SHANGHAI - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday appealed to American firms to sponsor the US pavilion for next year's World Expo in Shanghai, saying their support would strengthen Sino-US ties.
Clinton, who is visiting China with US President Barack Obama, made the appeal during remarks to existing and prospective sponsors at the site where the 61-million-dollar pavilion is being built in the eastern financial hub.
"Now is the time to join this effort. We want to assemble the strongest team of partners possible," Clinton said.
She thanked companies that have already pledged money for their belief "in what this USA pavilion can do to strengthen cooperation and partnership between the American people and the people of China."
The United States was the last major country with diplomatic ties to China to sign up for what has been billed at the biggest-ever Expo, which will see 70 million visitors pour into Shanghai from May through October.
The US delay in confirming its participation had threatened to strain the relationship between Beijing and Washington, as a World Expo without a US pavilion would have been a massive loss of face for the host nation.
The US finally formally agreed in July to participate in Expo 2010, but has had difficulty raising the full amount required to build and operate the pavilion.
Unlike other countries, US law prohibits its national Expo pavilions from being taxpayer-funded without special legislation.
A privately-funded committee appointed by the administration of Obama's predecessor George W. Bush was struggling to raise funds for the pavilion before Clinton threw her support behind the effort.
Introducing the secretary of state on Monday, US Expo Commissioner General Jose Villarreal said Clinton had said she would "personally build the pavilion brick by brick if she had to."
Within weeks of her sending an open letter of support in March, General Electric gave fundraising efforts a big boost, the pavilion committee said, joining Dell Inc. and manufacturing group 3M Co. as a major sponsor.
Wal-Mart soon followed, offering an undisclosed donation the committee has described as "one of the high points of our pavilion effort so far".
Clinton thanked aircraft maker Boeing for doubling its donation to two million dollars.
Frank Lavin, a former US ambassador to Singapore who is chairing the steering committee for the US pavilion, told AFP that 47 US million of the 61 US million dollars needed for the event had been raised as of Friday.
"We feel pretty good about that. We're still working on it. It's coming along step by step," Lavin said by telephone, calling Clinton the "spark plug of enthusiasm" behind the project.