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HQ 088292

February 21, 1991

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 088292 KWM


TARIFF NO.: 4421.90.9040

Ms. Karen J. Hiatt
Regional Director of Customs
Commercial Operations Division, Pacific Region United States Customs Service
One World Trade Center, Suite 534
Long Beach, California 90831-0700

RE: Protest Number 3004-90-000140, Seattle District; Edge-glued hemlock squares; Builders' joinery and carpentry of wood; Other articles of wood.

Dear Ms. Hiatt:

This is in regard to the Application for Further Review of protest number 3004- 90-000140, received May 25, 1990 by U.S. Customs in Blaine, Washington. We hold that the protest should be denied for the following reasons.


The merchandise at issue is referred to as hemlock turning squares or hemlock post blanks. It consists of laminated wood surfaced on four sides, measuring 4 inches by 4 inches in cross section and between 48 and 60 inches in length. In this condition, the merchandise is not dedicated to any specific use. It may be further worked into various products such as stair parts, spindles, porch posts and furniture parts.

The merchandise was entered as articles classified in subheading 4418.90.2000, HTSUSA, which provides for other articles of builders' joinery and carpentry. The port of entry proposed to classify the goods as other articles of wood, in subheading 4418.90.9040, HTSUSA. This protest followed.


Are the goods at issue classified as articles of builders' joinery and carpentry, or as other articles of wood?


Classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). The systematic detail of the harmonized system is such that virtually all goods are classified by application of GRI 1, that is, according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relevant Section or Chapter Notes. In the event that the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRI's may be applied, taken in order.

The importer correctly notes that heading terms and chapter and section notes are the primary considerations when classifying goods under the Harmonized Schedule. However, the importer implies that the Explanatory Notes are legally binding and must be read in conjunction with the heading terms. In fact, the Explanatory Notes are merely instructive; they are not legally binding. We do note that the Explanatory Notes are the official interpretation of the nomenclature at the international level and although Customs has indicated that we will consult the Explanatory Notes in almost all cases, we are not bound by them.

Heading 4418, HTSUSA, provides for:

4418 Builders' joinery and carpentry of wood, including cellular wood panels and assembled parquet panels; shingles and shakes:

In conjunction with that heading, chapter note 3, states:

1. Headings 4414 to 4421 apply to articles of the respective descriptions of particle board or similar board, fiber board, laminated wood or densified wood as they apply to such articles of wood.

The provisions of chapter note 3, above, are legally binding on the Customs Service. Therefore, if the merchandise at issue is found to be "laminated wood" within the scope of the chapter note, and if the merchandise is considered to be "builders' joinery and carpentry" for tariff purposes, then the goods may properly be classified in heading 4418, HTSUSA. We hold that although the merchandise may be laminated wood, it is not an article described as "builders' joinery and carpentry."

Laminated Wood

Customs has held that laminated wood is made from edge-glued lumber, and that edge-glued lumber is lumber made of layers of wood that have been glued together (See, Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 087616, dated August 20, 1990). Laminated wood is distinguishable from the "glue laminated timber (glulam)" described in the Explanatory Notes. We have held that glulam is a particular type of structural timber product obtained by gluing together a number of wood laminations in a certain way to provide structural strength. Special construction, dimension and load bearing capacity are all features of glulam which are not evident in the instant merchandise (See, HRL 085227).

The articles in question may be properly described as laminated wood; they are constructed of hemlock pieces, edge-glued to form a blank from which finished parts may be made. They are neither finished articles in and of themselves as imported, nor are they glulam as anticipated by the Explanatory Notes.

Builders' Joinery and Carpentry

Having established that the material at issue is laminated wood, we must determine if the merchandise, in the condition in which it is imported, is builders' joinery or carpentry. The Explanatory Notes indicate that:

The term "joinery" applies more particularly to builders' fittings (such as doors, windows, shutters, stairs, door or window frames), whereas the term "carpentry" refers to woodwork (such as beams, rafters, and roof struts) used for structural purposes . . .

Builders' carpentry also includes glue-laminated timber (glulam) , , ,

First, the goods cannot be classified as carpentry because they are not considered to be glue-laminated timber (glulam), as detailed above. Second, the merchandise as imported is not sufficiently finished to constitute either joinery or carpentry. The importer asserts that carpentry refers to "woodwork used for structural purposes." We do not agree that the term can be defined so simply. Both joinery and carpentry consist of articles which have been subject to some form of millwork or other working associated with a specific end product. The imported blanks may be suitable for any number of purposes, including manufacture into builders' joinery. However, at the time of importation that ultimate use is not evident from the condition of the goods. In our opinion they are not sufficiently advanced to be considered articles of heading 4418. HTSUSA. (See also, New York Ruling Letter (NYRL) 847226 and HRL 087616).

Subheading 4418.90.20, HTSUSA, "Edge-glued lumber"

The importer has suggested that subheading 4418.90.20, HTSUSA, which provides for "edge-glued lumber", serves to classify the merchandise by application of GRI 1. We appreciate that the subheading terms, read in isolation, may lead to that conclusion. However, the terms of a subheading at the 8-digit level such as this can only be read in light of the terms of the superior headings. In this case, the superior heading, 4418, HTSUSA, provides for specific articles, namely builders' joinery and carpentry. If the merchandise does not fit within the scope of the heading, the heading must be discounted, and examination of its subheadings is precluded. Thus, although "edge-glued lumber" may describe the goods, we are precluded by the superior heading from classifying the goods under subheading 4418.90.20, HTSUSA.

Duty-free treatment under the United States-Canada Free Trade Agreement

Because no heading specifically provides for this merchandise, it is classified as other articles of wood under subheading 4421.90.9040, HTSUSA. Subheading 9905.44.15, HTSUSA, provides that goods described as:

Laminated hemlock post blanks, finger jointed lumber, and edge-glued lumber (provided for in subheading 4421.90.90)
may be entered free of duty, provided that they are goods originating in Canada as set forth in the United States-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Subheading 9905.44.15, HTSUSA, was announced in Presidential Proclamation 6142 (55 Fed. Reg. 21835, May 30, 1990). Section C of Proclamation 6142 states that the modifications to chapter 99, including subheading 9905.44.15, HTSUSA, were "effective with respect to articles entered, or withdrawn from warehouse for consumption on or after April 1, 1990. . .." The instant merchandise was entered on April 27, 1989. Therefore, the entry under protest is not eligible for duty-free status under the FTA.


The protest should be denied. The merchandise at issue, described as edge glued hemlock squares or hemlock post blanks, consisting of rectangular block of laminated hemlock, not worked or finished beyond simple cutting to size, are classified in subheading 4421.90.9040, HTSUSA, as other wood products. The applicable rate of duty is 5.1 percent ad valorem.

Because these goods were entered prior to the April 1, 1990 effective date of subheading 9905.44.15, HTSUSA, these goods are not eligible for duty-free treatment.


John A. Durant
Commercial Rulings Division

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