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HQ 555683

February 15, 1991
CLA-2 CO:R:C:S 555683 SER


District Director of Customs
880 Front Street
San Diego, CA 92188

RE: Internal Advice; GSP eligibility for assembled and unassembled furniture from Mexico; double substantial transformation; 555532, 553878, 555156, CSD 85-25

Dear Sir:

This in response to your memorandum, dated June 7, 1990, forwarding a request for internal advice from counsel for Tocabi Corp., concerning eligibility under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) (19 U.S.C. 2461-2466) for certain assembled and unassembled audio and television furniture imported from Mexico.


Tocabi Corporation is requesting duty-free treatment under the GSP for assembled loudspeakers and television cabinets, and unassembled audio racks and television stands from Mexico. Raw dimension lumber in the form of laminated and unlaminated particle board, unlaminated fiber board and hardwood, originating in the U.S., is imported into Mexico where it undergoes processing.

While the initial foreign processing of all of the articles is similar, primarily involving the cutting of the dimension lumber to size from large sheets, the subsequent processes for each article differ. Thus, each article will be discussed separately.

The wooden loudspeakers consist of the main cabinet frame, the front speaker board, the back board, and the speakers themselves. To produce the cabinet frame, simple cuts are made to form panels from the raw dimension lumber, and holes are drilled into one of the sides. The panels are then grooved on a machine along the long side of the panel opposite from the drilled holes. An adhesive is placed in the grooves and then the panels are folded along the groove. An indentation is cut on the reverse surface of the panel, and then three fold-slits are cut. Glue is deposited in the slits, and the panel is folded into a four-sided cabinet frame.

The next step in the production of the speaker involves manufacturing the front speaker board and attaching it to the cabinet frame. This is done by cutting the lumber into rectangles 6 1/2 inches in width by 55 1/4 inches in length, punching holes for the speakers, painting, stapling the baffle wedge, speaker cloth and badge to the speaker board and then assembling the board to the cabinet frame. Finally, the speakers themselves are inserted. The back board, which has been cut from the dimension lumber, is then attached to the back of the cabinet frame. The speakers are then tested and packed for shipping.

The audio rack consists of two side panels, the lift lid, bottom shelf/base, adjustable shelves, back panels and hinge panel. Again, large sheets of raw dimension lumber are used to produce these components. The lumber is first cut into pieces of various required dimensions, such as 1 1/2 feet by 2 feet. After the initial cutting operation, they undergo further processing, such as beveling, routing, tenoning, edge band application, edge band trimming, hole drilling, painting and cleaning. The beveling, routing, etc., is done by running the wood pieces across a plane, pressing the wood against the cutting, routing, and beveling action of the machinery. Following these processes, the various components are packaged into knock-down kits, to be assembled by the ultimate purchaser.

The TV stand consists of top and bottom boards, the side panel, "SP" bottom stopper and back panel. The TV stand production is very similar to the audio racks. Large sheets of dimension lumber are cut into smaller pieces. They then are subjected to additional shaping, trimming and processing operations, such as beveling, routing, tenoning, edge band application, edge band trimming, hole drilling, painting and cleaning. Moreover, to produce various subassemblies of the TV stand, the components are subjected to gluing, pressing, insertion of grommets, dowels, and reinforcement strips, etc. Following these processes, the components and subassemblies are packaged into knock-down kits, to be assembled by the ultimate purchasers.

The TV cabinet consists primarily of a single piece frame and a rear plastic grating. To produce the cabinet frame, large sheets of raw dimension lumber are cut first into strips of 5 7/8 inches by 78 3/8 inches, followed by a trimming process. This component is then placed in a tenoning and groove-cutting machine, and four grooves, or depressions, are carved out. Glue is then applied to the non-depressed surfaces of the wood, and brackets are placed in the two center depressions. The part is then bent at those depressions to form 90 degree angles,
following which the plastic bottom board is inserted and the wooden flaps are folded over the bottom board. The completed TV cabinet is then cleaned, inspected, and packaged in preparation for shipping to U.S. TV manufacturers.


Whether the operations performed in Mexico on the U.S. raw dimension lumber result in a double substantial transformation, thereby enabling the cost or value of the lumber to be counted toward the 35% value-content requirement of the GSP.


Under the GSP, eligible articles the growth, product or manufacture of a designated beneficiary developing country (BDC), which are imported directly into the U.S., qualify for duty-free treatment if the sum of 1) the cost or value of the materials produced in the BDC, plus 2) the direct cost involved in processing the eligible article in the BDC is at least 35% of the article's appraised value at the time it is entered into the U.S. See 19 U.S.C. 2463.

As stated in General Note 3(c)(ii)(A), Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), Mexico is a designated BDC. In addition, based on the descriptions provided, it appears that three of the products at issue are classifiable in GSP eligible provisions. The loudspeakers are classified in either subheading 8518.21.00 or 8518.22.00, HTSUSA, which provides for loudspeakers; whether or not mounted in their enclosures, which are GSP eligible provisions. The rate of duty for these provisions is 4.9% ad valorem. The audio racks and TV stands are classifiable in subheading 9403.60.8080, which provides for other furniture and parts thereof: other wooden furniture: other, which also is a GSP eligible provision. The rate of duty for this provision is 2.5% ad valorem. The TV cabinets are classifiable in subheading 8529.90.3580, HTSUSA, which provides for parts suitable for use solely or principally with the apparatus of headings 8525 to 8528: other: other: other, which is not a GSP eligible provision. The rate of duty is 3.7 % ad valorem.

If an article is comprised of materials that are imported into the BDC, the cost or value of those materials may be included in calculating the 35% value-content requirement only if they undergo a "double substantial transformation" in the BDC. See 10.177, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 10.177(a)), and Azteca Milling Co. v. United States, 703 F.Supp. 949 (CIT 1988), aff'd 890 F.2d 1150 (Fed. Cir. 1989). The basis for the substantial transformation concept was expressed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association v. United States, 207 U.S. 556 (1908), which stated:

[m]anufacture implies a change, but every change is not manufacture, and yet every change in an article is the result of treatment, labor and manipulation. But something more is necessary, . . . . There must be a transformation; a new and different article must emerge 'having a distinctive name, character or use.'

Current court cases have continued this concept, holding that a substantial transformation occurs "when an article emerges from a manufacturing process with a new name, character or use which differs from that possessed by the article prior to processing." Texas Instruments, Inc. v. United States, 69 CCPA, 152, 156, 681 F.2d 778, 782 (1982).

In the present case, counsel claims that the first substantial transformation of the raw dimension lumber imported into Mexico from the U.S. results from cutting the lumber into "generic" furniture parts (e.g., in the production of the audio racks, the lumber is cut into sizes such as 1 1/2 by 2 feet). Thus, it is claimed that by taking large rectangular pieces of lumber and cutting them to smaller rectangular pieces, new and different articles of commerce are created having a different name, character and use. The second claimed substantial transformation of the dimensional lumber occurs through the various processes of beveling, routing, tenoning, drilling, bending, creating subassemblies, painting, etc., in order to produce the imported merchandise.

Counsel cites Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 553878 dated October 28, 1985 to support his position. In that ruling, we examined commercial magazines and other documentary data to determine whether the specific shapes, or components, cut from raw dimension lumber, such as cabinet doors, drawer fronts, etc., are in fact saleable articles of commerce. The ruling concluded that "the foreign wooden raw materials have been substantially transformed into new and different articles of commerce in the beneficiary country and, therefore, may be considered intermediate constituent materials."

In reviewing HRL 553878 and the background information considered in that ruling, we find that the cabinet parts found to be intermediate articles of commerce in that case are clearly distinguishable from the "generic" pieces initially cut from raw dimension lumber in the instant case. The intermediate articles of commerce in HRL 553878 are better described as furniture parts rather than "generic" furniture parts; all have been further processed beyond merely cutting to smaller sizes, and all have characteristics that determine them to be destined for a certain use. Customs has consistently held that cutting materials to defined shapes or patterns suitable for use in making finished articles, as opposed to mere cutting to length and/or width which does not render the article suitable for a particular use,
constitutes a substantial transformation. See, for example, HRL 555532 dated September 18, 1990. Consistent with these rulings, and the holding in 553878, we conclude that the operations of cutting and further processing, encompassing the claimed first and second substantial transformation, e.g. cutting into smaller pieces, beveling, routing, precision-tolerance tenoning, edge band application, precision-hole drilling, bending, etc., to create furniture parts suitable for assembly into the finished articles, constitute a single substantial transformation of the raw dimension lumber.

A test recognized by Customs and the courts as indicative of a substantial transformation, is whether the manufacturing process results in a transition from producer's goods to consumer's goods. See, HRL 555614 dated October 9, 1990, Midwest Industries v. United States, 313 F.Supp. 951 (Cust. Ct. 1970), Superior Wire, a Division of Superior Products Company v. United States, 669 F.Supp. 472, 479 (CIT 1987), aff'd, 867 F.2d 1409 (Fed. Cir. 1989). Applying this test to the first claimed substantial transformation, the raw dimension lumber when cut to the claimed "generic" furniture parts, does not undergo a transition from a producer's good to a consumer's goods. This supports our conclusion that only the transition from raw dimension lumber to the completed parts constitutes a substantial transformation.

With regard to the unassembled audio racks and TV stands, the mere packing of the various finished components comprising these articles into knock-down kits clearly does not constitute a second substantial transformation. Therefore, the cost or value of the dimensional lumber from which the components of the audio racks and TV stands are made may not be included in the 35% value-content calculation.

However, in regard to the assembled speakers, we have previously ruled that the manufacture of speakers, similar to those at issue in this ruling, in which dimensional lumber is cut to shape and then assembled into fully functional articles, subjected to quality control and testing, amounted to a double substantial transformation. We stated that although the final assembly of the speakers did not appear to be exceedingly complex, in view of the overall processing performed in Mexico, we did not believe that this was the type of minimal pass-through operation which should be disqualified from receiving GSP benefits. See HRL 555156, August 8, 1990. Consistent with HRL 555156, we find that the dimensional lumber used in the manufacture of the speakers at issue undergoes the requisite double substantial transformation, and, therefore, the raw dimensional lumber may be included in the 35% value-content calculation.


While the audio racks, TV stands, and speakers are classified in GSP eligible provisions, the TV cabinets are not. Therefore, the cabinets are not eligible for duty-free treatment under the GSP.

In examining the operations involved in the manufacture of the TV stands and audio racks, only the cutting, processing, and shaping of the raw dimensional lumber constitutes a substantial transformation. The remaining operation,packing the TV stand and audio rack components into knock-down kits, does not constitute a second substantial transformation. Therefore, the cost of the imported dimensional lumber used to make the TV stands and audio racks may not be included in the 35% value- content calculation. The production of the assembled loudspeakers results in a double substantial transformation and, therefore, the cost or value of the dimensional lumber used to make these articles may be included in the 35% value-content calculation.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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