CALMING CUSTOMS CONCERNS: Bush administration officials on Wednesday sought to assure importers that the war on terrorism won’t put a crimp in U.S. Customs processing imports. Companies, including textile and apparel importers, are concerned that when the U.S. Customs Service, as proposed by President Bush, is folded into a new Department of Homeland Security, trade issues will be overshadowed by Customs’ border-security mission. "Enhancing border security and facilitating commerce must be the dual mission," homeland security adviser Tom Ridge told business officials gathered at the White House. Congress is now debating the security plan and will put its imprimatur on the proposal.

FERRAGAMO, ZEGNA IN DEAL: In an effort to grow its footwear and leather goods business, Ermenegildo Zegna has formed a joint venture with Salvatore Ferragamo. The new entity, ZeFer, is controlled equally by both family-owned companies and is expected to generate about $47 million (converted from euros at current exchange rates) at retail within the first three years. ZeFer’s management will be drawn independently from both companies. A Zegna spokesman said ZeFer’s future chief executive will come from within Zegna, but he declined to offer a name. Ferragamo will handle production of the collection, which is set to bow for fall 2003 and will be in Zegna stores and a few other retailers.

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