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HQ 950989

September 10, 1992

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 950989 HP


TARIFF NO.: 5602.10.9090

Mr. William L. Morandini
District Director
U.S. Customs Service
Patrick V. McNamara Building
477 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, MI 48266

RE: HRL 087523 modified. Application for Further Review of Protest 3801-9-002667. Felt; nonwoven; bonding; finishing; floor; covering; automobile; underlay

Dear Mr. Morandini:

This is in reply to your Memorandum of August 17, 1990, forwarding an Application for Further Review of Protest No. 3801- 9-002667.


The material at issue is composed of garnetted vegetable and man-made fibers, carded, lapped and needle punched. The material then has sizing (aqueous acrylic emulsion) applied to either or both sides via a foamer. Finally, the sizing is cured by either an oven or a hot roll heated to approximately 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Protestant states that the merchandise is chiefly used as an automotive floor covering underlay.

Protestant attempted entry of this merchandise under heading 5603, HTSUSA, as a nonwoven. Customs disagreed, classifying the material under heading 5602, HTSUSA, as felt.

In HRL 087523 of October 11, 1990, we classified substantially similar merchandise while responding to an Application for Further Review of Protest #0901-9-700975. Therein, we elaborated upon the description of the manufacturing processes as follows: The fibers are blended based upon the grade of material and then are processed through garnetts where the fibers are laid in a parallel process into a continuous web formation. The web is then laid by cross lappers onto a main apron in a "Z" pattern. The apron takes the web to a needle loom where it is needled and further compressed. The web continues through a foamer where sizing, an emulsion consisting of acrylic polymer, residual monomers and water, is applied to the bottom layer of the web.
After exiting the foamer, the web passes over a gas fired hot roll at approximately 400 degrees Fahrenheit driving the water contained in the sizing out through the top of the web. In this manner, the sizing is spread throughout the bottom layer of the web, thereby locking the fibers in place.

The needled padding is also manufactured on [a] one production lone [sic.] using an air laid process, which replaces the garnetts in the web laying stage. The hot roll is replaced on [the] one production line by the use of an oven.

Whether the instant merchandise is considered a felt or a nonwoven under the HTSUSA?


Heading 5602, HTSUSA, covers felt, whether or not impregnated, coated, covered or laminated. The Explanatory Notes (EN) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (Harmonized System) constitute the official interpretation of the scope and content of the tariff at the international level. While not legally binding, they do represent the considered views of classification experts of the Harmonized System Committee. It has therefore been the practice of the Customs Service to follow, whenever possible, the terms of the Explanatory Notes when interpreting the HTSUSA. The EN to this heading states:

This heading also includes needleloom felt which is made ...:

(1) by punching a sheet or web of textile staple fibres (natural or man-made), without a textile fabric base, with notched needles....

The needleloom technique makes it possible to obtain felt from non-felting vegetable fibres (for example, jute) or man-made fibres.The material at issue is therefore prima facie classifiable within heading 5602, HTSUSA, as needleloom felt.

Heading 5603, HTSUSA, provides for nonwovens, whether or not impregnated, coated, covered or laminated The EN to this heading states: A nonwoven is a sheet or web of predominantly textile fibres oriented directionally or randomly and bonded. These fibres may be of natural or man-made origin. They may be staple fibres (natural or man- made) or man-made filaments or may be formed in situ.

Nonwovens can be produced in various ways and production can be conveniently divided into the three stages: web formation, bonding and finishing.

I. Web formation

Four basic methods exist:

(a) by carding or air-laying fibres in order to form a sheet. These fibres may be parallel, cross or random oriented (dry-laid process).

II. Bonding

After web formation the fibres are assembled throughout the thickness throughout the thickness and width of the web (continuous method) or in spots or patches (intermittent method).

This bonding can be divided into three types:

(a) Chemical bonding, in which the fibres are assembled by means of a bonding substance. This may be done by impregnation with an adhesive binder such as rubber, gum, starch, glue or plastics, in solution or emulsion, by heat treatment with plastics in powder form, by solvents, etc. Binding fibres can also be used for chemical bonding.

(b) Thermal bonding, in which the fibres are assembled by submitting them to a heat (or ultrasonic) treatment, passing the web through ovens or between heated rollers
(area bonding) or through heated embossing calendars (point bonding). Binding fibres can also be used for thermal bonding.

(c) Mechanical bonding, in which the webs are strengthened by physical entanglement of the constituent fibres. This may be achieved by means of ... needling....

These various bonding processes may also frequently be combined.

III. Finishing

Nonwovens may be dyed, printed, impregnated, coated, covered or laminated.

The material at issue is also prima facie classifiable within heading 5603, HTSUSA, as a nonwoven. Further analysis is therefore required to differentiate between needleloom felt and mechanically bonded nonwovens. In its description of mechanical bonding, the Explanatory Note to heading 5603, HTSUSA, continues by stating that "[h]owever, needled products regarded as nonwovens are restricted to: ... staple fibre webs where the needling is complementary to other types of bonding." Emphasis added. See also EN to heading 5602 ("needled webs of staple fibres in which the needling is complementary to other types of bonding ... are regarded as nonwovens"); EN to heading 5603 ("[t]he heading ... excludes: ... needleloom felts (heading 56.02)"). If the above-described sizing application is considered a bonding process, as the protestant argues, the needle punching mechanical bonding would be complementary to the chemical bonding, and this merchandise would be classified as a nonwoven.

In HRL 087523, supra, this merchandise was ruled to be a nonwoven:

[t]he application of sizing to the needled product imparts dimensional stability without which the web would be deformed in length and width. Sizing also adds substantially to the web's tensile strength. Attached to [the importer's] submission ... is a comparison of sized and unsized material which indicates that the addition of sizing effectively doubles the article's tensile strength in both the warp and weft, without adding significantly to the weight of the product.

Without sizing, the padding would not conform to the required automotive company specifications. In view of this, Customs considers the needling to be complementary to the chemical bond produced by the polymer in that the polymer not only supplants the needling but is also an integral part of the manufacturing process.

You and the National Import Specialist argue against this position, opining that the application of the sizing is merely a finishing/drying operation for the felt. We agree. Both Explanatory Notes specifically require the needling to be complementary to a second bonding process. Bonding assembles the fibers throughout the thickness of the web; without the bonding stage, fibers would not stay together to form either a felt or a nonwoven. The sizing is applied only to one or both surfaces, and is barely absorbed beyond those surfaces. While this application admittedly imparts significant stability and strength, it does so as a finishing operation. The sizing on its own, unlike the needling, would not hold the web together. It is this failure to bond the entire web, rather than merely the outer surface(s), that causes us to rule that the sizing is not a bonding process. Since only one bonding process exists (needling), the Explanatory Notes clearly support a finding that this needled web of staple fibers to be classified as a felt. HRL 087523 is modified accordingly.


As a result of the foregoing, the instant merchandise is classified under heading 5602.10.9090, HTSUSA, textile category 223, as felt, whether or not impregnated, coated, covered or laminated, needleloom felt and stitch-bonded fiber fabrics, other, other. Articles which meet the definition of "goods originating in the territory of Canada" (see General Note 3(c)(vii)(B), HTSUSA) are subject to reduced rates of duty under the United States-Canada Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act of 1988. If the merchandise constitutes "goods originating in the territory of Canada," the applicable rate of duty is currently 7.5 percent ad valorem; otherwise, the general rate of duty is currently 12.5 percent ad valorem.

In order to insure uniformity in Customs classification of this merchandise and eliminate uncertainty, we are modifying HRL 087523 of October 11, 1990, pursuant to 19 C.F.R. 177.9(d)(1) (1989), to reflect the above classification effective with the date of this letter. This letter is not to be applied retroactively to HRL 087523 (19 C.F.R. 177.9(d)(2) (1989)) and will not, therefore, affect the transaction for the importation of merchandise under that ruling. However, for the purposes of future transactions in merchandise of this type, including that for which the present Application for Further Review of Protest is requested, HRL 087523 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 the release of HRL 950989 will be classified under the new ruling. If such a situation arises, the importer may, at his or her discretion, notify this office and apply for relief from the binding effects of the new ruling as may be dictated by the circumstances. However, please advise the importer that in some instances involving import restraints, such relief may require separate approvals from other government agencies.

You are instructed to deny the Protest in Full. A copy of this decision should be forwarded to the protestant, or protestant's counsel, as part of the Notice of Action.


John Durant, Director

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