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US confirms participation in Shanghai World Expo

2009. 2 July

WASHINGTON (AFP) The United States on Wednesday confirmed its participation in next year's World Expo in Shanghai, saying it wanted to showcase US technology and values in a bid to boost ties with the Asian giant.

China was earlier worried the United States might skip the expo following problems about raising money among the private sector to complete the American pavilion at the global event.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday the United States would have a "strong" presence at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, naming a Texas lawyer as official representative in dealing with issues related to the event with the Chinese authorities.

"Our national pavilion will showcase American business and technology, as well as cultures 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," she said.

Clinton said that the expo's theme of "better city, better life" gave the Americans "a perfect opportunity to highlight US. innovation, particularly in environmental initiatives, and to share ideas with countries from around the world on ways to create better cities and communities for all our people."

Jose Villarreal, an attorney in San Antonio, Texas, will head the US participation, including responsibility for oversight of the US pavilion, according to the State Department.

Shanghai is hoping to throw the biggest-ever World Expo, which, alongside the Beijing Olympics, is meant to be a one-two punch showing China's rising global clout. The six-month expo is to open in May.

China has designated a prime 6,000 square meters (65,000 square feet) for the US pavilion. But US law prohibits using taxpayer dollars to pay for such events and private fundraising got off to a shaky start last year.

China voiced concern to Clinton when she visited Beijing in February and has offered flexibility to the United States on meeting Expo deadlines, a US official recently told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The State Department had tasked a private group to design the pavilion but it dropped out late last year, saying it could not raise funds due to the economic crisis and sponsor fatigue after the Beijing Olympics.

The group revived the effort earlier this year as US President Barack Obama's election raised hopes of official involvement and China stepped forward with support, including completing engineering work on the US pavilion.

But business leaders have hesitated to accept outright Chinese loans to build the pavilion, wary of the symbolism at a time that Beijing's purchases of the giant US debt come under growing scrutiny.

Frank Lavin, a former US ambassador to Singapore who heads the USA Pavilion steering committee, said in May that it has raised 2.8 million dollars. The committee needs to drum up another 60 million dollars through next year.

But he said 36 million dollars was under negotiation and that he was "increasingly optimistic" of meeting the target.

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