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HQ 953138

March 18, 1993

CLA-2-C:R:C:M 953138 MMC


TARIFF NO.: 7616.90.00

Mr. John M. Peterson, Esq.
Neville, Peterson, & Williams
39 Broadway
New York, New York 10006

RE: Reflective aluminum decorative covering; headings 7606, 7607, 3901, 8306; HQ 086405; chapter 76 note 1(d)

Dear Mr. Peterson:

This is in response to your letter dated 11/14/92 submitted on behalf of Mitsubishi Kasei America, Inc., to the Regional Commissioner of Customs in New York for a classification ruling on "A-Look" and "A-Look EX" decorative coverings under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Your letter was forwarded together with a sample of the article to Customs Headquarters for a reply.


A-Look is a composite material made by laminating a polyethylene core between two sheets of aluminum alloy. The silver colored surface is electroplated with a layer of nickel and chromium, the bronze colored surface is electroplated with nickel alloy, and the gold colored surface is electroplated with brass. The back of A-Look is coated with an acrylic resin. A- Look EX is also a composite material made by laminating a polyethylene core between two sheets of aluminum alloy with a backing of fluoride resin. A-Look EX is specially designed for use outdoors and in locations exposed to high humidity.

Both articles are imported in standard sizes ranging from 2 feet square to 4 feet by 10 feet square, however they can be manufactured in any size and are advertised as an unbreakable, light weight, flexible, metallic mirror. Both products' reflective exterior surface may be etched or inscribed with decorative patterns. Both can be bent and applied to curved surfaces, machined to different sizes and shapes, and mechanically worked (e.g., by cutting, punching, grooving and bending). Both articles are used in a variety of places such as ceilings, walls, columns, furniture, displays, and as trims and accents.

The articles are sold in two different thicknesses, 3 millimeters (mm) and 2 millimeters (mm). The amount of polyethylene creates the difference in thickness. Polyethylene is the heaviest component of the 3 mm thick sample weighing 0.49 of a pound(lb.) per square foot(sq.ft.). The aluminum sheets weigh 0.28 lb. per sq.ft. The polyethylene costs $0.20 per sq.ft. and the aluminum sheets cost $0.34 per sq.ft.. For the 2 mm sample, polyethylene predominates by weight, weighing 0.29 lb. per sq.ft., compared to the aluminum sheets which weigh 0.28 lb. per sq.ft.. Aluminum costs $0.34 per sq. ft., while the polyethylene costs $0.12 per sq.ft.. Trace amounts of nickel, brass, or chromium are electroplated onto the front aluminum sheet to give the different articles their varying colors.


Are the products classifiable as (1) a mirror of base metal, (2) other articles of aluminum, (3) aluminum plates, sheets and strip, of a thickness exceeding 0.2mm, (4) aluminum foil (whether or not printed, or backed with paper, paperboard, plastics, or similar backing materials) of a thickness not exceeding 0.2mm, or as (4) polymers of ethylene, in primary forms?


Classification of merchandise under the HTSUS is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1, HTSUS, states in part that for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes. The headings at issue are as follows:

8306 (m)irrors of base metal;

7606 Aluminum plates, sheets and strip, of a thickness exceeding 0.2mm.

7607 Aluminum foil (whether or not printed, or backed with paper, paperboard, plastics or similar backing materials) of a thickness (excluding any backing) not exceeding 0.2mm.

7616 Other articles of aluminum

3901 Polymers of ethylene, in primary forms

You have suggested that A-Look is classifiable as a mirror of base metal in subheading 8306.30.00, HTSUS. We disagree.

In understanding the language of the HTSUS, the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes may be consulted. The Explanatory Notes (EN), although not dispositive, are to be used to determine the proper interpretation of the HTSUS. 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128, (August 23, 1989). EN 83.06, pg. 1123, states in pertinent part that mirrors of base metal include metallic mirrors(other than optical elements), e.g., wall or pocket mirrors and rear-view mirrors, generally made of steel, or of chromium, nickel, or silver-plated steel or brass. While the EN lists examples of types of "mirrors of base metal", it does not define the term itself. Nowhere else in the HTSUS is the term "mirror of base metal" defined.

A tariff term that is not defined in the HTSUS or in the EN's is construed in accordance with its common and commercial meaning, Nippon Kogasku (USA) Inc. v. United States, 69 CCPA 89, 673 F.2d 380 (1982). Common and commercial meaning may be determined by consulting dictionaries, lexicons, scientific authorities and other reliable sources. C.J. Tower & Sons vs. United States, 69 CCPA 128, 673 F.2d 1268 (1982). Webster's New Riverside University Dictionary (1988) defines mirror as a surface able to reflect enough undiffused light to form a virtual image of an object placed before it. Something that faithfully reflects or gives a true picture of something else. The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged, (1966) defines mirror as "a reflecting surface, originally of polished metal but now usually of glass with a silvery, metallic, or amalgam backing; such a surface set into a frame, attached to a handle, etc. for use in viewing oneself, etc. McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, 7th Edition, (1992) further defines mirror by stating in pertinent part the most familiar use of reflecting optical surfaces is for the examination of one's own reflected image in a flat or plane mirror. From these definitions it would appear that there are two requirements for an article to be considered a mirror; it must be able to reflect enough undiffused light to form a virtual image of an object placed before it, and its most common use is to view one's own reflected image.

Additional U.S. Note 1(a), HTSUS, provides that in the absence of special language or context which otherwise requires- - (a) a tariff classification controlled by use (other than actual use) is to be determined in accordance with the use in the United States at, or immediately prior to, the date of importation, of goods of that class or kind to which the imported goods belong, and the controlling use is the principal use. At the time of importation, the principal use of these articles are not as mirrors, but rather as decorative wall coverings.

The A-Look and A-Look EX products do not meet the two requirements for consideration as a mirror. Many of the articles will be machined and worked in such a way that it will be impossible for the product to form a virtual image of an object placed before it. Furthermore, those few samples which are able to reflect a virtual image will not be principally used to examine one's own reflected image, but rather to cover walls, ceilings, furniture, etc. as a decoration.

We note that this interpretation of heading 8306, HTSUS, concurs with the HTSUS's interpretation of glass wall decorations and glass mirrors. In HQ 086405 dated 4/16/90, we found that a glass mirrored wall decoration was classifiable in heading 7013, HTSUS, which provides for glassware of a kind used for table, kitchen, toilet, office, indoor decoration or similar purposes. The submitted sample was a piece of etched reflective glass contained in a wooden frame. The central portion of the glass featured the name and logo of an NFL football team. The names of the other NFL teams and a colored strip outlined the periphery of the glass.

Heading 7009, HTSUS, provides for glass mirrors, whether or not framed, including rear-view mirrors. The EN's for this heading at page 933 indicate that this heading includes [m]irrors, whether or not framed, bearing printed illustrations on one surface, provided they retain the essential character of mirrors. However, once the printing is such as to preclude use as a mirror, these goods are classifiable in heading 7013, HTSUS, as decorative articles of glass. We ruled, in HQ 086405 that this article lost its essential character as a mirror because the sample would not be principally used to see one's reflection. The purpose of the article was embodied in its decorative effect.

Four remaining headings describe the A-Look and A-Look EX products. Of these four, three describe a different form of aluminum which would correspond to the aluminum parts of the articles and the fourth describes the polyethylene secured between the two aluminum parts. Because the articles are described in more than one heading they are considered composite goods.

GRI 3 states that 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 effected as follows:

(b) Mixtures, composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components, and goods put up for retail sale, 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, insofar as this criterion is applicable.

EN VIII to GRI 3(b), pg. 4, 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.

We find that aluminum imparts the essential character to these articles. As noted above, aluminum costs more than polyethylene. Furthermore, the front and back of the articles are comprised of aluminum, and aluminum is the surface which serves as a base for the trace amounts of nickel, chromium, or brass which give the articles their reflective quality. While polyethylene weighs more it costs less and serves only as support for the aluminum.

Because we have determined that the articles are essentially of aluminum, three possible headings are left that describe the articles; heading 7606, HTSUS, which provides for aluminum sheets, heading 7607, HTSUS, which provides for aluminum foil, and heading 7616, which provides for other articles of aluminum.

Heading 7606, HTSUS, provides for aluminum plates, sheets and strip, of a thickness exceeding 0.2mm. Heading 7607, HTSUS, provides for aluminum foil. Chapter 76 note 1(d) defines plates, sheets, strip and foil as: Flat-surfaced products coiled or not, of solid rectangular (other than square) cross section with or without rounded corners, of a uniform thickness, which are:

- of rectangular (including square) shape with a thickness not exceeding one-tenth of width.

These products are not an aluminum sheet or aluminum foil because they do not meet the description outlined in the EN's for products of either of the two headings. EN 76.06, pg. 1065, states that aluminum sheets correspond to similar goods made of copper. The provisions to heading 74.09 apply mutatis mutandis to this heading. EN 74.09, pg.1048, provides that all such goods remain in the heading( in this instance heading 7606) if worked(e.g., cut to shape, perforated, corrugated, ribbed, channelled, polished, coated, embossed, or rounded at the edges) provided they do not thereby assume the character of articles or of products of other headings. A-Look and A-Look EX, cannot be considered an aluminum sheet because they consist of two aluminum sheets with a polyethylene core and backings of resin. The entire product is not an aluminum sheet, but an article made from aluminum sheets.

Further, these articles are not classifiable as aluminum foil. EN 74.10, pg. 1048, which applies mutatis mutandis, to aluminum foil states, in pertinent part:

[o]ther foil, such as that used for making fancy goods, is often backed with paper, paperboard, plastics, or similar backing materials, either for convenience of handling, transport, or in order to facilitate subsequent treatment, etc.

Thus, even if we assume that the aluminum meets the 0.2mm thickness requirement and the resin backing could be found attributable to one of the sheets and the polyethylene backing could be attributable to the other aluminum sheet, the finished product would not meet the EN description. Although we have not been informed as to the precise reason for the resin and polyethylene layers, they appear to be present for structural, and installation reasons as well as a form of protection from the environment. Clearly, they are not for convenience of handling, transport, etc. Furthermore, the EN refers to foil sheets backed with plastics, etc., not sheets backed with polyethylene in combination with other backed foil sheets. These sheets cannot be aluminum foil for the same reasons they cannot be aluminum sheets.

A-Look and A-Look EX are classifiable as other articles of aluminum in heading 7616, HTSUS. EN 76.16, pg. 1070, states that this heading covers all articles of aluminum other than those covered by the preceding headings of this Chapter, or by Note 1 of section XV, or by Chapter 82 or 83, or more specifically defined by the Nomenclature. These articles are not covered by another heading of this chapter as discussed above, they are not listed in Note 1 of Section XV or in Chapter 82 or 83, and they are not more specifically defined by the Nomenclature.


A-Look and A-Look EX are classifiable as other articles of aluminum in heading 7616.90.00, HTSUS. They are subject to a column one rate of duty of 5.7% ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings

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