The Kansai Economic Federation will open an office in Paris to directly lobby representatives who will decide the host of the World Expo 2025.

Masayoshi Matsumoto, the group’s chairman, made the announcement Thursday just prior to a New Year’s reception attended by Kansai-area Diet members, corporate executives and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui.

Ekaterinburg, Russia; Baku, Azerbaijan; and Paris are also vying to hold the Expo, which is managed by the 170-member Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE). Paris is Osaka’s strongest rival, with reportedly high levels of support among younger people of different nationalities. The Paris bid committee had gathered online support from over 111,000 people as of Friday.

Concerned about Paris’ advantages when it comes to lobbying BIE members, local leaders have been pushing both the central government and the Kansai corporate community to help promote the Osaka bid, which is officially known as the Osaka-Kansai/Japan bid.

Matsumoto said the Paris office, which is expected to open in a few weeks, will be staffed by people from Kansai firms who will directly lobby BIE members.

“In the end, it’s the votes, and with only about 10 months left (until the November vote for the 2025 Expo) we need to aggressively approach BIE member countries,” he told a local television station.

At a Thursday evening reception, Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura called on members of the Kansai corporate community, including Matsumoto, to work even closer with Osaka in order to make the Expo bid a reality.

“For the economic growth of Osaka and Japan, I want us to become one unified group in order to win the Expo,” he said.

It was unclear what lobbying tactics the Kansai Economic Federation office would use in Paris to approach BIE members, many of whom are from Francophone Africa countries and are believed to be supportive of the Paris bid.

In addition, Osaka hopes to host the 2025 Expo in Yumeshima, an artificial island in Osaka Bay. But Yumeshima is also a proposed site for a casino resort complex, raising questions about how BIE voting members feel about having a World Expo right beside a possible casino resort.

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