Japan Agrees to Open Public Works Projects to Bids from U.S

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States and Japan, moving to resolve a bitter trade dispute, on Wednesday signed an agreement aimed at expanding the ability of American construction companies to compete for public works projects in Japan.

The pact, which was signed by Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher and Japanese Ambassador Ryohei Murata, would increase to 40 the number of Japanese public construction projects that U.S. firms can bid on.

"Trade must be a two-way street _ for too long the public works market in Japan has been a dead end for American construction firms,"

Mosbacher said in remarks at the formal signing ceremony.

The new agreement resolved a dispute which had brought the Bush administration close to imposing economic sanctions on Japan for the first time since 1987.

When the construction negotiations were deadlocked, the administration said it would begin sanctions barring Japanese construction companies from bidding on an estimated $25 billion in federally supported U.S. public works projects.

However, hours before the sanctions were scheduled to go into effect in early June, negotiators announced a breakthrough in the talks. That agreement provided the basis for the documents Mosbacher and Murata signed on Wednesday.

Under the proposal, 23 new projects were added to an original 1988 list of projects sanctioned for U.S. bidding. The new projects range from bridges to a new Japanese national theater.

According to one estimate, U.S. companies have won about $400 million in business in Japan since 1988, some of it on projects not covered in the original list. …