ANDEAN UPDATE: Congress last week passed an eight-month extension of a trade preference program that benefits apparel and textile companies doing business in the Andean region and sent it to President Bush for his signature. Bush had not signed the bill as of Sunday afternoon. The Andean Trade Preference Act, which faced expiration on Saturday, gives duty free status to apparel made in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia, and exported to the U.S. Although business groups had pressed for a longer extension, most supported the short-term extension to avoid a lapse in the program's benefits. The program aids both U.S. apparel importers and textile producers. Apparel imports from the Andean region totaled $1.4 billion for the year ended April 30, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Meanwhile, domestic textile producers exported $207 million in yarns and fabrics to the region last year.

REVISING CHINESE LABOR LAW: Chinese officials made sweeping changes to the country's labor laws last week, requiring employers to sign written contracts with their workers, the official Chinese news service said. In addition, employers must limit the use of temporary laborers and it will be more difficult for them to lay off employees. The new rules, which include collective bargaining for wages and benefits, take effect next year. The action came after investigations found widespread use of slave labor in the brick kilns and coal mines in Shanxi and Henan provinces.

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