Organization, stressed that urban areas must be made "livable," which means city dwellers should have jobs, secure environment as well as access to education and cultural activities.

"And it must be able to be sustainable. You cannot overload the urban cities," he said.

The Shanghai Expo, to run from May 1 to Oct. 31, will be the first comprehensive World Expo hosted by a developing country.

Supachai said it is the "right time" for China to host this world event, as it has emerged as a mature member of the global community and the country would turn into "an economic powerhouse" in the near future.

He added that his agency would also like to make use of the opportunity to participate in "this Expo in a developing country" to highlight the need for developing countries to help each other through economic cooperation.

In June, the UNCTAD chief will be in Shanghai to launch the agency's annual Economic Development in Africa report. This year the report will deal with the theme "South-South Cooperation: Africa and the New Forms of Development Partnership."

In conjunction with the launch of the report, the UNCTAD will also organize a special seminar on China-Africa cooperation, entitled Fostering China-Africa Cooperation for Equitable Development, Supachai said.

"We do this at the Expo with the intention of highlighting the cooperation, economic cooperation between Chinese businesses and African investment opportunities," he said.

According to the UNCTAD chief, the World Expo, with a history of more than 150 years, is actually a result of globalization, which has brought people together and has "shrunk" the world.

Just like international trade fairs, the World Expo will stay, "because globalization is not going to retreat in spite of the facts of all the crises around the world," he said.

He added that the Expo, as part of the globalizing process, helps enhance understanding among nations and peoples, and "serves a very useful purpose."

The six-month event in Shanghai is expected to draw the participation of more than 200 countries and international organizations and attract some 70 million visitors from both China and abroad, organizers said.