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HQ 086811

July 12, 1990

CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 086811 CRS


TARIFF NO.: 6302.91.0045

Mr. Arnold Edelman
Sabtex (N.Y.) Ltd.
P.O. Box 1255
Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632

RE: Cotton Herringbone Towels

Dear Mr. Edelman:

This is in reply to your letters of March 9-15, 1990, to our Charleston, South Carolina office concerning the classification of bleached cotton herringbone weave towels under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA). Samples were submitted with your ruling request.


The merchandise in question consists of four samples of bleached, 100 percent cotton, herringbone twill weave towels. You state that the principal use of the towels at issue is for washing and wiping dishes in restaurants and other commercial institutions, and that in the industry such towels are commonly referred to as "herringbone kitchen towels."

The sample towels are designated Exhibits 1-4. Exhibit 1 has two blue stripes approximately 3/8 of an inch wide, one on either side roughly one inch from the edge, running the length of the towel. Exhibit 2 has two blue center stripes, 1/8 of an inch wide, running the length of the towel, and flanked on either side by a pink stripe of the same width. Exhibit 3 has four 1/8 inch red stripes, two on either side of the towel, roughly 1 1/4 inch from the edge. Exhibit 4 has a single thin green stripe down the center of the towel, and a 3/8 inch green stripe down either side approximately one inch from the edge.

All four towels measure 15 inches in width and between 23 inches and 27 inches in length. The towels are manufactured in and imported from China, Pakistan and Peru, and will be entered through the ports of Charleston, Chicago or Atlanta.


Whether the articles in question are classifiable as dish towels of subheading 6302.91.0045, HTSUSA, or whether they are instead classifiable as other towels of subheading 6302.91.0050, HTSUSA.


In ORR Ruling 472-69, Bureau file TCR 471.253/s, dated May 28, 1969, abstracted as T.D. 69-180, a herringbone weave towel, measuring approximately 16 inches by 26 inches, having two red stripes woven in the length with lockstitched edging on three sides and a selvedge on the fourth side, was classified in item 366.27, Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS), under the provision for cotton towels, not ornamented. At the time, there was no separate provision for dish towels in the TSUS, although subsequently, a distinction between dish towels and other towels was introduced. Nevertheless, the towel at issue in T.D. 69- 180(6), which was in all respects similar to the towels in question, was referred to and described as a dish towel. Had there been a breakout for dish towels, it is likely that the towel of T.D. 69-180(6) would have been classified accordingly.

However, TSUS decisions have no precedential value under the HTSUSA, although they can provide guidance. Under the HTSUSA articles are classified in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 provides that the classification of articles be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes and, provided the headings or notes do not otherwise require, according to the remaining GRIs taken in order.

Heading 6302, HTSUSA, covers bed linen, table linen, toilet linen and kitchen linen. The Explanatory Notes (1990), which constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level (four and six digits), provide in pertinent part at EN 63.02 that the articles classifiable in heading 6302 include:

(4) Kitchen linen such as tea towels or glass cloths. Articles such as floor cloths, dish cloths, scouring cloths, dusters and similar cleaning cloths, generally made of coarse thick material, are not regarded as falling within the description "kitchen linen" and are excluded (heading 63.07).

However, dish towels, used to dry dishes, are a class of merchandise separate and distinct from dish cloths, which are used to wash dishes. As a result, the instant towels are classifiable in heading 6302. Indeed, there is no dispute as to their classification through the eight digit level. The only remaining question therefore is whether the towels should be classified as dish towels in subheading 6302.91.0045 or as "other" towels in subheading 6302.91.0050.

The Guidelines for the Reporting of Imported Products in Various Textile and Apparel Categories 53 FR 52563, 52564, in distinguishing dish towels from hand towels provide as follows:

Dish towels (category 369) and hand towels (category 363) fall within the same size range, 15 to 18 inches wide and 24 to 32 inches long, and are sometimes difficult to distinguish from each other. With one exception, dish towels always have a design printed on them or woven or knit into them. The design may be in the form of pictures of fruit, kitchen utensils, chickens, etc., or may be checks, stripes, or similar patterns. The dish towels that usually do not have a design are light weight, plain woven, nonpile cotton towels that may be similar to, but readily distinguishable from, shop towels which are made from a much coarser fabric. These towels may be longer than other dish towels.

...In the event that no clear distinction based on pattern, design, or otherwise can be made, the article will be classified as an "other" towel in category 363 because it is readily susceptible to more than one use.

The cotton herringbone weave towels at issue are accented with stripes as described above. You have stated that it was your understanding that similar articles would be designated as quota category 369-D provided that they had three or more stripes. You also ask if a third stripe were added to Exhibit 1, whether this would affect the classification and quota category of the towel.

There is no requirement that a towel have a minimum number of stripes in order for it to be classified as a dish towel in subheading 6302.91.0045, quota category 369-D; indeed, a towel may still be classified as a dish towel even if it has no design whatsoever. To repeat, the Textile and Apparel Guidelines state in relevant part:

The dish towels that usually do not have a design are light weight, plain woven, nonpile cotton towels that may be similar to, but readily distinguishable from, shop towels which are made from a much coarser fabric. These towels may be longer than other dish towels. (emphasis added)

The number of stripes or other designs, or even the absence thereof, does not preclude a towel from being classified as a dish towel. Moreover, although the Guidelines refer to plain woven towels, it was not Customs' intent to restrict unadorned dish towels to those of plain weave construction. Thus, for example, plain or unadorned herringbone weave towels are also classifiable in subheading 6302.91.0045, category 369, so long as such towels are readily distinguishable as dish towels.

The instant towels are of the construction, size and appearance normally associated with dish towels. The fabric from which they are made, a cotton herringbone twill, does not lint but is nevertheless absorbent, and is therefore particularly suitable for use as a material for dish towels. Furthermore, the towels at issue are within the size range commonly associated with dish towels. Thus a clear distinction is possible based on the pattern and design of the towels.

Moreover, we see no justification for classifying the instant towels as "other" towels rather than dish towels. As to whether the towels could be classified as hand towels (toilet linen), EN 63.02(3) provides that toilet linen encompasses hand or face towels (including roller towels), bath towels, beach towels, face cloths and toilet gloves. In this regard the Textile Guidelines state:

Hand towels may be plain or patterned (containing decorative work or patterned or pictures). When patterned, they are almost always pile constructed.

The sample towels may appear to meet the hand towel description; however, while towels of plain or patterned weave might be used as hand towels, hand towels are generally narrower.

The Explanatory Notes list two other possible examples of kitchen towels: tea towels; and glass cloths. It is Customs' view that the term "dish towel" at the ten digit (national) statistical level is not restricted by the Explanatory Notes, which merely provide guidance as to what may be found within the six digit subheading of toilet linen and kitchen linen. At the national level, Congress may subdivide the six digit subheading in any manner, so long as it does not expand the scope of that subheading. Moreover, it may adjust the terminology to suit national usage and understanding.

We know of no commercial distinction which would limit "dish towels" to a subgroup of kitchen towels and therefore decline to limit the term for tariff purposes.


The articles in question are classifiable in subheading 6302.91.0045, HTSUSA, under the provision for kitchen linen, other, of cotton, other, towels, other, dish, and are dutiable at 10.5 percent ad valorem. The quota category is 369.

The designated textile and apparel category may be subdivided into parts. If so, visa and quota requirements applicable to the subject merchandise may be affected. Since part categories are the result of international bilateral agreements which are subject to frequent renegotiations and changes, to obtain the most current information available, we suggest that you check, close to the time of shipment, the Status Report on Current Import Quotas (Restraint Levels), an internal issuance U.S. of the Customs Service, which is available for inspection at your local Customs office.

Due to the changeable nature of the statistical annotation (the ninth and tenth digits of the classification) and the restraint (quota/visa) categories, you should contact your local Customs office prior to importation of this merchandise to determine the current status of any import restraints or requirements.


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