ANDEAN ADVANCES: The four ministers of foreign affairs from Andean countries seeking apparel duty benefits for their countries wrap up two days of talks today with the Bush administration and Capitol Hill lawmakers. One bill that would grant the breaks has cleared the House and another version is set to be voted on in the Senate, likely in March. However, disagreements over whether Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia should be able to use regional fabric for apparel entering the U.S. duty-free continue to be a big stumbling block to a final bill emerging from Congress.

HALF.COM STAYING WHOLE: Online auction giant eBay has dropped plans to integrate Half.com into its flagship Web site and drop the Half.com moniker attached to its site offering fixed-price discounts. Instead, Half.com, which eBay acquired in June 2000, has been linked directly to eBay; users only need one registration in order to use either Web site. The fixed-price destination is now dubbed “Half.com by eBay.”

SPAM ATTACK: The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday said it is launching an anti-spam education campaign to keep deceptive online chain letters, among other nuisance e-mail, from proliferating on the Internet. The announcement coincided with news an FTC sting caught seven people sending spam to ‘Net users as part of a get-rich-quick, online pyramid scheme. Those caught agreed to cease operations and not share lists of recruits with others. The FTC also sent warning letters to 2,000 other people suspected of running similar chain letter spam campaigns.

CYBERSPAT AHEAD?: The European Union on Tuesday OK’d new rules for taxing Internet purchases made in non-EU countries, despite U.S. protests, setting the stage for a possible trans-Atlantic trade tiff. Under the new law, EU companies transacting B2B deals will pay only their home country’s value-added tax; non-EU companies will charge customers the rate where the customer lives. The U.S. government has struggled for the past few years to hammer out a system that would enable taxation of online purchases, but so far has not reached a consensus on how to do so, mostly because of the nation’s numerous tax jurisdictions. The U.S. had pushed for a moratorium on EU Internet taxes.

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