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GE makes large donation to US Shanghai Expo efforts

2009. 11 May

SHANGHAI (AFP) General Electric has given US efforts to raise the 60 million dollars needed to ensure a national pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo a massive boost, organisers said Monday.

Fundraising problems have meant the United States is one of only three countries -- along with Andorra and Colombia -- that have diplomatic relations with China but have not confirmed participation at next year's World's Fair.

GE and USA Pavilion committee officials declined to say how much the company would contribute, but USA Pavilion spokeswoman Page Wang said it was the largest donation yet.

GE "joins as a founding partner for the USA national pavilion during the 2010 Shanghai Expo, which injects a cardiac stimulant towards the USA pavilions' fundraising," Wang said.

Previously the largest known donations were from computer maker Dell Inc. and manufacturing group 3M Co., which offered one million dollars and 250,000 dollars respectively.

Shanghai is preparing to hold the biggest-ever World Expo in a year's time, which, alongside the Beijing Olympics, aims to show China's rising global clout.

The event is expected to draw 70 million visitors -- 95 percent of them Chinese -- and despite the financial crisis, most major countries have seized it as one of the biggest public diplomacy opportunities in decades.

But US law prohibits using taxpayer dollars to pay for such events and private fundraising got off to a shaky start last year.

Frank Lavin, a former US ambassador to Singapore who heads the private USA Pavilion steering committee, said before the GE announcement that his group had raised 2.8 million dollars, but needed to drum up 60 million dollars more.

GE will also provide environmentally-friendly technology for the pavilion's construction, Wang said.

The Expo's Chinese organisers last week raised the pressure on the United States, announcing construction on national pavilions must begin by June 30 or spaces will be reallocated, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Expo organisers suggested last month the USA pavilion's spot could be given to Kentucky Fried Chicken, the official China Daily reported.