United States International Trade Commision Rulings And Harmonized Tariff Schedule
faqs.org  Rulings By Number  Rulings By Category  Tariff Numbers
faqs.org > Rulings and Tariffs Home > Rulings By Number > 1990 HQ Rulings > HQ 0083059 - HQ 0083167 > HQ 0083126

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

HQ 083126

February 13, 1990

CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 083126 APS 830922


TARIFF NO.: 7326.90.90, 7220.90.00, 4016.99.50

Mr. Kenneth G. Weigel Esq.
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius
1800 M Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036

RE: Rubber coated stainless steel sheet. Headquarters letter 082295 revoked.

Dear Mr. Weigel

This decision pertains to your request for reconsideration of our letter 082295 of June 10, 1988.


The merchandise is a flat rolled stainless steel sheet measuring 210mm x 300mm. It is coated with a nitrile butadiene vulcanized rubber and is used to manufacture automotive head gaskets for spark ignition internal combustion engines.

You further describe the product as follows:

The rubber withstands heat because of its being bound to steel. The rubber used in this product can withstand heat of up to
180` C. or 356` F. This is possible because the rubber is firmly adhered to the surface of the stainless steel with a coating thickness of about 30 microns. Because of this adhesion, the properties of the rubber, such as tensile strength and elongation, will not deteriorate in temperatures of up to 180` C., although alone the rubber deteriorates at approximately 120` C.

The product is specically designed and manufactured to be used for the production
of gaskets. Its use elsewhere is economically prohibitive. One of the most important features of the article is that its surface is soft so the gasket can obtain a good seal. Stainless steel alone cannot be used as a gasket because it is too hard to conform to the surface of the flange and to form the required seal. By the stainless steel with this thin layer of rubber, in ideal article for the production of gaskets has been created.
The article has the strength of steel and the softness of rubber. This product has been developed exclusively for gasket use, and its uses are quite different from those of stainless steel sheet. The rubber coating is not for protection of the steel sheet.


The first issue to be decided is whether coating rubber is a surface treatment or finishing operation of a basic steel mill product or whether coating causes a new product to be created which is no longer a basic shape. If the former, classificaiton will be under subheading 7220.90.00, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS) as further worked stainless steel. If the latter, classification will be under subheading 7326.90.90 as articles of steel or 4016.99.50 as other articles of vulcanized rubber other than hard rubber.

If the material is determined to be other than a basic shape then the issue is whether the essential character is imparted by the rubber or the stainless steel.


We are satisfied from the information you have provided that coating with rubber creates a new product different from a "further worked" basic mill shape.

Finished mill products may be subjected to further finishing treatments and such treatments do not affect classification as a flat rolled product. However, these treatments must be for improving the properties or appearance
of the metal, protecting it against rusting and corrosion, and so forth. Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes, Volume 3, at page 981. Therefore, even if coating with rubber were to be considered a surface treatment such as coating with plastics, in this case it would not be for improving the properties or appearance of the metal, protecting it, or the like.

It is clear from your description that the properties of the metal remain the same but the properties of the rubber, mainly resistance to heat, are improved by combining the two materials. Thus the treatment will affect classification as a flat rolled product.

The stainless steel sheets are goods consisting of more than one material (rubber and steel) and classification shall be according to the principles of HTS General Rule of Interpretation (GRI) 3. HTS GRI 2(b).

We consider the sheets to be composite goods for purposes of GRI 3(a) which provides that when two or more headings each refer to part only of the materials contained in a composite good, those headings are to be regarded as equally specific in relation to those goods. The two equally specific headings are for other articles of vulcanized rubber in heading 4016.99.50 and other articles of steel in heading 7326.90.90.

GRI 3(b) provides that composite goods shall be classified as if they consisted of the material which gives them their essential character. However, it is our determination that neither the rubber nor the steel gives the sheets their essential character. The main characteristics of the rubber, resistance to heat and the ability to flow into and seal flaws in the engine block and head are equalled by the support for the rubber, the necessary rigidity, and the ability to be cut to various shapes provided by the steel.

Thus, we find classification must be accomplished according to GRI 3(c) which provides that when goods cannot be classified by reference to rule 3(a) or 3(b) they shall be classified under the heading that appears last in numerical order.


The rubber coated stainless steel sheets are classifiable under heading 7326.90.90, HTS.


Letter 082295, June 10, 1988, was based on incomplete information regarding the product and is revoked.


Previous Ruling Next Ruling

See also: