▶ Amer­i­can com­pa­nies in UAE urged to help as fi­nance bill awaits ap­proval


The United States is “woe­fully late” with its plans for Expo 2020 Dubai and it re­mains pos­si­ble that the su­per­power will not have a pavil­ion at the event.

US busi­ness lead­ers and com­pa­nies based in the Emi­rates will be urged to help, said John Rakolta Jr, the new Amer­i­can am­bas­sador to the UAE.

Expo 2020 is less than a year away, but fund­ing for the US pavil­ion is still not in place.

The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives re­cently passed a bill al­low­ing State Depart­ment funds to be al­lo­cated to sup­port the con­struc­tion of the pavil­ion.

But it must be passed by the Se­nate, then ap­proved by US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump – and there are no guar­an­tees it will be­come law.

“We are up against the wire,” said Mr Rakolta, who has been in the post for three weeks.

“I am con­fi­dent that Congress will ul­ti­mately pass some leg­is­la­tion that will al­low us to pro­ceed. Our in­volve­ment is clearly now in the hands of Congress. We’re a demo­cratic and free coun­try and ev­ery se­na­tor and con­gress­man has a mind of their own.

“What we can do is work in a way to con­vince them and show them how im­por­tant this is.

“We have to ex­port and spread our democ­racy, our free­dom, our way of life, our cul­tural val­ues, our tech­nol­ogy, our busi­ness, our se­cu­rity, our strength. There’s no way bet­ter way in the Mid­dle East to do this.

“There are pos­i­tive signs this could hap­pen. Once it does, we’ll have to put our shoul­der to the wheel and pro­duce some­thing we can be proud of.”

Un­der a US law passed in the 1990s, public funds can­not be spent on world ex­po­si­tions.

The bill, cur­rently mak­ing its way through Congress, would of­fer a work­around for Expo 2020, although the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion still spec­i­fies that any public fund­ing must be matched by the pri­vate sec­tor or, at a min­i­mum, topped up to the great­est ex­tent pos­si­ble.

Although the bill was passed through a voice vote in the House, time is thought to be an­other area of con­cern, with the Se­nate in re­cess dur­ing the last week of Novem­ber for the Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day.

It will then sit for only two more weeks be­fore its Christ­mas break.

Mr Rakolta told rep­re­sen­ta­tives of US com­pa­nies at a Dubai Air­show din­ner that they could ex­pect a call from him ask­ing them to as­sist.

“Sim­ply put, I need your mus­cle and fi­nan­cial strength and help,” he said. “You can ex­pect me to be giv­ing each one of you a call the mo­ment Congress passes this bill, to come and see you. I want to have a firm hand­shake and there will be an ask.”

The pavil­ion would cost $60 mil­lion (Dh220.3m) to build, although the de­sign could be scaled back to save money.

Many other coun­tries started build­ing their pavil­ions months ago.

Danny Se­bright, pres­i­dent of the US-UAE Busi­ness Coun­cil, said fail­ings in Wash­ing­ton’s abil­ity to pro­mote it­self abroad through soft power lay be­hind the cur­rent predica­ment.

“Our abil­ity to demon­strate all the pos­i­tive el­e­ments for which Amer­ica stands can be no bet­ter ac­com­plished in this part of the world in 2020 and 2021 than by build­ing and host­ing an Amer­i­can pavil­ion at Expo 2020,” he said.

“With less than a year to go, Amer­ica is woe­fully late to the ta­ble and there is still some risk that we will have no pavil­ion at Expo 2020.”

US Expo

Leg­is­la­tion for the $60 mil­lion pavil­ion will have to wait as the US Se­nate is in re­cess

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