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HQ 950709

December 24, 1991

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 950709 CRS


TARIFF NO.: 4202.92.1500

Kevin J. Downey, Esq.
Sullivan & Lynch
156 State Street
Boston, MA 02109

RE: Cotton tote bags; handbags; travel, sports and similar bags; Additional U.S. Note 1, Chapter 42; J.E. Mamiye & Sons v. United States; Adolco Trading Co. v. United States; HRL 086938 revoked; HRL 088562.

Dear Mr. Downey:

This office has had occasion to review Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 086938 of August 20, 1990, issued to you on behalf of The Gem Group, Inc., concerning the tariff classification of cotton tote bags under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA). Our decision follows below.


The merchandise at issue in HRL 086938 consisted of four tote bags with the following approximate dimensions:

(1) Style No. 100 -- 12" x 14" x 4"

(2) Style No. 102 -- 15-1/2" x 14" (no gusset)

The bags did not have inside or outside pockets nor were they lined or reinforced. None of the bags had any form of closure.


The issue presented is whether the tote bags in question are classifiable as handbags, or, pursuant to Additional U.S. Note 1, Chapter 42, HTSUSA, under a residual provision for travel, sports and similar bags.


The relevant heading in this case is heading 4202, HTSUSA, which provides, inter alia, for trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, attache cases, briefcases...and similar containers; traveling bags...handbags...sports bags...and similar containers of...textile materials.... Within heading 4202, the pertinent subheadings are subheading 4202.22, HTSUSA, which provides for handbags, whether or not with shoulder strap, including those without handle, with outer surface of plastic sheeting or of textile material; and subheading 4202.92, HTSUSA, which provides for other (articles of heading 4202) with outer surface of plastic sheeting or of textile material. The residual provision of subheading 4202.92, is further broken down at the U.S. level (eight digits) into provisions for travel, sports and similar bags, and for musical instrument cases, and a further residual provision for other containers.

In HRL 086938 we stated that the tote bags at issue were "used as secondary handbags used to carry various personal effects that do not ordinarily fit into a woman's handbag." Since the tote bags in question were deemed similar in function to handbags, it was Customs' view that they were classifiable in subheading 4202.22.

HRL 086938 followed the rationale of J.E. Mamiye & Sons, Inc. v. U.S., 509 F. Supp. 1268 (1980), aff'd, 665 F.2d 336 (1981), in which the court addressed the issue of whether tote bags, which varied in size, color and material, were properly classifiable under the Tariff Schedules of the United States Annotated in a specific provision for handbags or as shopping bags under a provision for textile articles not specially provided for. The court noted that tote bags are used to carry items which do not ordinarily fit within a women's handbag and, on this basis, held that they were similar to handbags. In so holding, the court stated in relevant part:

The primary issue presented is whether the imported tote bags are handbags as claimed or whether they are excluded from classification under item 706.24, supra, by virtue of being shopping bags in accordance with Headnote 2(b) of Schedule 7, Part 1, Subpart D....As indicated, supra, the provision for handbags is an eo nomine provision....Ordinarily, use is not a criteria in determining whether merchandise is embraced within an eo nomine provision. However, use may be considered in determining the identity of an eo nomine designation....

Following this principle the record establishes that the involved tote bags are utilized by women as second handbags to carry items which do not ordinarily fit within a handbag....Accordingly, it is apparent that, while a tote bag may be used to carry purchases, nine of the eighteen witnesses who testified indicated it is used for the convenience of those items which do not fit within a handbag. Such testimony is sufficient to establish the use of a tote bag to be similar to a handbag....

Id. at 1274.

However, cotton tote bags similar to those at issue are used for a variety of purposes. In Adolco Trading Co. v. United States, 71 Cust. Ct. 145, C.D. 4487 (1973), tote bags were described in broad terms.

[T]he term "tote is a general one used to indicate all types of carry bags, regardless of whether they are used for shopping or travel....


...[T]he word "tote" is a general term used by many manufacturers to refer to carry bags....

Id. at 151-152. The court concluded that:

The evidence establishes that...the term tote or tote bag is used in the trade to cover various types of carry bags, including shopping bags, and bags which may be luggage...and others which may be handbags....Thus the fact that an article may be bought, sold or referred to as a tote or tote bag does not establish that it is a handbag....

Id. at 155.

The tote bags at issue are made from cotton canvas and are often printed with company logos, or promotional or advertising information. Styles 103 and 128 have single snap closures; the rest have no means of closure. The bags have no pockets and are not lined or reinforced. Since they are of relatively coarse construction, carry advertising and provide little protection for the items they may contain, it is unlikely that the tote bags in question are used in a manner similar to a women's handbag.

The provision for travel, sports and similar bags is defined by Additional U.S. Note 1, Chapter 42, HTSUSA, as follows:

For the purposes of heading 4202, the expression "travel, sports and similar bags" means goods, other than those falling in subheadings 4202.11 through 4202.39, of a kind used for carrying clothing and other personal effects during travel, including backpacks and shopping bags of this heading, but does not include binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, bottle cases and similar containers.

Instead, it is Customs' opinion that canvas tote bags similar to those at issue are used as multipurpose bags to carry any number of sundry articles, such as food, books and/or clothing. Since they do not fit the terms of subheadings 4202.11 through 4202.39, and since they are a type of bag used to carry clothing and other personal effects during travel, Customs considers them to be travel, sports and similar bags within the meaning of Additional U.S. Note 1, Chapter 42, HTSUSA. HRL 088562 dated December 5, 1991.


The tote bags at issue are classifiable in subheading 4202.92.1500, HTSUSA, under the provision for trunks...shopping bags...and similar articles...: other: with outer surface of plastic sheeting or of textile materials: travel, sports and similar bags: with outer surface of textile materials: of vegetable fibers and not of pile or tufted construction: of cotton. They are dutiable at the rate of 7.2 percent ad valorem and are subject to textile category 369.

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 renegotiations 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 internal issuance of the U.S. Customs Service, which is available for inspection 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 importation of this merchandise to determine the current status of any import restraints or requirements.

In order to insure uniformity in Customs classification of this merchandise and eliminate uncertainty, we are revoking HRL 086938 to reflect the above classification effective with the date of this letter. However, if, after your review you disagree with the legal basis for our decision, we invite you to submit any arguments you might have with respect to this matter for our review. Any submission you wish to make should be received within thirty days of the date of this letter.

This notice to you should be considered a revocation of HRL 086938 under 19 CFR 177.9(d)(1). It is not to be applied retroactively to HRL 086938 (19 CFR 177.9(d)(2)) and will not, therefore, affect past transactions for the importation of your client's merchandise under that ruling. However, for the purposes of future transactions in merchandise of this type, HRL 086938 will not be valid precedent. We recognize that pending transactions may be adversely affected by this modification, in that current contracts for importations arriving at a port subsequent to this decision will be classified pursuant to it. If such a situation arises, your client may, at its discretion, notify this office and apply for relief from the binding effects of this decision as may be warranted by the circumstances. However, please be advised that in some instances involving import restraints, such relief may require separate approvals from other government agencies.


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