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HQ 085191

November 9, 1989

CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 085191 KWM


TARIFF NO.: 4602.10.4000

Mr. Steven Sauer
Grand Basket Co., Inc.
53-06 Grand Avenue
Maspeth, N.Y. 11378

RE: Tariff classification of fern trunks

Dear Mr. Sauer:

Your letter of July 5, 1989, addressed to our New York Office, requesting a tariff classification for fern trunks, has been forwarded to this office for a response.


A photograph of the merchandise was included with your letter. It shows two items described by you as "fern trunks", and indicates that two sizes are available. The smaller trunk measures 32"L x 16.5"W x 16.5"H, and the larger 36"L x 20.5"W x 20.5"H.

The hampers appear to be constructed entirely of a fern or wicker plaiting material. However, your letter indicates that they have a wood frame and bottom, which are covered or wrapped with fern. The fern is a flexible shoot or wicker used to weave baskets or furniture. Lids of similar construction are attached to the top by metal hinges and fastened by a metal clasp. Metal braces are also affixed to the corners for support, or decoration, or both. Your letter indicates that the items are, in chief value, wood. Samples of the merchandise have been retained by the New York office.


What is the proper classification of the merchandise under the Harmonized Tariff System of the United States Annotated?


Classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (hereinafter "HTSUSA") is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (hereinafter "GRI(s)"). GRI 1 provides that classification is determined first according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relative Section or Chapter notes, and then, if the headings and notes do not otherwise require, in accordance with the remaining GRIs, taken in order.

The systematic detail of the Harmonized System is such that virtually all goods are classified by application of GRI 1, that is, according to the terms of the headings and any relevant Section or Chapter Notes. In applying GRI 1, our classification of the goods in this case is made in two general steps. First, we have identified the eligible Section(s) and Chapter(s) on a material-related or function-related basis. Second, we have selected the appropriate heading and subheading for classification, also on a material- and/or function-related basis, by applying GRI 1.

Section and Chapter

Although the Section and Chapter titles are not legally binding, they are helpful in determining eligible headings for classification purposes. In addition, the Legal Notes to the Sections and Chapters provide legally binding support for determining what goods should be included within the attendant headings.

As noted above, your letter indicates that the component of chief value in these goods is wood. We are of the opinion that the essential character of the goods is that of the fern or wicker material on the exterior of the goods. We note that your letter, in fact, refers to the items as "fern" trunks. Since classification in the HTSUSA is predicated not on chief value, but on essential character, it is our opinion that, for the purpose of classification under material-related headings and subheadings of the HTSUSA, the goods are considered to be composed entirely of fern or wicker or similar materials.

Since the "trunks" in this case are constructed of a fern or wicker-like material, an examination of the tariff schedule indicates that such goods may fall within either material-related Chapter 46, HTSUSA - Manufactures of Straw, of Esparto or of Other Plaiting Materials; Basketware and Wickerware, or function- related Chapter 42, HTSUSA - Articles of Leather; Saddlery and Harness; Travel Goods;. . .. Although the Explanatory Notes are not legally binding for classification purposes, they do represent the official interpretation of the tariff schedule at the international level. We note that the Explanatory Notes to heading 4202, HTSUSA, indicate that:

The heading does not cover:

(b) Articles of Plaiting Materials (heading 46.02)

The Notes thereby indicate an intention to exclude goods of this type from coverage. Because these goods are so clearly constructed of plaiting materials (i.e., fern) it is our opinion that they should be excluded from considered for classification in heading 4202, HTSUSA. In addition, we note that this office has previously determined that articles classified as "luggage" must be of the variety used in travel. Therefore, despite the reference to these items as "trunks", their construction is such that, in the opinion of this office, they do not fulfill the requirements for consideration as "luggage".

In addition to the headings of Chapter 46, HTSUSA, other eligible headings include those of Chapter 94, HTSUSA, which classify furniture items. However, the Legal Notes to Chapter 46 state, in pertinent part:

Chapter 46, Notes

2. This chapter does not cover: . . .

(e) Articles of Chapter 94 (for example, furniture, lamps and lighting fixtures)

Here, it is possible that the trunks in question fall within Chapter 94, HTSUSA, as furniture items. If so, they would be excluded from Chapter 46, HTSUSA, as the notes indicate.

Chapter 94, HTSUSA, encompasses, among other goods, furniture, including bedding, mattresses, cushions, etc. In reference to furniture goods, the Legal Notes provide that:

2. The articles (other than parts) referred to in headings 9401 to 9403 are to be classified in those headings only if they are designed for placing on the floor or on the ground.(Emphasis added)

In other words, for goods to be considered furniture within the specified headings, there is a threshold requirement that they be designed for placing on the floor or ground. However, this does not require that all goods which are placed on the floor be included in Chapter 94 headings, nor does it exclude goods which are amenable to placement other than on the floor. Such a distinction is important in this case, since the goods in question are designed for possible placement on the floor, but may be subject to classification elsewhere in the nomenclature.

Heading and Subheading

The initial determination which must be made here is whether or not the sample goods are considered furniture within the meaning of headings 9401 to 9403, HTSUSA. If so, they will be excluded from classification in Chapter 46, HTSUSA. Other than the threshold requirement set out above, the Legal Notes to Chapter 94, HTSUSA, do not provide any guidelines for making this determination. However, the Explanatory Notes indicate that Chapter 94 covers:

(A) Any "movable" articles (not included under other more specific headings of the Nomenclature) which have the essential characteristic that they are constructed for placing on the floor or ground, and which are used, mainly with a utilitarian purpose, to equip private dwellings, hotels, . . .(emphasis in the original).

The Explanatory Notes also include an extensive, although not exhaustive, listing of goods which are either included or excluded from Chapter 94. The Notes indicate that items of all sizes and uses may be included in Chapter 94, and it is our opinion that the terms of heading 9403 are sufficiently broad to include the sample goods. However, we are further of the opinion that these items are not more than prima facie classifiable as furniture of heading 9403, HTSUSA. Consequently, these goods are determined not to be "Articles of Chapter 94" for the purposes of the exclusionary Note (Legal Note 2(e) to Chapter 46). They may, however, be found to be articles of Chapter 94 on the basis of other criteria.

Since the goods at issue are prima facie classifiable in two different headings, specifically headings 4602 and 9403, HTSUSA, GRI 1 fails to classify these goods. The remaining GRIs therefore become applicable. Goods prima facie classifiable in two or more headings are classified according to GRI 3. GRI 3(a) provides, in pertinent part, that:

(a) The heading which provides the most specific description shall be preferred to headings providing a more general description.

The Explanatory Notes to Chapter 94, HTSUSA, complements GRI 3(a) by providing that the articles not included under more specific headings of the nomenclature may be classified as furniture. In the instant case, the terms of the competing subheadings are, in pertinent part:

4602.10.4000 - Basketwork, wickerwork and other articles, made directly to shape from plaiting materials . . .: Of vegetable materials:
Other: Other.

9403.80.3080 - Other furniture and parts thereof: Furniture of other materials, including cane, osier, bamboo, or similar materials: Of cane, osier, bamboo, or similar materials: Other.

We are of the opinion that neither of the subheadings in contention here provide a more specific description of these goods. While the trunks are obviously articles of basketwork, wickerwork, etc., the nature of the goods contributes to their use as an article of furniture, in a utilitarian capacity, to decorate or otherwise furnish a dwelling. Relative specificity, therefore, under GRI 3(a), also fails to classify these goods.

GRI 3(b) requires that classification be made by determining the essential character of the goods. In this case, we are of the opinion that the essential character of the sample trunks is that of the fern plaiting materials. While we recognize that these items may be used as an accessory in the home, that limited purpose does not establish their principal use. They are, however, clearly articles of wickerwork, regardless of the use to which they are put. We have, therefore, classified these goods as basketwork, wickerwork, etc., of subheading 4602.10.4000, HTSUSA.

The Explanatory Notes to Chapter 46, HTSUSA, substantiate our decision when they provide, in pertinent part:

Subject to the exclusions specified in the General Explanatory Note to the Chapter, the heading covers:

(i) articles made directly to shape from plaiting materials; . . .

Such articles include:

(1) . . . basketware containers of all kinds, whether or not fitted with rollers or castors, . . .

(3) Travelling-bags and suitcases.

Although the sample trunks are not specifically named, they may be included in the same category of goods. It has been suggested that articles such as the sample items should not be included in subheading 4602.10.4000, HTSUSA, because they are not of the same type as the most of the items set out in the Explanatory Note. The gist of the argument is that, since the terms of the Note specifically refer items such as "suitcases" or "hampers", the items described in the note are all of a smaller, more easily portable variety, and that the trunks in question would not fit that profile. We disagree for the following reasons

The list found in the Explanatory Notes is not legally binding; it is advisory only. In addition, while many of the items set out in the Explanatory Notes are smaller and easier to carry or transport than the sample goods, the list is not intended to be exclusive. Indeed, the terms of the Note are expansive: "basketware containers of all kinds, whether or not fitted with rollers or castors, . . ." (emphasis added), indicating that the heading was intended to include baskets, hampers, travelling bags or even trunks of a larger size which would need rollers or castors to move about easily. Finally, we note that the picture provided with the request letter shows handles on the ends of the trunks, presumably to facilitate their movement, and brass corner fittings to protect against damage during movement.

Lastly, we are aware of prior rulings by this office which classify goods of this type as furniture, albeit under the Tariff Schedule of the United States (hereinafter "TSUS"). We note that such rulings are informative, but are not binding toward rulings issued under the HTSUSA. Indeed, many HTSUSA rulings may adopt positions directly contrary to TSUS rulings, solely on the basis that the HTSUSA terms require such treatment. In this case, we have chosen to disregard prior rulings under the TSUS, and classify these goods solely on the basis of the GRIs and the terms of the HTSUSA headings to provide uniform and consistent treatment for similar goods in the future, without attempting to reconcile past rulings which may be incompatible.


After examining the terms of the tariff headings and the relevant Section and Chapter notes, it is the opinion of this office that the sample goods are classified under subheading 4602.10.4000, HTSUSA - Basketwork, wickerwork and other articles, made directly to shape form plaiting materials: Of vegetable materials: Other: Other. These goods are dutiable at the rate of 3.0% ad valorem.

John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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