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HQ 089360

July 30, 1991

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 089360 HP


TARIFF NO.: 5603.00.9070

Mr. Steven P. Sonnenberg
Sonnenberg, Anderson, O'Donnell & Rodriguez 200 West Adams Street
Suite 2625
Chicago, IL 60606

RE: Aramid fibers laid parallel and embedded in rubber solution and dried forms nonwoven, not textile strip of heading 5604. Tow; belt; belting; extrusion; draw; bonding

Dear Mr. Sonnenberg:

This is in reply to your letter of April 2, 1991, to our New York office, concerning the tariff classification of belting material, produced in Japan, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA). Please reference your client Mitsuboshi Belting Ltd. Pursuant to section 177.2(b)(7), CUSTOMS REGULATIONS (19 C.F.R. 177(b)(7)), your request for confidentiality of certain business information contained within your brief is granted.


The merchandise at issue is described by you as follows:

The subject of this ruling request is strips of rubber coated aramid textile fibers. The strips of coated aramid fibers are a key ingredient in ... rubber compounds used ... to manufacture automotive and industrial belts. The strips, when mixed with rubber, strengthen the belt, reduce slippage, absorb humidity and diminish the sound made by the belt during operation.

... The manufacturing process begins with the melt spinning of aramid fibers and the drawing of the fibers into drawn tow. The drawn tow ... is wound onto large spools without being cut to shorter lengths. The ... tow is [then] unwound from the spools, spread to a width of 200 mm, and immersed in a solution [containing rubber]. ... From the ... solution, the coated tow fiber passes through a heating chamber which dries the ... solution onto
the aramid fibers. This process binds the aramid fibers together into a 200 mm wide strip. ... [T]he aramid fibers are aligned parallel to the length of the 200 mm wide strip.

After coating with the ... solution, the 200 mm wide strips of coated aramid fiber are re-coiled and transferred to the cutting room. In the final step of the manufacturing process, the coated 200 mm wide strips are uncoiled and cut into
3[]mm wide strips. The cut is made across the grain of the wide strips so that the aramid fibers in the final product are uniformly 3 mm in length.


Whether the instant merchandise is considered coated strip under the HTSUSA?


Heading 5604, HTSUSA, provides for, inter alia, textile strip of heading 5404, coated with rubber. We must therefore decide if this material is considered a "strip" of heading 5404.

Heading 5404, HTSUSA, provides for, inter alia, strip and the like of synthetic textile materials of an apparent width not exceeding 5 mm. The Explanatory Notes (EN) to the HTSUSA constitute the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level. While not legally binding, they do represent the considered views of classification experts of the Harmonized System Committee. It has therefore been the practice of the Customs Service to follow, whenever possible, the terms of the Explanatory Notes when interpreting the HTSUSA. The EN to this heading defines "strip and the like" as:

... flat, of a width not exceeding 5 mm, either produced as such by extrusion or cut from wider strips or from sheets.

As we stated above, prior to cutting into the final size, the large "strips" are constructed by spreading the fibers to a width of 200 mm and immersing them in a rubber solution. From this solution, the coated tow fiber passes through a heating chamber which dries the solution onto the aramid fibers. This process binds the aramid fibers together into a 200 mm wide "strip." It is your contention that this 200 mm wide "strip" is the "wider strip" referenced in the Explanatory Note above. We disagree.

Heading 5603, HTSUSA, provides for nonwovens. The General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs) to the HTSUSA govern the classification of goods in the tariff schedule. GRI 1 states, in pertinent part, that:

... classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes ...

Goods which cannot be classified in accordance with GRI 1 are to be classified in accordance with subsequent GRIs, taken in order. Note 3 to Chapter 56, HTSUSA, states:

Headings 5602 and 5603 cover respectively felt and nonwovens, impregnated, coated, covered or laminated with plastics or rubber whatever the nature of these materials (compact or cellular):

Heading 5603 also includes nonwovens in which plastics or rubber forms the bonding substance.

The EN to heading 5603, HTSUSA, provides:

A nonwoven is a sheet or web of predominantly textile fibres oriented directionally or randomly and bonded.
These fibres may be of natural or man-made origin. They may be staple fibres
(natural or man-made) or man-made filaments or be formed in situ.

Nonwovens can be produced in various ways and production can be conveniently divided into three stages: web formation, bonding and finishing.

I. Web formation

Four basic methods exist:

(b) by extruding filaments which are direc- tionally oriented, cooled and laid down directly into a web or which are coagulated, washed and laid down directly into a web in a wet form of the process (spun laid process);

(c) by suspending and dispersing fibres in water, depositing the resultant slurry onto a wire screen and forming a web by removal of the water
(wet-laid process);

(d) by various specialised technologies in which fibre production, web formation and usually bonding occur simultaneously (in situ process).

II. Bonding

After web formation the fibres are assembled throughout the thickness and width of the web
(continuous method) or in spots or patches
(intermittent method).

This bonding can be divided into three types:

(a) Chemical bonding, in which the fibres are assembled by means of a bonding substance.
This may be done by impregnation with an adhesive binder such as rubber, gum starch, glue or plastics, in solution or emulsion, by heat treatment with plastics in powder form, by solvents, etc. Binding fibres can also be used for chemical bonding.

III. Finishing

Nonwovens may be dyed, printed, impregnated, coated, covered or laminated.

However, the heading does not cover the following products which fall in Chapter 39 or 40:

(a) Nonwovens, either completely embedded in plastics or rubber, or entirely coated or covered on both sides with such materials, provided that such coating or covering can be seen with the naked eye....

The National Import Specialist, considered by Customs and the Courts to be the commodity expert in this area, has informed us that if a heading 5404 or 5405, HTSUSA, "strip" is not extruded as a "strip," it is normally extruded as a sheet and then cut into the size of textile "strips." The instant merchandise is extruded as tow; this tow is later immersed to produce a sheet/"strip." While neither the legal nor Explanatory Notes to the HTSUSA expressly disqualify "strips" produced in this manner, it is our opinion that the construction process is more specifically characterized as the fabrication of a nonwoven.

Since the aramid fibers in the instant nonwoven are, via the bonding process, "completely embedded in ... rubber," one might assume that classification in heading 5603, HTSUSA, would be excluded. We do not agree. The language of the Explanatory Note clearly requires the "nonwoven" to be completely embedded, not the fibers partially making up that nonwoven. It is Customs opinion that after the above- mentioned drying and binding processes take place, the instant merchandise would once again have to be embedded in rubber (or plastics) for the Explanatory Note exclusion to be applicable. HOLDING:

As a result of the foregoing, the instant merchandise is classified under subheading 5603.00.9070, HTSUSA, textile category 223, as nonwovens, whether or not impregnated, coated, covered or laminated, other, other nonwovens, whether or not impregnated, coated, covered, other, of filaments. The applicable rate of duty is 12.5 percent ad valorem.

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 negotiations 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 issuance of the U.S. Customs Service, which is updated weekly and is available 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 importing the merchandise to determine the current status of any import restraints or requirements.

A copy of this ruling letter should be attached to the entry documents filed at the time this merchandise is imported. If the documents have been filed without a copy, this ruling should be brought to the attention of the Customs officer handling the transaction.


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