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HQ 088338

September 6, 1991

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 088338 KWM


TARIFF NO.: 4408

Mr. Charles P. Deem
Stedina & Deem
271 Madison Avenue, Suite 2100
New York, New York 10016

RE: Reconsideration of HRL 086046; Revocation of HRL 086046; Reconstituted veneer; Veneer; Wood; Lumber; Timber; Laminated; Sliced, peeled, sawn, chipped; Logs and flitches; Plywood; Manmade; TSUS; 4408; 4421.

Dear Mr. Deem:

This will acknowledge your letter dated November 9, 1990, requesting our reconsideration of Headquarters Ruling Letter 086046. We have also received from you material submitted in support of your position. We have considered your request, and our response follows.


On December 18, 1989, this office issued a letter addressed to Mr. David Thomsson of Brookside Veneers, Ltd., regarding the classification of "reconstituted veneers" under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUSA). On behalf of Brookside Veneers, you now ask that we reconsider the conclusions of that letter.

The product at issue is referred to as "reconstituted veneers." A veneer is a thin layer of material, in this case wood. Reconstituted veneer is manufactured by slicing or rotary cutting veneers from logs. The veneers cut directly from the log are then dyed to a uniform shade and laminated together using an adhesive and a cold press. The result is a "massive wood block." From this block, reconstituted veneers are sliced. According to your submission, the reconstituted veneer is superior to veneer cut directly from a natural log because they have been uniformly dyed, and the lamination process produces specific grain patterns unique to the product. Your letter also asserts that the use and commercial designation of reconstituted veneer is no different than that of other veneers.

Reconstituted veneer was the subject of litigation under the predecessor to the HTSUSA, the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS). Schedule 2, Part 3 headnote 1 (a), TSUS, provided that "wood veneers" were produced from "logs or flitches." The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, in Brookside Veneers, Ltd. v. United States, 847 F.2d 786 (Fed. Cir. 1988), cert. den. 488 U.S. 943 (1988), found that the express use of the terms "logs" and "flitches" in a
headnote to the TSUS evidenced an intent to limit veneers according to source, specifically those products made directly from natural woods. The reconstituted or laminated blocks used to produce Brookside's merchandise were not included in the scope of the TSUS definition for "wood veneers."

Under the HTSUSA, Customs has proposed classifying the reconstituted veneer under a basket provision for other articles of wood, imposing a 5.1 percent duty rate on the goods. That classification was based on our reading of the legal tariff text, the accompanying legal notes and the Explanatory Notes. In HRL 086046 we determined that the veneers classified in heading 4408 (the heading you suggest) are those made directly from natural logs, and that the TSUS distinction of natural logs versus reconstituted wood blocks is continued under the HTSUSA. You ask us to reconsider that determination.


Is reconstituted veneer classified in heading 4408, HTSUSA, as veneer sheets or sheet for plywood, or are the items described by heading 4408, HTSUSA, limited to those manufactured directly from natural wood material?


"Veneers" under the HTSUSA

The meaning of a tariff term is a question of law. Your letter asserts that the meaning of the tariff terms of heading 4408, HTSUSA, encompasses your merchandise. The heading at issue provides for:

4408 Veneer sheets and sheets for plywood (whether or not spliced) and other wood sawn lengthwise, sliced or peeled, whether or not planed, sanded or finger-jointed, or a thickness not exceeding 6mm:

We find no express definition of "veneer" or of "wood" in the relevant notes to the nomenclature. Therefore, we must determine, if possible, the intended scope of products covered by heading 4408, HTSUSA.

TSUS veneer

The definition of "veneer" which formed the basis for classification under the TSUS does not appear in the HTSUSA. Your letter asserts the Congress intentionally deleted the definition of veneer and broadened the provisions to include merchandise previously excluded. We do not believe that the simple absence of a definition can be read as evidence of any particular intent on the part of Congress. At best, that is an open question. Regardless of our opinion, however, the absence of controlling language forces Customs to consider other factors in determining the scope of heading 4408, HTSUSA.

H.R.3231 and S.2018

Your submission includes copies of legislation which you
believe is indicative of Congress' intent to include reconstituted veneer under the provisions of heading 4408, HTSUSA. H.R.3231 and S.2018 provide for the duty free treatment of man-made veneer classified in heading 4421, HTSUSA. We do not agree that this evidences any intent on the part of the Congress to provide for the merchandise under a particular heading. Instead, it simply demonstrates that Congress intended that the merchandise be entered duty-free.

The tariff provisions in Chapter 44, HTSUSA

We find no express restriction that limits the source of the veneer to natural wood. The limitations in the tariff headings, the legal notes, and the Explanatory Notes are not source based distinctions; i.e., natural wood v. man-made wood. Instead, they are distinctions based on the characteristics exhibited by the merchandise at the time of importation. Goods of heading 4408, may have been subject to some processing, but are not considered a finished article. These may include goods which have undergone complex, highly accurate operations, and may also include goods which can be used in their imported condition. Further, we note the Explanatory Notes to heading 4407, HTSUSA, which indicate that that heading properly includes products regarded as the equivalent of sawn wood. We find that a similar principle applies here and that "veneer sheets" includes products regarded as the equivalent of natural wood veneers.

Reconstituted Veneer

Having determined that the legal scope of "veneer" is not restricted to merchandise made directly from natural wood stock, Customs must consider the factual question of whether or not the instant merchandise has been so processed as to remove it from consideration under heading 4408, HTSUSA. We believe that the answer is "no."

To create the reconstituted block of wood from which this veneer is cut, natural wood is sliced and reassembled using an adhesive and cold press process. The reconstituted block from which the subject man-made veneer is cut may be considered the equivalent of the natural log or flitch from which natural veneer is cut. Although the reconstitution process may be technical, that does not act as a bar to classification in heading 4408, HTSUSA. Your submissions indicate to us that man-made veneer are considered the commercial equivalent of natural veneer. We find that for the purposes of tariff classification, man-made veneer falls within the scope of heading 4408, HTSUSA.


Heading 4408, HTSUSA, includes the term "veneer" for which neither the nomenclature nor the Explanatory Notes provide a definition. We hesitate to apply too strictly definitions derived from the TSUS, particularly where such definitions may alter the scope of the international text. Whether the absence of an HTSUSA definition implies an intent by Congress to include products such as this, we cannot say. Neither a dictionary definition nor the commercial information provided serve to limit veneer to goods produced directly from natural wood sources. Therefore, the legal definition of
veneer in the HTSUSA is not limited to merchandise produced from such sources, but may include veneer produced from wood which is regarded as the equivalent of natural wood for the purpose of making veneer.

Further, the scope of heading 4408, HTSUSA, does not exclude products such as those at issue. The slicing and reconstituting of natural wood to produced man-made veneer is within the provision of heading 4408, HTSUSA, so long as the character of the merchandise remains that of veneer made of wood.


Headquarters Ruling Letter 086046 is hereby revoked. The merchandise at issue, reconstituted or man-made veneer, manufactured from wood which has been sliced and re-assembled, is provided for in heading 4408, HTSUSA. Because your submission did not indicate the specific wood from which the veneer is made, we cannot provide a binding subheading classification at this time.


John A. Durant
Commercial Rulings Division

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