US House of Representatives passes bill to fund pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai

A visible US presence in Dubai will help US cities like Bloomington and Houston bid for the 2027 World Expo

The design for the $60 million US pavilion for Expo 2020 Dubai, as revealed last year. The new design will likely be changed to reduce costs in a bid to secure funding. Courtesy USA Expo
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For the first time in more than 25 years, a US pavilion at a World Expo is on the path to receiving federal funding.

The House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday to authorise the State Department to use federal funds to build the US pavilion for Expo 2020 Dubai.

Introducing the bill, Congressman Dean Phillips said the US was the only G7 country that relied entirely on private funding to build a pavilion at the world expo – that has resulted in ‘paltry’ fundraising in at least seven previous American pavilions.

“For generations, the United States has showcased our leadership, innovation and industrial advancement through brilliant displays called pavilions at world expos around the world,” he said.

Urging fellow house representatives to support the passage of the Expositions Provide Opportunities Act or the Expo Act, he said without a substantial presence at world fairs, the US had left a vacuum that was being filled by Russia and China.

The bill’s passage paved the way for American cities to host world expos, said Mr Phillips who represents Bloomington, a city keen to host the 2027 World Expo.

“A critical component in competing for host city status is a country's pavilion at the current world expo," he told the House.

"In this case, the next opportunity to make the case for an American host city is the Dubai 2020 World Expo."

The bill was also supported by Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher who represents Houston, another US city that hopes to host the next expo.

“I am proud to see the Expo Act pass to give Houston and other US cities the opportunity to display our country’s innovation, values, and ideas,” she said in a statement.

“Serving as the host of the World Expo showcases our global, diverse, and dynamic city and fortifies relationships across the country and around the world.”

Several countries have broken ground on their pavilions at the Dubai South expo site, including China, Japan, the UK, Australia and India.

The US has had to delay construction after a private consortium was unable to raise $60 million needed to build and maintain their pavilion.

Unlike many countries where governments set aside budgets to finance participation in world expos, a US law passed in the 1990s prevents federal funds being used without approval from Congress.

After a vote in the Senate, the bill will need to be signed by President Donald Trump.

Philip Frayne, US Consul General in Dubai, previously told The National he was confident funding would come through.

He said the US expo team was also working to lower the budget estimate with a new design, architecture and material to reduce costs.

Described as futuristic when plans were unveiled last year, the US pavilion will be housed in the mobility section of the expo with space exploration as a key theme.

The first expo in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region will run from October next year until April 2021.

More than 192 countries have confirmed participation and 25 million visits are expected with 70 per cent from outside the UAE, making it the largest proportion of international visitors in the 168-year history of world expos.