SHANGHAI: After much speculation about whether the United States would take part in the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, the globe's largest economy finally put minds at ease on Friday and said it will be there.
Jose Villarreal (left), the US Commissioner General for the 2010 Expo, shakes hands with Hong Hao, director-general of the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination, after signing an agreement that confirms the US will participate in May's massive event. Villarreal declared the US "will have a pavilion built on time and on budget." [Gao Erqiang]
The uncertainty followed reports that the US team wanting to take part in the exposition in May was struggling with a lack of funding.
"We will have a pavilion built on time and on budget," said Jose H. Villarreal, US Commissioner General for the 2010 Expo, who was appointed by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week. "I don't think we are behind schedule, and I think we will expeditiously get the structure built and open it on time for the grand opening (of the expo)."
The European Union also signed a participation agreement with Chinese organizers on Friday.
The EU will take 1,000 sq m of exhibition space in the national pavilion of Belgium - the country that will have the EU presidency during the 184-day event.
The US has been blocked by its own domestic laws from using government funding for expo projects since 1991. The nation has, therefore, relied on corporate funding and private donors to finance its expo activities, leading to a reduced presence at subsequent World's Fairs.
At the 2005 World Expo in Aichi, Japan, US costs were largely underwritten by carmaker Toyota.
For the Shanghai Expo, two former Warner Brothers executives - Nick Winslow and Ellen Eliasoph - were given the job of raising the $61 million needed to finance the US Pavilion, which will be located opposite the China Pavilion in the expo's Central Promenade.
Villarreal said after Friday's signing ceremony that about half of the money needed has been raised and he was confident about securing the rest.
"We are completely certain that we will be able to raise the funds necessary to build a pavilion that we are proud of," he said.
Asked whether the country has a back-up plan, Villarreal said: "We really don't need a back-up plan. We will build a pavilion."
Shanghai, China's largest city and its financial center, has latched onto the expo as a chance to establish a powerful global profile in the same way last year's Beijing Olympics put the spotlight on the nation's capital.
So far, the event that is expected to attract 70 million visitors has commitments from a record 240 countries and international organizations.
The theme of the US pavilion will be Celebration 2030 and it will allow American-Chinese guides to take visitors on a tour of an imagined US city of the future.
"We believe the 70 million visitors will find themselves indulged in the authentic American cultural scenario, and let their imaginations fly in a beautiful urban life," said Hong Hao, director-general of the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination.
Beatrice Camp, the US Consul General in Shanghai, said the confirmation was especially meaningful because the two nations celebrated the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year.
"By committing to participate in China's first-ever World's Fair, we are opening a gateway to the next 30 years, with more engagement, more exchanges, more visits and more dialogue," she said.