MARK MAGNIER'S TRADE TALK

MARK MAGNIER'S TRADE TALK

FRAUDSTERS BEWARE: Watch out for renewed enforcement of commercial fraud cases by Customs, trade lawyers say.

Customs is primed, Michael K. Tomenga, a lawyer with the Washington, D.C., firm of McKenna, Conner & Cuneo, told a recent trade conference in California.Basically, Mr. Tomenga said, when a lot of Customs officials are relieved of their responsibilities in combating drugs, they begin to look at other types of cases to make their reputations and further their careers. "Carol Boyd Hallet does not have the same focus on drugs that her predecessor, (William) von Raab, had," he said.

Mr. Tomenga drew a parallel with the 1970s, when the Drug Enforcement Administration took over many of Customs' drug duties. The result: an almost immediate upturn in fraud prosecution.

The process already has begun, he said. Customs auditors are geared up and are now looking at Customs house brokers, but are expected to move on to companies next.

Customs also has announced a system of monetary awards for informants, he said. This may tempt some to cheat on their competitors, he pointed out, but there is also a bite for those making false accusations: namely, some very stiff penalties.

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THE OTHER GUY'S PROBLEMS: At a recent U.S.-Canada agriculture trade conference in Sacramento, Calif., Bryant H. Wadsworth, minister-counselor with the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, spoke about the inevitable dislocation caused by anything as far-reaching as the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement.

Mr. Wadsworth, whose last posting was in Tokyo, began his remarks with a series of personal observations - that North American long grain rice is lousy, that Canada seems largely devoid of population and that Ottawa shop employees don't greet him with the same reverence he had become used to in Japan.

He then suggested two principles on the lighter side of free trade provincialism.

"Free trade means freedom to export," he said. "It has nothing to do with importing."

And, with a nod to Mark Twain, "Nothing needs reforming so much as other people's habits."

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TEACHING THE WORLD: Raymond E. Miles, dean of the business school at the University of California at Berkeley, said business education is going through many of the same struggles that U.S. companies face in responding to the international marketplace.

On the one hand, business schools are being forced to downscale in a tight budget environment. On the other, they are being asked to be instant experts on the international marketplace, with country-specific knowledge, international strategy, technology transfer, licensing, offshore sourcing and overseas organizational behavior, just to name a few.

As a result, Mr. Miles said, schools have been forced to do what many companies must do when faced with a new, and often overwhelming, new market: They partner.

Berkeley is affiliating with industry as well as other schools both inside and outside the university in such areas as East Asian and Slavic studies. This has enabled it to benefit from the overall network. "We can't do everything," he said. "We can't do it alone."

The international market is also so complex that five or six new subject areas are being added each year, but nothing is being dropped. The result, he said: Look for business schools to begin creeping toward a three-year MBA program.

But the message schools are getting from industry is mixed, Mr. Miles said. When they talk to chief executives, they are told that international training is essential. Yet when the recruiters come on campus, offering the actual jobs, they are often looking for very traditional skills and don't appreciate the international training.

Mr. Miles said he did not see any appreciable evidence that U.S. companies are sending their employees and managers back to gain new skills. But he said the schools are seeing huge numbers of Asian students sent over by their employers.