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HQ 732986

August 7, 1990

MAR-2-05 CO:R:C:V 732986 NL


Mr. P.T. Hick
Export Director
First Cover Limited
Unit 2, Eastlands Lane
Tonbridge, United Kingdom TN126BU

RE: Country of Origin Marking - Decorative Paper Bags; Disposable Containers; Ultimate Purchaser

Dear Mr. Hick:

This is in response to your letter of December 7, 1989, in which you ask for a ruling that decorative paper bags sold by First Cover are disposable containers under the country of origin marking regulations. We regret the delay in responding.


As stated in Customs' previous information letter 732118 (November 28, 1989), the subject articles are decorative paper bags imported in bulk for sale to retailers who use them as packaging for assortments of goods such as cosmetics or small gifts. It is our understanding that the retailers do not sell the bags to their customers.

A sample bag has been submitted. It is fashioned of paper which has a laminated metallic surface and two braided nylon handles, with dimensions of approximately 6"x 5"x 2". The appearance of the bag is that of a small holiday shopping bag.

A ruling is requested that the bag may be treated as a disposable container pursuant to 19 CFR 134.24, and thus excepted from individual country of origin marking.


Is this type of bag, imported and sold as stated above, a disposable container for purposes of the country of origin marking regulations?


Section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1304), provides that, unless excepted, every article of foreign origin imported into the U.S. shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the nature of the article (or container) will permit, in such manner as to indicate to the ultimate purchaser in the U.S. the English name of the country of origin of the article.

Part 134, Customs Regulations (19 CFR Part 134), implements the country of origin marking requirements and exceptions of 19 U.S.C. 1304. With respect to containers, Subpart C of Part 134 generally provides that containers which are reusable are subject to country of origin marking at importation, while containers not designed for or capable of reuse are not required to be individually marked. The distinction drawn is between: (1) containers such as tanks, drums, and similar shipping or storage containers, or containers in the special class of decorative holders, jars, or bottles which are intended to be reused apart from their imported contents; and (2) containers such as boxes, bags, and other holders which are ordinarily discarded after their contents have been consumed. With respect to reusable containers, 19 CFR 134.34(b) provides that when imported in bulk the marking requirement ordinarily may be met by marking the outermost container which reaches the ultimate purchaser.

In this case it is our opinion that bags of this type, sold in bulk to retailers who use them as described, qualify as disposable containers within the meaning of Subpart C of Part 134. Although the sample bag is attractively decorated, and its surface is more durable than that of an ordinary paper or plastic bag, we find that, under the circumstances presented, it has the characteristics of a disposable container. That is, it is imported to be filled with other articles which will be the chief objects of a retail purchaser's interest, and such retail purchasers are not likely to retain the bag for other purposes after the articles have been removed or consumed. These characteristics are shared with other articles which Customs has found to be disposable containers. See, HQ 731863 (February 14, 1990)(cosmetic case imported to be filled); HQ 731388 (June 17, 1988)(bagging for potatoes); HQ 731318 (August 12, 1988)(vinyl cases to be filled with pills); HQ 732823 (January 19, 1990) (cardboard shoe boxes allegedly having subsequent uses).

Pursuant to 19 CFR 134.24(b), marking country of origin on the outermost containers in which the disposable bags reach the ultimate purchaser will satisfy the country of origin marking requirements of 19 U.S.C. 1304. If the district director is satisfied that in all circumstances the bags will be used as described above, and that the retailer will be the ultimate purchaser of the bags, the bulk marking will suffice. On the
other hand, if the district director has reason to believe that the ultimate purchaser may be the retailer's customer who purchases bags as separate articles (such as at a store selling party decorations and favors), the importer may properly be required to mark the bags individually or, pursuant to 19 CFR 134.32(d), to mark outsides of the smaller retail containers in which the bags might be sold to such ultimate purchasers, or more generally to follow the procedures for repackaging and marking as might be applicable under the circumstances.

The administrative difficulties inherent in these circumstances, i.e., the need to determine whether the bags will be used by retailers for insubstantial packaging or will be sold to ultimate purchasers as separate articles, could be avoided simply by marking the bags. Although it has been suggested that the bags are incapable of being marked, this issue has not been raised formally. Upon examination of the sample bag, it is our opinion that it could be marked, either with a sticker on the outside or by printing on the inside. The words "Bag made in ..." would eliminate any risk of confusion between the origin of the contents and the bag itself. Thus, while we are not requiring the bag itself to be marked, the importer would bear the burden of demonstrating to Customs that the bags are sold in the manner described, and not diverted into retail commerce as separate articles.


The decorative bags qualify as disposable containers within the meaning of Subpart C of 19 CFR Part 134. When used by retailers to package other articles, they may be excepted from country of origin marking, provided the immediate containers in which they are sold and delivered to such customers are so marked, and the district director is satisfied that all the imported bags will be used in this fashion. If not, the bags may be required to be marked, or their retail containers to be marked, such that the ultimate purchaser is afforded a clear indication of their country of origin. It is further our determination that the bags themselves are capable of being marked, and as such, the burden is upon the importer to demonstrate that the bags will be used as described.


Marvin M. Amernick
Chief, Value, Special Programs

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