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HQ 087918

December 10, 1990

CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 087918 CRS


TARIFF NO.: 6302.91.0045

Jay S. Berlinsky, Esq.
Greenberger, Krauss & Jacobs
180 North La Salle Street
Chicago, IL 60601

RE: Plain woven cotton towels of greige sheeting material are readily distinguishable from shop towels made from coarse fabric. Towels advertised and sold as dish towels. Textile Guidelines.

Dear Mr. Berlinsky:

This is in reply to your letters of February 22, 1990, to our New York office, and July 25, 1990, to Congressman John Porter, on behalf of your client, Excello, Ltd., concerning the classification of cotton towels under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA). Included in your submission were sample finished and unfinished towels, as well as promotional literature and other pertinent materials. In addition to your written submission, a meeting was held at Customs Headquarters on October 16, 1990, to discuss the issues involved in this case.


The merchandise in question consists of 100 percent cotton plain woven towels of greige sheeting material imported from the People's Republic of China. The towels have a thread count of 44 x 44 or 54 x 54, weigh approximately 3.4 oz/yd, and are imported in a range of sizes, including 20 inches x 37 inches, 25 inches x 40 inches, 31 x 32 inches and 38 inches x 32 inches.

The greige towels are imported by Excello, a manufacturer and distributor of kitchen textiles, including dish towels, dishcloths, aprons, oven mitts and potholders, for use as "flour sack" dish towels. This type of dish towel, so called because it was originally manufactured from flour sacks, has been a feature of Excello's product line for over seventy years. Once imported, the towels are processed to remove any lint and to impart the white, fluffy quality that is characteristic of flour sack towels. The finished flour sack towels are sold through a variety of distribution networks including department stores, specialty chains, grocery stores, drug stores, catalogues and door to door sales organizations.

In support of your client's position that the imported towels should be classified as dish towels you have submitted examples of packaging materials in which the finished towels are marketed as well as a number of mail order catalogues. The packaging materials (clear plastic wrappers; paper wrappers) describe the flour sack towels as "kitchen towels" or "cook's towels," and note that the towels are suitable for use as dish towels, and in addition, as culinary cloths and needlecraft cloths. In catalogues, the Excello towels are advertised as kitchen towels and/or as flour sack towels. Some catalogues note that the towels have multiple uses, e.g., "to steam puddings, poach a whole fish in court bouillon...[and that] they are also ideal for drying dishes, putting a sparkle on glasses..." while others do not elaborate at all. Frequently, the flour sack towels are marketed with other kitchen articles such as potholders or dishcloths, or other towels printed with designs such as fruit, vegetables, stripes or barnyard animals.


Whether the 100 percent cotton greige fabric towels in question are classifiable under the provision for dish towels in subheading 6302.91.0045, HTSUSA, or whether they are classifiable in subheading 6302.91.0050, HTSUSA, under the provision for other towels.


Heading 6302, HTSUSA, provides for bed linen, table linen, toilet linen and kitchen linen. According to the Explanatory Notes, which although not legally binding constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level, kitchen linen includes articles "such as tea towels and glass cloths." Excluded, however, are "articles such as floor cloths, dish cloths...and similar cleaning cloths, generally made of coarse thick material." EN 63.02 at 863. As the towels at issue are not made from coarse material, they are embraced by the terms of heading 6302 and are therefore classifiable accordingly.

Within heading 6302, however, the provision for dish towels is a U.S. statistical breakout. The Guidelines for the Reporting of Imported Products in Various Textile and Apparel Categories, 53 FR 52563, (Textile Guidelines) were developed to facilitate classification at the statistical level, as well as to assist in determining the appropriate textile quota category. The Textile Guidelines, 52564, provide in pertinent part that:

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 the other dish towels.

Shop towels (category 369) are dedicated to use in garages, filling stations, machine shops, etc., and are always plain woven nonpile construction, made from a coarse fabric, usually an osnaburg or similar low grade fabric, the average yarn number of which normally falls within the 3 to 12 range. However, some shop towels are made from a heavier duck-type fabric. Shop towels may be square or rectangular in shape and usually vary in shape from 16 inches to 30 inches wide and from 16 to 32 inches long. Shop towels are usually gray (greige) material, but may be colored, usually dull reds, blues, greens and yellows.

The towels at issue have characteristics that are associated with both dish towels and shop towels. They are of greige quality, i.e., unfinished material, and in size are larger than most dish towels. In this respect they resemble the articles described in the Guidelines as shop towels.

However, the similarity to shop towels ends here. The instant towels are not made from osnaburg or similar low grade fabrics but rather from sheeting, a plain weave cotton fabric which ranges in construction from 40 x 38 to 64 x 68. The towels have a yarn count of 44 in contrast to an average yarn count of between 3 and 12 for shop towels. Moreover, while the towels are larger than most dish towels, the Guidelines provide that plain woven dish towels may be longer than those dish towels that have designs printed on them.

Furthermore, although merchandising is not always a proper means for determining classification, the manner in which the towels are advertised and sold nevertheless has probative value. Davis Products, Inc. v. U.S., 59 Cust.Ct. 226, 230, C.D. 3127 (1967). The instant towels are advertised as kitchen towels and are sold together with articles such as aprons, potholders and other towels with traditional kitchen designs.

In view of their construction and the manner in which they are marketed, Customs is of the opinion that the Excello towels belong to the class or kind of merchandise commonly known as dish towels and therefore readily distinguishable from shop and other towels.


The towels in question are classifiable in subheading 6302.91.0045, HTSUSA, under the provision for bed linen, table linen, toilet linen and kitchen linen, other, of cotton, other, towels, other, dish, and are dutiable at the rate of 10..5 percent ad valorem. The textile 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 of the U.S. 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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