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HQ 085770

February 6, 1990

CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 085770 WAW


TARIFF NO.: 4203.30.0000

Mr. Barry Waterhouse
New Concept Marketing
2510 Pacific Ave. #2
Venice, CA 90291

RE: Belt with digital timepiece

Dear Mr. Waterhouse:

This letter is in response to your letter of October 8, 1989, requesting the tariff classification of a leather belt with digital timepiece under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA). A sample was submitted with your request.


The sample article is a leather belt with PVC backing. The buckle is designed so that the upper portion flips open revealing an electronic timepiece that is visible to whoever is wearing the belt.


(1) Whether the merchandise at issue is classifiable as a composite good for tariff purposes?

(2) If considered a composite good, which item provides the essential character for classification purposes; and if not considered a composite good, how are the items properly classifiable?


In the instant case, the first issue to be addressed is whether the leather belt and electronic timepiece are included under one particular heading or subheading in the nomenclature. The relevant subheadings at issue in this case are set forth below. The leather belt is classifiable under subheading 4203.30.0000, HTSUSA, which provides for articles of apparel and clothing accessories, of leather or of composition leather: belts and bandoliers with or without buckles. The digital timepiece is properly classifiable under subheading 9102.91.2000, HTSUSA, which provides for wrist watches, pocket watches and other watches, including stop watches, other than those of heading 9101: Other: Battery powered: With opto-electronic display only. The Explantory Notes to Chapter 91, which constitutes the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level, states that "[t]he classification of clocks and watches combined with some other object is governed by the Rules for the Interpretation of the Nomenclature."

The General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's) set forth the manner in which merchandise is to be classified under the HTSUSA. GRI 1 requires that classification be determined first according to the terms of the headings of the tariff and any relative section or chapter notes and, unless otherwise required, according to the remaining GRI's, taken in order.

Since no heading, by itself, covers the subject merchandise, classification cannot be determined by applying GRI 1. Therefore, reference to the subsequent GRI's is necessary. GRI 2 is not applicable here because the item in question is not an incomplete or unfinished article and is not a mixture or combination of goods.

GRI 3, however, is applicable in this situation. It provides in pertinent part:

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.

Since the leather belt and electronic timepiece fall under separate headings in the tariff schedule which describe only a portion of the materials in the belt and timepiece unit, the headings are to be regarded as equally specific under GRI 3(a). Therefore, GRI 3(a) fails in establishing classification, and GRI 3(b) becomes applicable.

GRI 3(b) states in pertinent part:

(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.

Explanatory Note IX to GRI 3(b) provides, in pertinent part:

(IX) For the purposes of this Rule, composite goods made up of different components shall be taken to mean not only those in which the components are attached to each other to form a practically inseparable whole but also those with separable components, provided these components are adapted one to the other and are mutually complementary and that together they form a whole which would not normally be offered for sale in separate parts.

In the instant case, the leather belt and timepiece qualify as composite goods as defined in GRI 3(b). The timepiece is designed so that it fits into the buckle of the belt in such a way that it cannot be used separately without the belt. Moreover, the two items that make up the subject merchandise are not normally offered for sale in separate parts. Since the subject merchandise cannot be classified by reference to GRI 3(a), we must determine which component, if any, imparts the essential character of the item pursuant to the factors set out in the applicable Explanatory Note.

Explanatory Note VIII to GRI 3(b) states that:

(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 of component, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the role of a constituent material in relation to the use of the goods.

With respect to the merchandise at issue, the essential character of the subject merchandise is readily apparent. It is the position of this office that the leather belt gives the article its essential character. The leather belt comprises the bulk of the composite article, whereas the electronic timepiece is simply incorporated into the buckle of the belt. Moreover, the article is primarily designed to function as a belt while the electronic timepiece is merely an accessory. Although it is the timepiece which may attract a consumer's attention to the article, it is clear that the essential character of the article is the belt and the timepiece is merely a marketing feature. Accordingly, it is Customs position that the leather belt and not the electronic timepiece gives the article its essential character. Therefore, the subject article is properly classifiable under the heading which includes leather belts.


The submitted leather belt with electronic timepiece is classifiable under subheading 4203.30.0000, HTSUSA, which provides for articles of apparel and clothing accessories, of leather or of composition leather: belts and bandoliers with or without buckles. The applicable rate of duty is 5.3 percent ad valorem.


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