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CUSTOMS STEPS UP TRAINING FOR ATTORNEYS

CUSTOMS STEPS UP TRAINING FOR ATTORNEYS

   U.S. Customs’ Office of Regulations and Rulings has improved training for newly hired attorneys.

   Michael Schmitz, assistant commissioner for OR&R, said his branch chiefs will assign senior attorney mentors to new hires, in addition to providing classroom instruction for cross-training purposes. OR&R will also take advantage of training provided by universities and through joint sessions with trade associations.

   OR&R is responsible for the development, implementation and evaluation of the agency’s programs, policies, and procedures pertaining to regulations and rulings.

   OR&R has about 90 lawyers on staff in Washington, who work closely with counterparts at the Customs Information Exchange and National Commodity Specialist Branch in New York. The office hired eight new attorneys last year.

   In recent years, OR&R has been criticized by the import industry for taking 120 days or more to issue certain types of rulings related to classification and value of merchandise. This resulted in a huge rulings backlog in OR&R.

   U.S. Customs Commissioner Robert C. Bonner made it one of his first priorities to clear out the rulings backlog and reduce the issuance times to 90 days or less. This goal has been met, Schmitz said.

   Schmitz believes that a new organization structure and an effective training program for new attorneys will further improve OR&R’s operational efficiency.

   Industry executive members of the Treasury Advisory Committee on Commercial Operations of the U.S. Customs Service (COAC) on Jan. 24 praised the agency for improving OR&R’s operations.

   Renee Stein, a customs compliance manager for Microsoft Corp. and a member of COAC, however, asked OR&R to provide more training on import sectors, such as the high-tech industry, “to understand our world a little better.”

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