US SEEKS PRIVATE SUPPORT AMID FUNDING DELAY FOR EXPO PAVILION
▶ 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.”
Legislation for the $60 million pavilion will have to wait as the US Senate is in recess