James Holbein, Of Counsel

In addition to his numerous contacts in Washington D.C., Jim Holbein has decades of experience in trade negotiating, trade policy development, tariff nomenclature and administration, customs enforcement, international trade dispute settlement, and import compliance.  In his most recent federal position he managed the development of tariff nomenclature for all Section 301 tariffs and exclusion, Miscellaneous Tariff Bills, for non-legal statistical breakouts to help firms isolate trade volumes for specific products, and supervised U.S. representation to the World Customs Organization making changes to the Harmonized System.

Jim is a former Federal Executive with more than 30 years of government experience, who most recently was responsible for supervising a professional staff maintaining the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the U.S. at the International Trade Commission (ITC).  He ran the NAFTA trade dispute settlement process while at the U.S. Department of Commerce.  He was a diplomat and trade negotiator for the U.S. Department of State.  He is the author of more than 25 books, articles and conference papers dealing with international trade and dispute settlement.  He has been the sole proprietor since 2001 of Global Trade Consultants LLC, managing projects for start-up companies involving cyber security and environmental technology.   He was Of Counsel to the boutique trade law firm Stewart and Stewart working on antidumping and countervailing duty matter

Jim’s timeline before joining Reigncore and Braumiller Law Group as Counsel


U.S. International Trade Commission 500 E Street SW, Washington, DC  20436

Director of Tariff Affairs and Trade Agreements                       May 2012 – February 2020

  • Manage HTS Data Management System. My primary responsibility is to manage the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS), a statutory responsibility of the Commission.  My team of 13 experts made more than 40 revisions to the HTS during 2018 to 2020, nearly biweekly, to implement the Trump Administration active tariff program.  The thousands of revisions were made with over 99% accuracy and assisted traders globally to find U.S. tariff rates and ease the burden of customs compliance and monitoring involving trade with the U.S.
  • World Customs Organization (WCO). The office staff are official U.S. representatives to the WCO for meetings of the Harmonized System Committee that oversees the implementation of the Harmonized System at the international level, as well as for meetings of the Scientific Sub-committee and the Review Sub-committee to evaluate future global nomenclature for products.
  • Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Petition System. Led the team of nomenclature analysts and lawyers that analyze the sufficiency of product descriptions for more than 3,000 petitions for tariff cuts to benefit U.S. manufacturing.  The Commission was given a new process under the American Manufacturing Competitiveness Act of 2016 to analyze petitions filed directly with the Commission to replace a system where requests were all filed directly with Congress.  I managed both the 2016 and 2019 filing cycles successfully.
  • Tariff Investigations for HTS Revisions. I supervised several investigations to modify the national HTS to implement revisions mandated by the WCO to the Harmonized System nomenclature.  This process is important to help the international trading system to keep up with rapidly changing technology and products, as well as for providing the ability to track many products for compliance with international agreements that have high political or legal sensitivity.
  • Executive Management Council (EMC). I was a member of the EMC, under the leadership of the Chairman, that met monthly to discuss management issues affecting the Commission.  As part of my responsibilities, as one of 10 Senior Executives of the agency, I also served on:
    • the Performance Management Committee to manage the system for appraising employees’ performance;
    • the Information Technology Committee, to guide IT investments and development;
    • the Diversity and Inclusion Council and Mentoring Program to improve the work-life features of the Commission environment; and
    • the Strategic Planning and Performance Reporting Committee as a Goal Leader for compliance with the Commission’s annual strategic planning and reporting. I helped develop the Enterprise Risk Management Framework used to guide all our decisions.


Acting Senior Strategist for Operations                                 March 2013 – May 2014

  • Develop and Deploy HTS Data Management System. I was designated as the Program Manager for development of a new IT system for managing the HTS.  This high priority project was initiated due to an audit by the Inspector General in 2012 that found deficiencies in the management of the paper-based system.  I guided the team of outside contractors who built the system, pulled data from the existing HTS into the system, verified accuracy of the information, developed a workflow for modifying the data with strong internal controls to enhance the accuracy of all modifications, and coordinated with TATA staff to set design and functionality requirements. I advised the Office of the CIO to develop the Statement of Work for the project.  We used an Agile methodology with two week sprints to develop the various modules and successfully deployed the system in mid-2015.
  • Records Management Planning. I was assigned to develop a records management program plan for the Office of Operations (OPS) to streamline processes and enhance quality across six offices comprising 50% of the Commission’s staff.  I coordinated my efforts with several offices to improve knowledge management and records management compliance efforts.  As a consequence, all OPS offices successfully migrated to a secure shared drive.

Acting Director of Tariff Affairs and Trade Agreements         May 2012 – March 2013

  • Harmonized Tariff Schedule: I supervised the preparation of the management response and the developed a plan, with deadlines, for compliance with an IG report that found poor internal controls on the process used for managing the HTS.  I undertook several initiatives to rebuild staff morale and improve the business process.  I supervised the production of several print supplements to the 2012 HTS and the full 2013 edition of the HTS under an improved review process with stronger internal controls to address the weaknesses identified in the IG report.  As a result of these efforts, over several months, staff morale improved significantly.  Internal controls were substantially enhanced, and the accuracy of the HTS is demonstrably better.
  • Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Reports: TATA was a key player in the process for preparation of Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) Reports for approval by the Commission.  In cooperation with the Office of Industries, Office of Investigations, Office of Analysis and Research Services, and other Commission units, staff prepared analyses of more than 2,000 MTBs introduced in the 112th  I led TATA in the successful effort that resulted in 1,330 Commission-approved bill reports delivered within 5 months, in compliance with deadlines imposed by Congressional oversight committees.  Positive reactions from the Hill and the public about the rapid turnaround and comprehensive work helped to improve the Commission’s image with key constituencies.

Secretary to the Commission                                                February 2011 – April 2012

  • Merger of Office of the Secretary and the Office of Docket Services: The Commission’s 2011 Human Capital Plan resulted in the merger of the Office of the Secretary and the Office of Docket Services.  The merger had been contemplated for several years, but was only initiated after I was selected to serve as Secretary to the Commission.  The merger was accomplished seamlessly, resulting in simplified document processing and efficiency and productivity gains in both the Hearings Division and the Division of Docket Services, by eliminating duplicative efforts.
  • Confidential E-filing by External Parties: I led the intra-agency committee assigned to develop a plan and to implement a new process for the confidential electronic filing (e-filing) by outside parties directly into the Electronic Document Information System (EDIS).  As Secretary, I also helped to amend the Commission’s rules of procedure, including a new copy filing requirement.  Fully 40% of all filings in EDIS are confidential, so e-filing has increased efficiency substantially by eliminating significant amount of document handling, scanning, uploading and related issues from the workflow.  After confidential e-filing was fully implemented, the Docket Services office showed an efficiency gain of 5% in EDIS document procession within 24 hours, from 93.3% to 98.4%.
  • FOIA Program: The day I arrived in the Office of the Secretary, we received an adverse IG audit report concerning the FOIA Program, one of the major responsibilities of the office.  In response, we advised the Chief of Staff on the management responses and implemented all of the reforms required to comply with the audit.  As a result, the program has attained substantially better record-keeping and compliance reporting than before the reforms.
  • Section 337 Mediation Program: I established and managed the Commission’s Section 337 Mediation Program from its inception in 2008 through April 2012.  Over that time, the program evolved into a tool that participants recognized as useful for early settlement of cases.

Supervisory Attorney for Docket Services                              July 2008 – February 2011

  • I supervised a staff of 14 managing the Electronic Document Information System (EDIS), the official record of Commission investigations. I implemented a case management system using business process engineering, development and administration of internal controls, design and execution of improved docketing processes, hiring and management of appropriate staff and contractors, development of written guidance, training internal and external users and supervising the electronic records program.
  • I participated in preparing a substantial revision of the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure, including rules governing the docketing process. I supervised staff process for all incoming hard copies of filings to convert them into electronic files, followed by review, analysis, addition of metadata, verification, posting and quality control for the accuracy of EDIS records.

Global Trade Consulting, LLC, Sole proprietor of VA corporation, 2001 – present.

  • NAFTA Panelist. Served as NAFTA panelist/chair for five binational panels resolving antidumping, countervailing duty and material injury reviews in the U.S. on Canadian goods and in Mexico on U.S. goods.
  • General Counsel and VP for Government Affairs for GBS Laboratories, LLC, a start-up venture in the cyber security market. Advised on business formation and operations.  Prepared all business and financing plans, drafted technology agreements, obtained export controls approvals, identified and contracted with manufacturers for prototypes, and led regulatory compliance efforts.
  • Advised Green Earth Industries, LLC, a start-up bio-processing venture on applications of its technology and led team that developed and filed six patents for the technologies and business processes. Drafted and implemented business plan that resulted in acquisition of interests in a European production facility.  Developed relationships with research laboratories, universities, foreign customers and production facilities for production process prior to licensing technology.
  • Advised Wave Crest Laboratories, LLC, a U.S. electric motor company on business planning, intellectual property concerns, and supply chain issues involved with Asian production facilities.


Editor for Oxford University Press and Oceana Publications, Inc.        

  • Co-Editor, with Donald J. Musch, of North American Free Trade Agreements, published by Oceana Publications, Inc., a division of Oxford University Press, since 1992. The books are a comprehensive, eight-volume looseleaf reference set for the private law library and law school markets, updated 4-6 times annually (about 1,500 pages annually).  The series is a commercial success, with over $12 million in sales since inception.

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Law

  • Developed regional agreement specialization for American University, Washington College of Law, Masters Program in International Law. Taught seminars on NAFTA, Regional Integration, Negotiation of Trade Agreements, and Trade Disputes Settlement.
  • Guest lectures at the Catholic University of Chile Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, George Washington University National Law Center, Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM), Georgetown Business School, University of Maryland University College Graduate Program in International Management.

Stewart and Stewart – Of Counsel to Washington law firm specializing in international trade law, customs issues, federal regulatory practice, and international dispute settlement.

U.S. Department of Commerce

U.S. Secretary, NAFTA Secretariat – Managed five member panels of experts to resolve 50 international trade disputes affecting over $10 billion in goods under North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

U.S. Secretary, FTA Binational Secretariat – Created offices in Washington and Ottawa to manage unique dispute settlement systems using five member panels of experts.  Managed 52 matters affecting over $20 billion in trade.

Mexico Division Director

U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer

      Trade Negotiator, U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement

      Staff Assistant, Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs 

      International Economist, U.S. Embassy, Oslo, Norway

      Consular Officer, U.S. Embassy, Seoul, Korea

U.S. Small Business Administration, Attorney-Advisor, Disaster Loans


      J.D., University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, 1979

      B.A., University of California at Santa Barbara, 1975

      References and Publications List Available Upon Request