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HQ 950408

JANUARY 3 1992

CLA-2:CO:R:C:M 950408 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 7308.90.90, HTSUS

Mr. Andrew P. Sweatman
12178 Greenspoint Drive, Suite 137
Houston, Texas 77060

RE: Scaffold Clamps; Articulated Steel Couplers Used to Connect Metal Tubes in Scaffold Construction

Dear Mr. Sweatman:

Your letter of September 11, 1991, to the District Director of Customs, Houston, has been forwarded to this office for reply. Samples and descriptive literature were submitted. Our ruling follows.


The articles in issue here, from Germany, referred to in the literature both as couplers and as clamps, are the right angle clamp and the swivel clamp. They are of drop forged steel construction, hot dip galvanized, then fitted with I-bolts or T- bolts to make them clamp around a tube. Each is a double articulated coupling device used to connect two 48.3 mm O.D. tubes during the building of work platforms and other temporary scaffolding systems. The right angle coupler connects tubes at right angles only while the swivel coupler connects tubes at any angle. Each comes with two bolts and nuts.

You maintain that these coupling devices are classifiable in subheading 7326.90.90, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), as other articles of iron or steel. Articles of heading 7326 are forged and designed for temporary installation, whereas those of heading 7308 are cast and are designed to be permanent structural components. So-called tubeclamps, depicted in submitted literature, are cast threaded fittings with tapped holes and are designed for permanent installation in buildings and other traditional structures. These are the articles you claim are within the ambit of heading 7308.


Whether the coupling devices are classifiable in heading 7308, structures and parts of structures, of iron or steel, or as other articles of iron or steel, in heading 7326.


Merchandise is classifiable under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 states in part that for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and provided the headings or notes do not require otherwise, according to GRIs 2 through 6.

The Harmonized Commodity Description And Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the Customs Cooperation Council's official interpretation of the Harmonized System. While not legally binding on the contracting parties, and therefore not dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System and are thus useful in ascertaining the classification of merchandise under the System. Customs believes the notes should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80.

Initially, heading 7326 covers all iron or steel articles other than articles more specifically covered elsewhere in the HTSUS. Relevant ENs at p. 1038 include within heading 7326 hangers, stays and similar supports for fixing piping and tubing except clamps and other devices specially designed for assembling tubular elements for metal structures, which fall in heading 7308. (Emphasis original). It should be noted that shore frame systems and parts that comprise scaffold-type shoring used for concrete formwork and for other structural purposes have been held to be within the common meaning of the term structure for tariff purposes. S.G.B. Steel Scaffolding & Shoring Co., Inc. v. United States, 82 Cust. Ct. 198, C.D. 4802 (1979).

Additional ENs at p. 1020 indicate that parts of structures of heading 7308 include clamps and other devices specially designed for assembling metal structural elements of round cross- section (tubular or other). These devices usually have protuberances with tapped holes in which screws are inserted, at the time of assembly, to fix the clamps to the tubing. We conclude that the coupling devices in issue qualify as clamps and other devices specially designed for assembling tubular elements for metal structures.


Under the authority of GRI 1, the right angle and swivel clamps in issue here are provided for in heading 7308. Actual classification is in subheading 7308.90.90, HTSUSA, other structures and parts of structures, of iron or steel. The rate of duty is 5.7 percent ad valorem.

Articles classifiable in heading 7308 may be subject to a voluntary restraint arrangement the United States has with Germany. We have forwarded a copy of this ruling to the Textiles & Metals Branch, Trade Programs Division, Office of Trade Operations. They will advise you further in this regard.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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