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HQ 084546

September 12, 1989

CLA-2 CO:R:CV:G: 084546 JLV


TARIFF NO.: 7607.19.6000; 7606.11.3060; 7606.12.3090

Margaret R. Polito, Esq.
Coudert Brothers
200 Park Avenue
New York, New York 10166

RE: Coated aluminum foil; backed aluminum foil; backing materials; coated aluminum strip

Dear Ms. Polito:

In a letter of May 12, 1989, on behalf of your client, Hunter Douglas, Inc., you requested a ruling on the classification of certain aluminum foil products. This request concerns the same merchandise that was the subject of a request dated October 17, 1988, and which was withdrawn in your letter of May 12. Our decision follows.


The imported merchandise is a coiled, flat-rolled aluminum product in widths that vary from 16 mm to 50.4 mm and in thickness of 0.195 mm or 0.155 mm. The aluminum products, referred to as strip and as foil, will be treated on both sides with one or more of the following materials: transparent acrylic resin; acrylic with metallic finish; opaque colored polyester resin; polyester with metal flecking ("luminescent" finish), with a coating containing iriodine ("pearlescent" finish), or with a pattern imprint simulating woodgrains, weaves, and abstract designs; chromium phosphate and wax. The products, to be imported from the Netherlands, will be used in the manufacture of slats for venetian blinds.

The basic process used to apply the acrylic or the polyester is the same: a liquid resin is applied by rollers onto both surfaces as the strip or foil is drawn through the rollers; the resin is then cured as the strip or foil travels through a baking oven. The acrylic is transparent; the polyester is opaque and may be colored.

The metallic finish with the acrylic resin treatment is achieved by first laminating the strip or foil with a clear polyester film, coating the film with a metal by a vacuum vapor process, and then application of the transparent acrylic resin. The three variations in the polyester resin treatment are achieved by adding metal particles to the polyester resin (the luminescent finish), by applying an additional translucent polyester resin layer over the opaque polyester resin layer (the pearlescent finish), or by imprinting a pattern on the opaque layer.

The third surface treatment is a two-step process in which the strip or foil is first coated with a solution containing a chromium phosphate compound and then passed through rollers which apply a liquid wax which subsequently hardens onto the aluminum and chromium phosphate compounds.

The various treatments obviously add a desired aesthetic and permanent protective finish to the strip. The chromium phosphate treatment serves to reflect infrared light, thereby increasing the thermal efficiency of the product. However, you state that the various treatments are necessary to prevent damage to the slats during the high speed crowning, punching, and cutting operations used to produce the venetian blind slats. These operations, performed under pressure and at high speed under steel rollers, generate friction and stress which could gouge, scratch, and abrade the surface of the softer aluminum metal. The surface treatments, which add approximately 0.03 mm to the thickness of the aluminum products, substantially decrease the friction coefficient between the strip and steel rollers, prevent staining of the aluminum during the process, and provide additional strength and flexibility to the finished slats.

You conclude that the surface treatments constitute "backing" and, as such, is not included in the measurement of aluminum foil, and, therefore, that the aluminum products are backed aluminum foil for purposes of heading 7607, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA).


Are the surface treatments "backing materials" under heading 7606, HTSUSA, or are the surface treatments "coatings" or similar surface finishes and included in the measurement of the thickness of the aluminum products?


The imported product falls within the definition for strip and foil in note 1(d) of chapter 76, HTSUSA. The competing headings are 7606 and 7607, HTSUSA. Products in heading 7606 are aluminum plates, sheets, and strip, of a thickness exceeding 0.2 mm; products in heading 7607 are aluminum foil of a thickness (excluding any backing) not exceeding 0.2 mm. The term "coated" as used in note 1(d) is not defined; the term "backing" as used in heading 7607 is not defined.

The Explanatory Notes (EN) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) are the official interpretation of the HTSUSA at the international level of nomenclature breakouts. Although not dispositive, they may be instructive as to the scope of the headings. Surface finishing with plastics, metal, or similar finishes in order to improve the properties or appearance of the aluminum, or to protect it from corrosion or damage during handling, or to assist in further processing, are "coatings" that do not affect the classification of the aluminum as strip or foil. See EN General Note to chapter notes for chapter 76 (page 1063) and EN General Note to chapter notes for chapter 72 (pages 981 and 982). Coatings are to be included in the measurement of the strip or foil for purposes of the limiting dimensions in headings 7606 and 7607. See EN to these headings (page 1066) and the EN to headings 7409 and 7410 (pages 1047 and 1048), incorporated by reference. Backings, however, are not included in determining whether or not the strip or foil is subject to the limiting dimensions.

The EN to heading 7410 describes "backing" as a material such as paper, paperboard, plastics, or similar material with which a foil is "backed" either for convenience of handling or transport, or in order to facilitate subsequent treatment, etc. The EN states further that foil remains classified as foil whether or not it has been "coated (gilded, silvered, varnished, etc.), or printed [emphasis added]."

The various surface finishes constitute processes designed to impart a specific permanent decorative and protective finishes to the aluminum strip. This is the type of finishing that is described as a "coating," both in the EN and in a technical article on "Metal Coatings," McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, 6th Edition, Vol. 11, pages 35 - 37. These coatings are included in the measurement of the thickness of strip or foil.

These types of coatings do not become "backing materials" simply by application to an aluminum product that does not exceed 0.2 mm in thickness. Backing materials, as distinguished from coatings, are reinforcement materials that facilitate subsequent treatment or are for the convenience of handling or transport. The surface treatments in issue are for the permanent, decorative surface finishing of the aluminum strip. The protection afforded during the processing is not the principal function of the treatments. In fact, it appears that the coated aluminum product is lubricated by other means during the crowning, punching, and cutting into slats. Page 3 of the October 17, 1988, letter refers to "chemical and emulsive lubricants utilized in the processing operations." Therefore, we conclude that the treatments are "coatings" and not "backings" for purposes of heading 7607, HTSUSA.

Some of the coated strip is processed by a three-step process involving lamination of a polyester sheet to the strip, vacuum vapor deposition of metal, and coating with a layer of baked-on acrylic resin. In this case, the polyester sheet is not a "backing" but is a carrier for the vapor deposition of metal which gives the resulting product a high gloss metal color.

Finally, the wax coating appears to be either a protective sealant for the chromium phosphate or a lubricant for the mechanical processing. It is not, however, a "backing material" which is used in the transport or handling of the aluminum product. See EN General Note (IV)(C) to the legal notes to chapter 72, incorporated by reference into the EN to heading 7607.


The various surface treatments on the merchandise in issue are coatings or finishing treatments, not backings, and are to be included in the measurement of the thickness of the merchandise.

If the coated aluminum product does not exceed 0.2 mm in thickness, it is classified as aluminum foil, not backed, in subheading 7607.19.6000, HTSUSA, and dutiable at 3 percent ad valorem.

If it exceeds 0.2 mm in thickness, it is classified as aluminum strip in subheading 7606.11.3060 (if not alloyed), HTSUSA, and dutiable at 3 percent ad valorem, or in subheading 7606.12.3090 (if alloyed), and dutiable at 3 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director

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