Canada has officially declined an invitation from the South Korean government to participate in Expo 2012, saying it can't afford to attend the World's Fair.
Officials at the Korean embassy in Ottawa confirmed Tuesday they received a letter last month from Heritage Minister James Moore sending his regrets that Canada will not participate in the event.
Korean embassy spokesman Heon-jun Kim said the Republic of Korea tried its best to convince Canada to attend Expo 2012, but was not successful.
“We tried very hard to persuade them to participate in the event next year, but we have to respect their decision making,” he said. “We are really sorry about that. We really worked hard to invite them.”
Mr. Moore's July 14 letter said the federal government is committed to other things.
“At this time, our government is committed to a number of key domestic priorities, including a return to a balanced budget through stringent fiscal discipline that will prevent Canada's participation,” Mr. Moore's letter said.
The letter congratulates South Korea for its selection to host the 2018 Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang.
“Please be assured that the government of Canada values its close ties with the Republic of Korea and is dedicated to strengthening its relationship,” Mr. Moore's letter said.
“We are hopeful that our two nations, working together, can make great strides in finding mutually acceptable solutions to a range of bilateral issues,” the letter said.
A spokesman for Mr. Moore was unavailable for immediate comment.
A Harris-Decima report commissioned for Heritage Canada following Canada's participation in Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China indicated that Canada is not a top draw at world expositions.
Expo 2010 was attended by 246 countries and international organizations, including a record 73 million visitors, but Canada was not viewed as a priority stop for visitors, said the report.
The pavilions for Japan, United States, France, Germany and England were the major draws, the report said.
Interest in the Canadian pavilion did increase, however, when world-renowned Canadian performers Cirque de Soleil arrived, the report said.
“The shallow understanding of Canada, of Canadians and what is unique about Canada hinders top-of-mind interest in visiting the Canadian pavilion,” the report said.
Vancouver businessman David Sinclair said he is working with Korean and Canadian business officials in an effort to overturn the decision.
He says Korean officials he has talked to are offended Canada has rejected the invitation, but are holding a spot for Canada at the fair grounds until next month in case the government changes its mind.
Mr. Sinclair builds pavilions for major events, including World's Fairs.
Mr. Sinclair said he finds the decision counterproductive at a time when Canada is negotiating a free-trade deal with South Korea and working to improve trade ties with Asian countries.
“It seemed to me inconceivable that Canada would not go into the Asian show where all our major players are,” he said.
Canada and Greece are the only two countries to decline Expo 2012 invitations for economic reasons.
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