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OSAKA — A visiting senior official of the U.S. Commerce Department has lashed out against Universal Studios Japan for excluding American firms from the construction bidding process.

“It would be ironic if an American theme park were constructed without any American participation,” Marjory Searing, an acting assistant secretary at the Commerce Department, told a press conference Friday.

In August, allegations of bid-rigging emerged after 38 companies in three consortiums won contracts worth 55.5 billion yen. The amount of each winning consortium’s bid and its members was revealed to be identical to a list leaked to the media five days before the official bidding. “On that list, there were no American companies, despite the fact that I personally had met with USJ officials over the past couple of years, expressing American interest in the project,” said Searing.

Although U.S. construction firms are not likely to take part in the USJ project, Searing said the Commerce Department would push for inclusion in the second phase of construction at Kansai International Airport.

On June 12, U.S. Ambassador Tom Foley will lead a delegation of 12 U.S. construction companies seeking airport-related contracts, Searing said. “U.S. interest is extremely high and we are anxious to participate. Our involvement in first-phase construction was much later than we would have preferred,” Searing said.

Before meeting airport officials, the U.S. firms will travel to Nagoya to present their case for participation in the Chubu International Airport project, Searing said. He is currently in Japan with a group of U.S. power equipment manufacturers seeking contracts with Japanese utility firms. The delegation arrived in Tokyo on May 18, and traveled to Nagoya before arriving in Osaka on Friday. The group returns to the U.S. on Saturday.

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