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HQ 951113

May 19, 1992

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 951113 HP


TARIFF NO.: 4202.92.1500

Mr. Kevin J. Downey
Sullivan & Lynch, P.C.
156 State Street
Boston, MA 02129

RE: HRL 950708 & HRL 950709 affirmed. Tote bags are travel, sports and similar bags, not handbags.

Dear Mr. Downey:

This is in reply to your letter of January 20, 1992. That letter concerned the tariff classification, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), of tote bags, produced in an unstated country. Please reference your client The Gem Group.


The merchandise at issue consists of a range of cotton tote bags, of which the sample, Item 124, has been submitted as representative. Item 124 is manufactured of natural cotton textile materials, has an open top, and is unlined. The interior of the bag has neither pockets nor closures. It measures approximately 14" x 141/2". The fabric is natural color and is intended to be printed with text and/or an advertising logo prior to sale. You state that the merchandise is intended to be used as a premium giveaway. The sample is similar to style 170, shown on page 17 of your client's 1991 catalog, and described as a grocery bag. Similarly styled bags are described as for "shoppers, book lovers, and beach goers."

In HRL 086094 of March 16, 1990, and HRL 086938 of August 20, 1990, both issued to your client, we classified this type of merchandise as handbags. In HRL 950708 and HRL 950709, respectively, both of December 24, 1991, we revoked the aforementioned rulings, finding that the tote bags were properly classifiable as for travel or sports, or similar thereto. You disagree, asking us to revoke the two December 24, 1991, rulings, and reinstate the 1990 rulings issued to your client.


Whether the merchandise at issue is considered a handbag or a travel, sports or similar bag under the HTSUSA?


Subheading 4202.22, HTSUSA, provides for handbags. In HRL 086094, supra, we classified this type of merchandise as such, following the rule of Mamiye & Sons, Inc. v. United States. At issue in Mamiye was whether the tote bags were classifiable, under the Tariff Schedules of the United States, as handbags or as textile articles not specifically provided for. The Court noted that even though the tote bags were used as shopping bags to carry purchases, half of the witnesses testified that they also used the tote bags to carry articles too large for their conventional handbags; therefore, this testimony was "sufficient to establish the use of a tote bag [as] similar to a handbag...."

You argue that this finding is still binding. We disagree. In HRLs 950708 and 950709, supra, we noted that tote bags similar to those at issue, while in some circumstances may be used as secondary handbags, are used for a variety of purposes. See also Adolco Trading Co. v. United States, 71 Cust. Ct. 145, C.D. 4487 (1973) ("tote is a general [term] used to indicate all types of carry bags"). We also stated that [t]he 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. [Emphasis added.]

You also argue that since Congress failed to overturn the Mamiye finding at conversion to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, the principle still applies. We dispute this conclusion. 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 such "classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes...." Additional U.S. Note 1 to Chapter 42, HTSUSA, provides:

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 [i.e., suitcases & handbags], of a kind designed for carrying clothing and other personal effects during travel, including backpacks and shopping bags of this heading....

By specifically including shopping bags of this heading within the broad category of goods designed for carrying personal effects during travel, it is clear Congress (a) took notice that shopping bags may be correctly classifiable within heading 4202, HTSUSA, and (b) did not intend for the "travel, sports and similar bags" provision to encompass only those bags sufficiently sturdy as to withstand the rigors of travel that conventional luggage is designed to meet. HRLs 950708 and 950709 were correct in their finding that the instant tote bags fall within the definition of "travel, sports and similar bags," and are hereby affirmed.


As a result of the foregoing, the instant merchandise is classified under subheading 4202.92.1500, HTSUSA, textile category 369, as trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, attache cases, briefcases, school satchels, spectacle cases, binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, gun cases, holsters and similar containers; traveling bags, toiletry bags, knapsacks and backpacks, handbags, shopping bags, wallets, purses, map cases, cigarette cases, tobacco pouches, tool bags, sports bags, bottle cases, jewelry boxes, powder cases, cutlery cases and similar containers, of leather or of composition leather, of plastic sheeting, of textile materials, of vulcanized fiber or of paperboard, or wholly or mainly covered with such materials, other, with outer surface of plastic sheeting or of textile materials, travel, sports and similar bags, with outer surface of textile materials, of vegetable materials and not of pile or tufted construction, of cotton. The applicable rate of duty is 7.2 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.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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