WASHINGTON — President Bush signed a proclamation late Thursday night granting apparel duty breaks to four Andean countries. This made effective a detail of the comprehensive trade bill passed this year.

Apparel imports from Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia can enter the U.S. duty free, if U.S. or regional textiles are used. But the growth in shipments from those countries is limited to 2 percent a year, until 2006, when the limit is raised to 5 percent but trade breaks must be renewed.

Importers, who expected the breaks to take effect Oct. 1, had been agitated over the tardiness of the proclamation and raised the issue last week in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick.

Julia Hughes, vice president of international trade at the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, said importers were relieved to hear the President signed off on the bill but are still waiting for the U.S. Customs Service to implement regulations.

She said it could be another week until U.S. companies are allowed to start importing apparel from the region with the duty breaks.

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