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HQ 951483

January 29, 1993

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 951483 jb


Area Director of Customs
N.Y. Seaport Area
6 World Trade Center, Suite 716
New York, NY 10048-0945

RE: Reconsideration of HQ 086391; clarification of term latex as an "impregnant"; subheading 4811.90.3000, HTSUSA

Dear Sir:

This letter is in response to a request from your office, file CLA-2-48:S:N1:234, dated January 10, 1992, for reconsideration of HQ 086391, dated April 10, 1990. That ruling regarded the classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), of other paper, impregnated with latex, in subheading 4811.90.3000.

You make reference to two Customs rulings which you state are inconsistent in respect to one another. In HQ 086391, dated April 10, 1990, Customs determined that for tariff purposes, "impregnation" occurs when a paper is treated with a substance which permeates it and gives it special qualities. The air-laid paper that was the subject of that ruling contained latex as a binding agent, and did not convey special qualities to the paper. As such, the paper was not regarded as "impregnated" for classification purposes.

On the other hand, an earlier decision, HQ 082776, dated March 13, 1990, classified a product called "Storalene 537", containing 13 percent by weight, latex binder, as impregnated paper. Though this case focused on a different issue (whether Storalene 537 was "paper" or "non-woven textile") the paper was given a classification of "impregnated paper" despite the fact that the latex acted solely as a binder.

In view of these decisions, you feel Customs must clarify its position. In your opinion, the finding in HQ 082776, should be upheld and that of HQ 086391, modified. Your rationale is that HQ 086391, which precludes latex binder from causing paper to be classified in heading 4811, may be too restrictive in scope. You argue that since latex will always bind to the fibers of a paper, this interpretation of "impregnated", if followed, would prevent any product from being classified in subheading 4811.90.3000, HTSUSA.
Customs has submitted the referenced Headquarters rulings regarding binders and impregnants to the Customs laboratory for a complete review. Their findings confirm our initial determinations. The different results obtained in those rulings were not due to an inconsistency or oversight on the behalf of Customs. Those determinations were based on the different methods of manufacture that were controlling in each case.

According to the Customs laboratory report, with which this office agrees, in order to be considered an impregnant, latex must be applied after the formation of the sheet. The latex may also impart "special qualities" to the paper, such as resistance to water or grease, as is described in the Explanatory Notes to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (EN) to chapter 48, HTSUSA:

Impregnated paper and paperboard

Most of these papers and paperboards are obtained by treatment with oils, waxes, plastics, etc., in such a manner as to permeate them and give them special qualities (e.g., to render them waterproof, greaseproof, and sometimes translucent or transparent). They are used largely for protective wrapping or as insulating materials. Emphasis added.

When latex is added during the sheet formation, it may be considered as a binder only.

The Storalene brand paper sheet of HQ 082776 was formed by a traditional wet-laid papermaking process involving the application of latex to both sides of the paper after the formation of the sheet. According to the New York Customs Laboratory, the latex also imparted the characteristics of stiffness to the paper, as well as slight water and oil resistance. Accordingly, the paper was given classification as impregnated paper, as per the EN to chapter 48, HTSUSA.

On the other hand, HQ 086391, concerned "air-laid" paper. The term "air-laid" refers to the process of the web or fiber mat formation. It does not describe any binding or impregnating process. Binding may be accomplished by a variety of methods, including the thermal bonding of binder fibers. In this case, the latex was applied during the formation of the sheet, prior to the cure drying process. As such, the latex acted only as a binder for the cellulose fibers. The finished product is an absorbent paper, upon which, the latex imparts no special qualities, as discussed in the EN to chapter 48, HTSUSA.

In conclusion, both rulings concerning binders and impregnants are technically correct, based on distinct manufacturing processes. Accordingly, the determination in HQ 086391 is affirmed.


John Durant, Director

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