Skip to main content

Why the UAE is paying for America’s participation in Expo 2020 Dubai

The UAE contribution comes after Expo 2020 Dubai organizers signed a $1 million lobbying contract to promote the world’s fair in the United States.
An aerial view taken after the recent crowning of Al Wasl dome shows the progress of construction at the Expo 2020 site in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in this undated picture obtained September 19, 2019. Expo 2020/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. - RC176324ED10

After struggling to raise the required $60 million from private sources, the State Department announced today that the United States would nevertheless have a pavilion at this fall’s Expo 2020 Dubai after securing funding from an unexpected source: the United Arab Emirates government itself.

“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. "This is a historic opportunity for a global audience to experience the U.S. pavilion and Expo 2020 Dubai when it opens its gates in October 2020 for an expected 25 million visits during the six-month long event."

US participation had been in doubt after Congress declined to authorize taxpayer dollars to make up for the shortfall, triggering criticism that the United States risked losing clout to China and other rising powers if it skipped a global event that organizers expect to attract 25 million visitors and 190 participating countries. Last month the State Department said it was “exploring other options that would allow for the United States to participate.”

While the gift allows the United States to save face, US participation is also critical to the UAE’s plan to use the expo to showcase an image of modernity and tolerance amid continued criticism of the monarchy’s human rights record and regional interventions from Yemen to Libya.

The nonprofit Expo2020 Dubai signed a one-year, $1.044 million contract with Washington lobby shop Sanitas International in April to provide “senior level counsel, international media engagement and key stakeholder outreach.” Lobbyists for the UAE itself have also been personally involved.

“The US must be present.” — UAE lobbyist Hagir Elawad

“US participation at Expo 2020 is valuable on several levels as it provides an unparalleled opportunity to promote both US commercial interests and public diplomacy efforts,” UAE lobbyist Hagir Elawad of UAE Strategies wrote in an Oct. 28 email to unidentified “colleagues” as Congress considered authorizing federal spending for a pavilion. “The US must be present.”


Related coverage:

Explore Al-Monitor's award-winning database of Middle East lobbying here.


Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Gulf Briefing Gulf Briefing

Gulf Briefing

Top GCC stories in your inbox each week

Trend Reports

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (4th R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (Photo by HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

From roads to routers: The future of China-Middle East connectivity

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. - On March 27, Saudi announced a deal with Japan's SoftBank to build the world's biggest solar plant. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Regulations on Middle East renewable energy industry starting to take shape

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial