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Back to Sumitomo

Last December, when resentment over the loss of American jobs to Japan was being fanned by politicians, auto industry captains and union leaders, the city of Los Angeles did a shameful thing. It canceled a $121-million contract with the Sumitomo Corp. of Japan to build 41 technologically advanced rapid transit cars.

City transportation officials announced that the project would be redesigned so U.S. companies could bid on the contract. After nine months, only one bid came in _ from the Sumitomo Corp.

So city officials are back where they were last December _ doing business with Sumitomo. The new contract calls for the Japanese company to build 15 less-sophisticated rail cars than originally specified. Sumitomo will ship unfinished cars to Los Angeles, where U.S. workers will complete the work. Sumitomo officials said 61 percent of the parts will be made in America and that subcontracts will be let to 10 U.S. companies owned by women and minorities.

"This has cost us some time, and it's cost us some money," county Supervisor Edmund Edelman was quoted as saying. "But our immediate concern is to get this thing built."

There is a lesson here that should be obvious to both Americans and Japanese.