The United States has made a breakthrough in its attempts to raise funds for its pavilion at the 2010 World Expo and could commit to the event by the end of this month, said organizers in Shanghai on Friday.
Huang Jianzhi, deputy director-general for the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination (BSWEC), told reporters at a press conference the US had finalized its conceptual design and was expected to make a "clear move" soon.
He did not elaborate as to what kind of breakthrough the non-profit, non-governmental organization charged with finding cash for the pavilion had made.
However, Zhou Jun, director of the BSWEC exhibition department, said: "We hope the US can start construction early, so they can have enough time to make their pavilion better. Making the exhibition the best ever is our priority."
It is unknown how much the US is expected to spend on the fair, although Britain and France are expected to outlay up to $50 million each on construction of their pavilions and operations costs.
Zhou said a recent expo promotion targeted at multinationals living in China, jointly organized by the BSWEC and the US, had been well received. But he dismissed media reports suggesting Shanghai was considering offering the US an interest-free loan, adding: "There is no such plan."
And on the deadline for a decision from the US, he explained: "Just like in a marathon, it is not important who starts first but who hit the finish line."
So far 233 nations and international organizations have signed up to attend the Shanghai 2010 World Expo, with the US, the Principality of Andorra and Columbia the only countries that have diplomatic ties with China yet to seal the deal.
Of the 233 confirmed, 50 are nations in Africa, 45 in Asia, 45 in Europe, 16 in Oceania and 30 in North, Central or South America. They will be joined by 40-plus international organizations.
"Our work so far has been going smoothly," assured Zhou on Friday.
Officials at the BSWEC are more than aware of the challenges faced by previous hosts of the world expo. During the run-up to Hanover 2000 in Germany, 12 percent of its exhibitors - 23 countries and two organizations - dropped out, while for Aichi 2005 in Japan it was 8 percent.
Asked if China would offer financial aid to any of those nations hit hardest by the economic meltdown, he added: "We deeply understand the situation and we will provide the best service for participants to set up their pavilion."