A Chinese company is in talks to take a "substantial stake" in part of the £5.5bn Liverpool Waters development, says Peel.
Peel Holdings, which is behind the plans, said a Chinese firm of architects was interested in investing in one of the first buildings in its scheme after discussions at the World Expo.
Development director Lindsay Ashworth said the company was hopeful of finding a solution to the concerns so a planning submission could go ahead in June.
As the main sponsor at the World Expo, Peel contributed £100,000 towards the £3.5m it is costing to build and staff the pavilion for six months.
Speaking at the Liverpool pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai, Ashworth said: "This firm of architects is talking about making a substantial share in a building they would design.
"China is very like England; you are friends first and then do business. We have to keep coming here and showing face.
"Forging relationships such as this is one of the main reasons Peel invested at the World Expo and we are pleased that this particular firm of architects is coming across to England to have talks with us."
The waterfront scheme is proposed to transform derelict dockland to the north of the city into a vibrant commercial and residential hub.
Peel plans to construct one building at a time in a project and said that it would take decades to complete, so securing early investment is a crucial step.
Mike Taylor, director of investment and enterprise at Liverpool Vision added: "Prospective deals such as this one are precisely why the city of Liverpool and the NWDA have chosen to invest in the World Expo."
Liverpool's participation in the event is being led by Liverpool Vision in partnership with the North West Development Agency, Liverpool City Council and the Liverpool-Shanghai Partnership.
The World Expo runs until 31 October this year.