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UAE foots the bill so US can take part in Dubai's Expo 2020

Expo 2020 Dubai celebrated 2 Years To Go in October 2018 [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 January, 2020

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The US said its participation at this year's World's Fair in Dubai is being made possible by 'the generosity of the Emirati government'.

After warning that its pavilion at this year's World's Fair in Dubai was in jeopardy, the US has found a way to fund its participation at Expo 2020 - the UAE government.

The US said Wednesday that it will be able to take part in Expo 2020, which opens in October as the first World's Fair to be held in the Middle East or Africa.  

"The US pavilion is made possible by the generosity of the Emirati government in recognition of the strong partnership between the United States and the United Arab Emirates," the State Department said in a statement.

It did not explain the contribution, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had earlier spoken of $60 million needed to set up the pavilion for the six-month fair, which showcases technology and the most innovative ideas of the future.

Washington bars public financing for such international gatherings and President Donald Trump has been a vocal critic of overseas spending when it comes to aid.

Pompeo had asked Congress to make an exception and foot the bill for the Dubai Expo, fearing that a US no-show would demonstrate weakness at a fair where a rising China will likely showcase its technological prowess in a key region.

But lawmakers were skeptical and encouraged Pompeo to do private fund-raising, leading the State Department to say publicly last month that US participation was in doubt.

The UAE, like other Gulf Arab monarchies including Saudi Arabia, has developed close relations with Trump both as a businessman and president.

A website for the Dubai Expo said that the US pavilion would demonstrate three-dimensional printing for prosthetics and organs, a journey to Mars, and an idealised future city with minimal traffic.

Read more: Prince Salman wants robot dinosaurs, fake moon for planned Saudi futuristic city

Expos "are significant opportunities to showcase American freedom, ideals, enterprise, culture and global leadership", the State Department said.

It earlier warned that the lack of legislative funding put at risk bids by Minneapolis and Houston to host upcoming Expos, which can generate thousands of jobs.

The UAE's sponsorship does raise a number of questions, such as why American businesses are not paying directly to participate under the umbrella of the US pavilion. It's possible that the biggest American companies may choose to have their own separate presence.

Also, it's unclear how the United States government will now decide which companies and products will be featured in the pavilion, and whether the host nation could have a say in the content that's being showcased.

Read more: Israel is using Expo 2020 Dubai to fast-track normalisation

Dubai is pouring billions of dollars into Expo 2020, hoping the exhibition will generate new business and spur its economy amid a slowdown in growth.

The light bulb and the Ferris wheel were showcased at the 1893 fair in Chicago. The X-ray followed at Buffalo's 1901 fair, and Seattle's Space Needle opened to visitors at the 1962 fair.

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