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The US trade deficit shrank slightly to $24.1 billion in August, the Commerce Department said. The deficit edged down 3.2 percent from a record $24.9 billion in July. That left the deficit for the year running at an annual rate of $252 billion - 53 percent higher than last year's record $164.3 billion. August imports were a record $106.12 billion, overshadowing an all-time high for exports, which rose to $82.03 billion on strong sales of commercial aircraft and food products. Imports from China surged to a record $8.01 billion.

Ratification was expected over the weekend of a tentative new contract between General Motors and its 22,000 employees in the Canadian Auto Workers Union. In the three-year deal reached in negotiations that ended late Tuesday, the company agreed to annual pay raises of 4.5 percent, a 25 percent increase in pensions spread over six years, an extra week of paid time off, and other concessions. GM also promised not to close or sell any of its Canadian assembly plants during the span of the new contract.

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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