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HQ 557057

February 23, 1993

CLA-2 CO:R:C:S 557057 MLR


TARIFF NO.: 6117.80.0010; 9802.00.80

District Director
U.S. Customs Service
Lincoln Juarez Bridge, Bldg. #2
P.O. Box 3130
Laredo, Texas 78044-3130

RE: Internal Advice Request No. 66/92; Applicability of partial duty exemption under HTSUSA subheading 9802.00.80 to shoulder pads; sewing; trimming; tariff classification.

Dear Sir:

This is in response to your memorandum of September 4, 1992, seeking internal advice regarding the applicability of subheading 9802.00.80, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), to shoulder pads from Mexico. Samples were submitted with your request.


J.M.S. International, Inc. (hereinafter J.M.S.) receives a contract from Met-Tex Inc. of Hoboken, New Jersey, for the assembly of shoulder pads which are suitable for women's dresses. One or more U.S. companies will supply J.M.S. with pre-cut cotton knit fabric covers, flexible foam, and velcro strips. J.M.S. will ship these materials to its Maquiladora operation (J.M.S. SA de CV) in Acuna, Mexico.

Three sewing machine operations are required to make the shoulder pads. At the first operation, an overlock machine operator sews the pre-cut fabric together with a Yamato sewing machine. At the second operation, the velcro is sewn on top of the fabric with a double-needle Singer sewing machine. At the third operation, the pad is sewn all around with a Yamato machine using an overlock double stitch. Trimmers cut excess thread from the fabric after each operation. Clippers clip, count and put the shoulder pads in boxes. J.M.S. SA de CV will then ship the finished shoulder pads, approximately 13 millimeters (mm) long and 10mm wide, to Met-Tex, Inc. through Acuna, Mexico-Del Rio, Texas.

I. Whether the shoulder pads will qualify for the partial duty exemption available under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUSA, when returned to the United States.

II. What is the proper classification of the shoulder pads under the HTSUSA?


I. Formation of Shoulder Pads

Subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUSA, provides a partial duty exemption for:

[a]rticles assembled abroad in whole or in part of fabricated components, the product of the United States, which (a) were exported in condition ready for assembly without further fabrication, (b) have not lost their physical identity in such articles by change in form, shape, or otherwise, and (c) have not been advanced in value or improved in condition abroad except by being assembled and except by operations incidental to the assembly process, such as cleaning, lubricating and painting.

All three requirements of subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUSA, must be satisfied before a component may receive a duty allowance. An article entered under this tariff provision is subject to duty upon the full cost or value of the imported assembled article, less the cost or value of the U.S. components assembled therein, upon compliance with the documentary requirements of section 10.24, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 10.24).

Section 10.14(a), Customs Regulations {19 CFR 10.14(a)}, states in part that:

[t]he components must be in condition ready for assembly without further fabrication at the time of their exportation from the United States to qualify for the exemption. Components will not lose their entitlement to the exemption by being subjected to operations incidental to the assembly either before, during, or after their assembly with other components.

Section 10.16(a), Customs Regulations {19 CFR 10.16(a)}, provides that the assembly operation performed abroad may consist of any method used to join or fit together solid components, such as welding, soldering, riveting, force fitting, gluing, lamination, sewing, or the use of fasteners.

Operations incidental to the assembly process are not considered further fabrication operations, as they are of a minor nature and cannot always be provided for in advance of the assembly operations. See 19 CFR 10.16(a). However, any significant process, operation or treatment whose primary purpose is the fabrication, completion, physical or chemical improvement of a component precludes the application of the exemption under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUSA, to that component. See 19 CFR 10.16(c).

The first operation of sewing the pre-cut fabric pieces together, the second operation of sewing the velcro on top of the fabric, and the third operation of sewing the edges of the pad with an overlock double stitch are considered acceptable assembly operations pursuant to 19 CFR 10.16(a), because in each instance, two solid components are being joined (i.e., sewn) together. Trimming the excess thread off of the fabric is considered an acceptable operation incidental to assembly pursuant to 19 CFR 10.16(b)(4), which states that trimming, filing, or cutting off of small amounts of excess materials is an acceptable incidental operation. Packing the shoulder pads is permissible under 19 CFR 10.16(f).

II. Classification of Shoulder Pads

The shoulder pads at issue are constructed from an outer shell of 100 percent cotton knit fabric into which a foam padding, approximately 8mm thick, has been inserted. A Velcro- like strip is sewn to the shoulder pads which enables them to be easily attached or removed from the women's dresses into which they will be inserted.

Heading 6117, HTSUSA, provides for "other made up clothing accessories, knitted or crocheted; knitted or crocheted parts of garments or of clothing accessories." Explanatory Note (3) to heading 6117, HTSUSA, expressly provides for "shoulder or other pads." As shoulder pads are specifically enumerated in the EN to heading 6117, HTSUSA, there is no doubt that the subject merchandise is classifiable within this provision of the Nomenclature.

The determinative issue is whether the articles at issue are classifiable as "clothing accessories" under subheading 6117.80.0010, HTSUSA, or as "parts of garments" under subheading 6117.90.0052, HTSUSA. The term "accessory" is not defined in the tariff schedule or EN. Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, (1977), defines "accessory" as a thing of secondary or subordinate importance or an object or device not essential in itself but adding to the beauty, convenience, or effectiveness of something else. Customs defined "accessory" in Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 088540 dated June 3, 1991, as an article that is related to a primary article, and intended for use solely or principally with a specific article. In the case before us, the primary articles are articles of clothing (specifically, women's dresses) and the shoulder pads serve to enhance the appearance of the dresses and will be used principally, if not solely, with the dresses. The shoulder pads at issue fully meet the definition of accessory and, as they accessorize clothing, they are properly classifiable under subheading 6117.80.0010, HTSUSA, as "other accessories of cotton."

The articles at issue are not classifiable as "parts of garments" because this term refers to articles that are integral parts of whole garments (i.e., sleeves, lapels, collars, etc...). Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, (1977), describes "part" as that which is "an essential portion or integral element of the whole." The essential difference between a clothing part and a clothing accessory is that the latter does not serve to complete a garment, but rather serves to add to a garment's beauty or effectiveness. A clothing accessory's use is optional and its absence does not serve to render the article it accessorizes incomplete. A clothing part completes a garment and makes it whole. In other words, parts go to the completion of a garment, accessories enhance a garment. An apt analogy is provided by using a suit as an example; the sleeves are garment parts and they are integral to the suit and make it complete whereas shoulder pads merely enhance the fit of the suit and are not essential components without which the suit is incomplete.

Moreover, we note that classification of the shoulder pads at issue is not based on the fact that they are detachable. The degree of permanency to which shoulder pads are affixed to clothing will not determine their classification. As noted by the court in Vilem B. Haan v. United States, 67 Cust. Ct. 104, 332 F.Supp. 182 (1971), "[W]hether a given article is a part of another article depends on the nature of the so-called 'part' and its function and purpose in relation to the article which it is designed to serve." A shoulder pad, whether attached by a hook and loop fastener or sewn to a garment, will never be integral to the garment, it will merely enhance the garment's appearance. Therefore, it is the fact that the shoulder pad is not an integral component to the dress that determines its classification as a clothing accessory, and not that the shoulder pads are, in this instance, detachable.


I. On the basis of the information and sample submitted, it is our opinion that the operations performed abroad to create the shoulder pads are considered proper assembly operations or operations incidental to the assembly process. Therefore, allowances in duty may be made under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUSA, for the cost or value of the U.S. fabricated components incorporated into the shoulder pads when they are returned to the United States, provided the documentary requirements of 19 CFR 10.24 are satisfied.

II. The subject merchandise is classifiable under subheading 6117.80.0010, HTSUSA, as an other made up clothing accessory, knitted or crocheted, of cotton, dutiable at a rate of 15.5 percent ad valorem. The textile quota category is 359.

The designated textile and apparel categories may be subdivided into parts. If so, the 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 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 updated weekly and is available for inspection at your local Customs office.

Due to the 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.


John Durant, Director

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