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US signs up for Shanghai Expo after cost concerns

2009. 10 July

(Associated Press) The United States signed an agreement Friday confirming its involvement in the Shanghai World Expo in 2010, ending months of speculation that the U.S. would skip the event because of a lack of funding.

The accord was signed at a ceremony attended by Hong Hao, director general of the expo, Jose Villareal, the top official
in charge of U.S. participation, and U.S. Consul General Beatrice Camp.

"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 are finally saying that we are rising to the challenge. We are participating," Camp said.

American organizers have been struggling to raise the $61 million needed to build a pavilion at the event — a problem compounded by a U.S. law that prohibits government funding. The recession has made raising funds doubly hard, despite appeals from top U.S. officials.

Villareal gave reassurances that the funding would come through.

"We have raised half of the amount, and most of the donations just came last week with (Secretary of State) Hillary (Rodham) Clinton's firm support," he said.

He also promised the U.S. pavilion construction would be finished on time and on budget, although he gave no details about when the groundbreaking would start.

So far, sponsors have included Louisville, Kentucky-based Yum Brands Inc., St. Paul, Minnesota-based 3M, Dell Inc., General Electric Co. and the USA-China Education, Science & Culture Association, a new Chinese-American community group.

The Expo is an important event giving Shanghai, China's financial capital, an opportunity to overhaul and showcase the city. A U.S. absence would have been a major blow to China as well as a massive missed business opportunity. A record 70 million visitors are expected.

The U.S. missed the 2000 Expo in Hanover, Germany, because of a lack of funding. The U.S. pavilion at the 2005 Expo in Aichi, Japan, was built with help from Japanese companies, including Toyota Motors North America.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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