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HQ 082622

April 7 1989

CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 082622 DC


TARIFF NO.: 4202.92.9040

Francis W. Foote, Esq.
Siegel, Mandell & Davidson, P.C.
Counselors At Law
655 Fifteenth Street, NW.
Washington, D.C. 20005

RE: Tariff classification of a mapholder and mileage reader

Dear Mr. Foote:

In a letter dated July 28, 1988, on behalf of Avon Products Inc., you inquired as to the tariff classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) of a mapholder and a mileage reader produced in China.


The sample mapholder submitted measures approximately fifteen inches in height by twenty-one inches in length when unfolded and contains six pockets for storing maps on one side and a large pouch (caddy) on the reverse side. The body of the mapholder is constructed of vinyl (cellular plastic) sheeting laminated to a nonwoven man-made fiber backing. The large pouch is formed by sewing a clear plastic sheet along three sides of one open half of the mapholder, and the entire outer edge of the mapholder and the openings of the pockets and large pouch are finished with a narrow textile fabric strip. The mapholder is designed to be folded in half and then in thirds and is secured by means of a nylon strap with a plastic buckle which is permanently fastened to the outer surface of the article.

The sample mileage reader submitted measures approximately 6 1/2 inches by 1/2 inch. It incorporates a small compass and dial at the top, a hollow interior with multiple numerical scales and moveable linear indicator and a metal wheel at the bottom end. The wheel is used to trace a route on a map and the linear indicator, attached to the wheel, indicates the number of miles on the traced route. The mileage reader will be imported and sold at retail with the mapholder.


1. Do the articles constitute a set for tariff purposes?

2. What material imparts the essential character to the mapholder?

3. Does the mapholder have an outer surface of plastic sheeting?


In applying the HTSUSA, the Customs Service must follow the terms of the statute. Classification of goods under the HTSUSA is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1 provides that "classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and, provided such headings or notes do not otherwise require, according to [the remaining GRI's taken in order]." In other words classification is governed first by the terms of the headings of the tariff and relative section or chapter notes.

General Rule of Interpretation GRI 2(b), HTSUSA, provides in part that "[t]he classification of goods consisting of more than one material or substance shall be according to the principles of Rule 3."

We note that map cases are classifiable under heading 4202, TSUSA, while the mileage reader is classifiable under heading 9017, HTSUSA. When goods are prima facie classifiable under two or more headings or subheadings in the HTSUSA, classification must be determined based on the sequential application of the principles set out in GRI 3, HTSUSA, which reads as follows:

3. When, by application of Rule 2(b) or for any other reason, goods are prima facie, classifiable under two or more headings, classification shall be effected as follows:

(a) The heading which provides the most specific description shall be preferred to headings providing a more general description. However, when two or more headings each refer to part only of the materials or substances contained in mixed or composite goods or to part only of the items in a set put up for retail sale, those headings are to be regarded as equally specific in relation to those goods, even if one of them gives a more complete or precise description of the goods.

(b) Mixtures, composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components, and goods put up in sets for retail sale which cannot be classified by reference to 3(a), shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character, insofar as this criterion is applicable.

GRI 3(b), HTSUSA, is relevant here inasmuch as GRI 3(a), HTSUSA, cannot be used in this instance in determining classification. The Explanatory Note for GRI 3, HTSUSA, states that the term "goods put up in sets for retail sale" means goods that:

(a) consist of at least two different articles prima facie classifiable in different headings (or, by GRI 6, subheadings).

(b) consist of products or articles put together to meet a particular need or carry out a specific activity; and

(c) are put up in a manner suitable for sale directly to users without repacking (e.g., in boxes or cases or on boards).

It is your opinion that the mapholder and reader do not meet criterion (b) of the above-cited Explanatory Note for "goods put up in sets for retail sale." You maintain that the criterion was not fulfilled because the mapholder and mileage reader are not intended to be used together and do not relate to the same need or activity. Specifically, the mapholder is used to store or transport road maps and the mileage reader is used to measure distances on maps. The sole relationship between the mapholder and the mileage reader is the fact that both are used in conjunction with maps. Also, the mapholder and mileage reader are in use separately and at different times because the mileage reader can only be used when a map has been removed from the mapholder.

It is our view that the mapholder and reader constitute a set for tariff purposes. Certainly, the mapholder and reader are intended to be used together and do relate to the same activity. Specifically, the mapholder which has a loop for securing the reader performs a necessary function in holding both the reader and the maps until such time as the reader is needed to perform its function of measuring map distances.

Since we have concluded that the mapholder and reader constitute a set for tariff purposes, it is necessary to determine which component of the set imparts the essential character thereto. In this instance the mapholder imparts the essential character to the set due to its function of being a holder for both the maps and the reader.

Inasmuch as the outer surface of the mapholder consists of textile material and plastics, it is necessary to determine that material which imparts the essential character to the outer surface pursuant to GRI 3(b), HTSUSA, supra.

The Explanatory Notes for GRI 3(b), TSUSA, state in pertinent part as follows:

VIII The factor which determines essential character will vary as between different kinds of goods. It may, for example, be determined by the nature of the material, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the role of a constitutent material in relation to the use of the goods.

We note that the plastic sheeting on the outer surface exceeds the surface area of the textile portion by a ratio of at least three to one. Although a determination of essential character of the outer surface of the mapholder cannot be based solely on a physical measurement of the component materials of the outer surface area, it is our observation that such a measurement is of paramount importance in determining whether the outer surface is "textile" or "plastic" for this merchandise. Specifically, when viewing the mapholder, the materials of the outer surface produce a visual impact which leaves little or no doubt as to what material gives the outer surface its essential character.

Further, an inspection of the sample mapholder shows that the plastic sheeting is more significant in terms of bulk, quantity and weight than the textile material. Also, the plastic sheeting gives the mapholder the strength and structural integrity which enables it to be used on a long-term basis as a container for maps. Clearly, the mapholder could continue to perform its intended function without the textile portion which is primarily decorative, whereas absence of the plastic sheeting would result in a product totally unsuitable for use as a mapholder.

In view of the foregoing, it is our position that the plastic sheeting imparts the essential character to the mapholder.

With respect to the question as to whether the mapholder has an "outer surface of plastic sheeting" for purposes of classifi- cation under heading 4202, HTSUSA, the Explanatory Notes to Chapter 39, HTSUSA, relating to plastics and textile combina- tions, is relevant. Those notes in pertinent part read as follows:

... otherwise, the classification of plastics and textile combinations is essentially governed by Note 1(h) to section XI, Note 3 to Chapter 56 and Note 2 to Chapter 59. The following products are also covered by this chapter:


(d) plates, sheets and strip of cellular plastics combined with textile fabrics, felts or nonwovens where the textile is present merely for reinforcing purposes.

In order for an article to have an "outer surface of plastic sheeting" the material forming that article must be classifiable under the provisions for sheets of plastics in Chapter 39, HTSUSA.

In this instance, the mapholder has an outer surface of cellular plastics combined with a textile fabric which is present merely for reinforcing purposes. Consequently, the mapholder has an "outer surface of plastic sheeting."

In view of the foregoing the set comprised of the mapholder and reader is classifiable in the same manner as the mapholder which imparts the essential character to the set.


The set is classifiable under subheading 4202.92.9040, HTSUSA, as map cases, of plastic sheeting, with outer surface of plastic sheeting, other, other with duty at the rate of 20 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director

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