Italy refuses to allow Taiwan to participate in World Expo as a country

Seed Cathedral for the Shanghai World Expo in 2010.

The organizer of the 2015 World Expo in Milan is only willing to place the Taiwan Pavilion in the "corporate area" rather than in the "country area," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.

"The Foreign Ministry has been doing its best during previous talks with Italian side regarding Taiwan's participation to the Milan World Expo to be held next year," MOFA spokeswoman Anna Kao said yesterday.

The Italian organizers, however, only agreed to allow Taiwanese companies to join the expo by placing a pavilion in the expo's "corporate area" instead of "country area," she noted.

Kao would not comment if Taiwan would still be joining the expo despite the apparent belittled of the nation's sovereignty status.

She said only that participation in the expo is now the responsibility of the Economic Ministry.

Kao made the remarks when asked to comment a local media report on Monday that suggested Taiwan might not be able to join the Milan Expo next year because the government would not fund participation in the fair.

Local cable TV news channel TVBS quoted an Italy-based Taiwanese businessman surnamed Lai as saying that though Taiwan could not join the expo's country area, the Italian organizers have agreed to build a Taiwan Pavilion at the "corporate area" at a cost of NT$300 million (S$12.6 million).

However, the Foreign Ministry refused the proposal, citing reasons including safeguarding national dignity and saving taxpayer money, Lai told the TV channel.

Lai, however, believes that the naming row should not prevent Taiwan from joining the major international event to promote the nation's soft power.

The World Expos are held every five years, featuring pavilions, exhibitions and cultural events staged by hundreds of participants including nations, international organisations and businesses.

According to the English-language website of the 2015 World Exposition, the expo would be divided into four different categories, namely countries, international organisations, businesses and civil society organisations.

The site also said that invitations to the world exposition have been extended to a total of 144 United Nations member countries. The R.O.C. withdrew from the UN in 1971.

Taiwan has not participated the World Expo for more than three decades following its exclusion from the UN until Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

The upcoming event is scheduled be held from May to October 2015.