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Osaka, Paris set for Expo 2025 showdown

Staff Writer |
Osaka will throw its hat in the ring to host the World Expo in 2025, seeking to reassert itself as a regional economic powerhouse and taking on leading contender Paris.

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Japan's cabinet approved Osaka's bid Tuesday, and the application will be filed with the expo regulator, Bureau International des Expositions, as early as April 24.

Osaka's proposal is to host a fair on the theme of "designing future society." It would feature Japan's most cutting-edge technology, including advances in artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

Osaka Prefecture aims to use the fair to kickstart the economic revitalization of the greater Osaka region, and to speed up development of the bay area in conjunction with an envisioned integrated resort housing a casino.

Leading the charge is a team that includes Ichiro Matsui, governor of Osaka and head of the political party Nippon Ishin no Kai. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's office endorsed the bid.

"Apparently, the administration was also looking for an economic trigger to follow the 2020 Olympics," said a Nippon Ishin official. Abe is also hoping for close cooperation with Nippon Ishin in national politics.

A nonpartisan Diet alliance, chaired by a member of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, will pitch in for the bid effort.

The LDP and Nippon Ishin tend to keep their distance from Osaka politics, but LDP members elected in Osaka have hopes for economic benefit to their home region.

The national government will help out as well. Hiroshige Seko, minister of economy, trade and industry, urged fellow cabinet members Tuesday to put in a word for the World Expo bid when they travel abroad on business.

But Paris, which turned in its bid in November, will be a tough competitor.

The year 2025 will mark 10 years since the Paris Agreement on fighting climate change worldwide, and the French capital is putting the environment front and center.

Paris is aiming for the expo to complete an economic one-two punch begun with a hoped-for 2024 Olympics.

Paris lost its 2012 Olympic bid to London despite being seen as a strong contender, and 2024 would mark exactly a century since it last hosted the games, so the prospect has stirred excitement.

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