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HQ 951978

October 2, 1992

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 951978 SK


TARIFF NO's.: 6210.10.2000; 6307.90.6000

Ken W. Read
Baxter Healthcare Corporation
Convertors Operation
One Butterfield Trail
El Paso, Texas 79906

RE: Affirmation of HRL 086629 (5/4/90); essential character determination is appropriate where article qualifies as a composite good; neither the paper nor the nonwoven textile fabric imparts the essential character; GRI 3(c); headings 6210 and 6307, HTSUSA; EN to Chap. 48.

Dear Mr. Read:

On May 4, 1990, this office issued you Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 086629, classifying various surgical garments and drapes made from a material known as "Sontara." Upon further review, our holding in that ruling is affirmed and our analysis follows.


HRL 086629 classified surgical garments and drapes made from "Sontara" under subheading 6210.10.2000, HTSUSA, for the garments and subheading 6307.90.6000, HTSUSA, for the drapes. It was determined that as neither the paper nor the nonwoven textile fabric imparted the essential character to the merchandise, classification of these articles was properly based on a GRI 3(c) analysis.

HRL 086629 served to revoke HRL 081946, dated December 29, 1989. Although the holding in HRL 081946 was deemed incorrect, the rationale in that ruling was proper.

You seek classification of the subject merchandise under Chapter 48, HTSUSA, and contend that these articles are properly classifiable as hospital articles of paper. This claim was also addressed in HRL 086629.

The seven articles which were the subject of HRL 086629 were a scrub top, scrub pants, warm-up jacket, two types of operating gowns, a surgical drape and a perineal towel. All of the products are assembled in Mexico from a material described as "Sontara" which consists of a woodpulp paper and a polyester fiber batt which have been hydraulically entangled together by a patented water jet process. This structure is then water repellant treated with a fluorochemical and wax finish emulsion. All of the articles are used exclusively in hospitals during surgical procedures and are discarded after a single use.


Is the essential character of these articles imparted by their paper or textile components?

What is the proper classification of these articles?


Classification of merchandise under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1 provides that classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes. Where the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the remaining headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRI's may be applied in order of their appearance.

In earlier submissions, you stated that "Sontara" is composed of 55% wood pulp with only a 45% textile content. Fiber analysis conducted by the U.S. Customs Laboratory indicates that the material is composed of only 49% wood pulp, although later headquarters rulings did not contest that the product contained 55% wood pulp. You further assert that because the textile component does not predominate by weight, this product can not be classified as a textile. In support of this contention, you cite the Explanatory Notes (EN) to Chapter 48, HTSUSA, which state:

Where the textile fibers predominate by weight, the products are not regarded as paper and are classified as nonwovens (heading 56.03)."

The Explanatory Notes (EN) to the Harmonized Commodity and Description Coding System, although not legally binding, are the official interpretation of the nomenclature at the international level. This language does not mean that the percentage of textile fibers in this product is necessarily determinative of classification.

Chapter 48 refers to the type of product where woodpulp and textile fibers are mixed in one slurry and then a paper or a nonwoven product is made from that slurry. "Sontara" is not made this way. This material consists of two layers, one of which is woodpulp, the other a polyester fiber batt. The two preexistant layers are then hydraulically entangled by a patented water jet process. One side of the "Sontara" is described as "paper rich", the other as "polyester rich." After the water jet process, the woodpulp and the polyester are intermingled but one side remains predominantly woodpulp and the other side predominantly polyester.

As this product is comprised of a paper portion and a textile portion, this article is a composite good and the relevant analysis for classification purposes is provided by GRI 3 which reads:

When, by application of rule 2(b) or for any other reason, goods are, prima facie, classifiable under two or more headings, classification shall be affected as follows:

(a) The heading which provides the most specific description shall be preferred to headings providing a more general description.
However, when two or more headings each refer to part only of the materials...contained in mixed or composite goods...those headings are to be regarded as equally specific in relation to those goods, even if one of them gives a more complete or precise description of the goods.

As noted supra, this product has a paper and a textile component and they are equally provided for in the Nomenclature. GRI 3(b) applies as follows:

(b) ... composite goods consisting of different materials which cannot be classified by reference to 3(a), shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character.

Explanatory Note VIII to GRI 3(b) states that:

The factor which determines essential character will vary as between different kinds of goods. It may, for example, be determined by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the role of a constituent material in relation to the use of the goods.

With regard to the subject merchandise, it is impossible to determine which of its components determines this article's essential character: both make significant contributions to the product, both are essential to the function of "Sontara", and the contribution of the paper component does not so outweigh the textile contribution so that it clearly imparts this product's essential character.

GRI 3(c) sets forth that when goods cannot be classified by reference to 3(a) or 3(b), they shall be classified under the heading which occurs last in numerical order among those which equally merit consideration. Accordingly, the article at issue is properly classified under headings 6210, HTSUSA and heading 6307, HTSUSA, as these headings occur later in numerical order than do the relevant headings in Chapter 48, HTSUSA.


HRL 086629 is affirmed.

The garments made from "Sontara" are classifiable under subheading 6210.10.2000, HTSUSA, which provides for garments made up of fabrics of heading 5603, formed on a base of paper or covered or lined with paper. The rate of duty is 5.6% ad valorem.

The drapes made from "Sontara" are classifiable under subheading 6307.90.6000, HTSUSA, which provides for surgical drapes of fabric formed on a base of paper or covered or lined with paper, dutiable at a rate of 5.6% ad valorem.

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
Commercial Rulings Division

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