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HQ 953916

June 11, 1993

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 953916 ch


TARIFF NO.: 7323.99.9000

Guillermo Zuniga, Jr.
Gee Zee Squared Co., Inc.
1902 Jefferson Street
Laredo, Texas 78040

RE: Classification, country of origin marking requirements, applicability of subheading 9801.00.10 to a stationery kit; set; essential character; household article.

Dear Mr. Zuniga:

This is in response to your letter of March 17, 1993, regarding tariff classification, applicability of subheading 9801.00.10 and country of origin marking requirements, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), for certain stationery kits packaged in Mexico. A sample was provided to this office for examination.


Various items will be shipped from the U.S. to Industrias Diza S.A. de C.V. in Mexico. These items are as follows: 20 stationery sheets, 10 blank sheets, 10 note cards, 30 envelopes, shredded paper (all of which are U.S.-origin), a tin marked "Container Made in Korea" on the bottom, and a ball point pen marked "Taiwan" on the clip. In Mexico, the stationery sheets, the blank sheets, the note cards, and the envelopes will each be shrink-wrapped and placed in the open tin along with the shredded paper and pen. This open tin with its contents will be shrink- wrapped and shipped back to the U.S. to be sold at the retail level as a stationery kit. The shrink wrap around the tin will be labeled "Made in the U.S.A." The individual shrink wrapped items (i.e., U.S.-origin paper) may be labeled with the proper country of origin. You allege that the stationery kit may be brought back into the U.S. as American Goods Returned.

In an oral communication with this office, you indicated that the lidded tin was comprised of steel (not stainless).


I. What is the proper tariff classification for the stationery kit?

II. Whether the stationery kit, or any part thereof, will be entitled to duty-free treatment under subheading 9801.00.10, HTSUSA, when returned to the U.S.?

III. Whether the items comprising the stationery kit must be marked to indicate their country of origin?



Classification of goods under the HTSUSA is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that classification is determined first in accordance with the terms of the headings of the tariff and any relative section or chapter notes. Where goods cannot be classified on the basis of GRI 1, the remaining GRI will be applied in order.

The stationery kit is comprised of several finished articles that have been packaged together. No single tariff heading describes this unit as it has been packaged (Cf. boxes of paper or paperboard, containing an assortment of paper stationery, classifiable under subheading 4817.30.0000). Therefore, we must resort to the remaining GRI.

GRI 3(b) states that:

Mixtures, composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components, and goods put up in sets 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. (Emphasis added).

Hence, if the stationery kit qualifies as "good put up in sets for retail sale," it shall be classified as if it is composed entirely of the component which lends its essential character.

The Explanatory Notes (EN) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System constitute the official interpretation of the nomenclature 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 EN when interpreting the HTSUSA.

Note X to the EN for GRI 3(b), at page 4, provides that:

For the purposes of this Rule, the term "goods put up in sets for retail sale" shall be taken to mean goods which:

(a) consist of at least two different articles which are, prima facie, classifiable in different headings. Therefore, for example, six fondue forks cannot be regarded as a set within the meaning of this Rule;

(b) consist of products or articles put up together to meet a particular need or carry out a specific activity; and

(c) are put up in a manner suitable for sale directly to users without repacking (e.g., in boxes or cases or on boards).

In this case, the stationery kit is comprised of various articles that are classifiable in different headings of the tariff schedule. The kit gathers in one place all of the implements necessary for the need or activity of drafting and mailing personal correspondence. Finally, the materials have been packaged together for sale directly to consumers. Therefore, the kit qualifies as a "set" for classification purposes, and shall be classified as if comprised solely of the component which lends its essential character.

In prior rulings, we have concluded that the container provides the essential character to substantially similar kits or sets. See Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 088323, dated June 7, 1991 (Pencil box containing pens, pencils, ruler and sharpener classified as a set, with the container providing its essential character); HRL 087026, dated July 24, 1990 (Pencil pouch containing pencil, ruler and eraser classified as a set, with the pouch lending its essential character); HRL 086774, dated July 17, 1990 (Stationery and pencil boxes containing various items classified as a set, with the container providing their essential character); HRL 084715, dated August 24, 1989 (Stationery kit containing pencils, sharpener, eraser, clips and stencils classified as a set, with the plastic box providing essential character). In these decisions, the container imparted the essential character to the set when it possessed one or more of the following features:

1. it comprised a substantial portion of the bulk and value of the set;

2. was suitable for repeated use (even after the writing implements and paper were used);

3. served a decorative or useful purpose that played an essential role in the marketing of the kit;

4. was designed specifically and carefully for its particular use.

The relative importance of these features will vary on a case- by-case basis.

In this case, the steel container features an attractive floral motif and is constructed of a material suitable for prolonged use. In addition, it comprises a significant part of the bulk and value of the set as a whole. On this basis, we conclude that the steel container provides the essential character of the stationery kit.

Containers are classifiable under several tariff headings. Heading 4202, HTSUSA, encompasses:

Trunks, Suit-Cases, Vanity-Cases, Executive-Cases, Briefcases, School Satchels, Spectacle Cases, Binocular Cases, Camera Cases, Musical Instrument Cases, Gun Cases, Holsters and Similar Containers; Travelling- Bags, Toilet Bags, Rucksacks, Handbags, Shopping-Bags, Wallets, Purses, Map-Cases, Cigarette-Cases, Tobacco- Pouches, Tool Bags, Sports Bags, Bottle-Cases, Jewellery Boxes, Powder-Boxes, Cutlery Cases and Similar Containers, of Leather or of Composition Leather, of Sheeting of Plastics, of Textile Materials, of Vulcanised Fibre or of Paperboard, or Wholly or Mainly Covered with Such Materials or With Paper. (Emphasis added).

By its terms, heading 4202 is limited to the articles enumerated and containers similar thereto. Moreover, this heading is divided into two parts by a semi-colon. Containers of the second part must be of or covered with the materials listed therein. On the other hand, containers of the first part may be of any material.

Stationery boxes are not specifically enumerated in heading 4202. In addition, the instant merchandise is composed of steel, which is not a material of the second part of this heading. Therefore, in order for the stationery box to be classified under heading 4202 it must be similar to containers of the first part of the heading.

In this case, the stationery box appears to be designed for use as a decorative holder in the home. As the first part of heading 4202 does not appear to include household articles, the stationery tin is not a container similar to these exemplars. Accordingly, heading 4202 is inapplicable.

Chapter 73 governs the classification of steel articles. Heading 7310 provides for certain boxes, of a capacity not exceeding 300 liters. However, the EN to heading 7323, at page 1022, provide, in pertinent part, that:

This heading also excludes:

(b) Biscuit barrels, tea caddies, sugar tins and similar household or kitchen containers and canisters (heading 73.23).

Heading 7323 provides for table, kitchen or other household articles. The EN to this heading state, at page 1035, that it includes inter alia:

Other household articles such as wash coppers and boilers; dustbins, buckets, coal scuttles and hods; watering-cans; ash-trays; hot water bottles, bottle baskets; movable boot-scrapers; stands for flat irons; baskets for laundry, fruit vegetables, etc.; letter- boxes; clothes-hangers, shoe trees; luncheon boxes.

The myriad of miscellaneous household articles which the EN provide for lead us to the conclusion that the scope of this heading is broad enough to include stationery kits. Accordingly, the subject merchandise is classifiable under heading 7323.

Subheading 9801.00.10, HTSUSA

Subheading 9801.00.10, HTSUSA, provides for the free entry of U.S. products that have been exported and returned without having been advanced in value or improved in condition by any process of manufacture or other means while abroad, provided the documentary requirements of section 10.1, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 10.1), are met. In Superscope, Inc. v. United States, 727 F. Supp. 629 (CIT 1989), the court found that glass panels of U.S. manufacture that were exported, packaged with other foreign components to make unassembled stereo cabinets, and then imported into the U.S. as an entirety were not advanced in value or improved in condition while abroad, but were merely repackaged. Therefore, the court held that the glass panels were entitled to duty free entry under item 800.00., Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS) (the predecessor provision of subheading 9801.00.10, HTSUSA). Although the Superscope case concerned the TSUS, not the HTSUSA, the decision is believed to be equally applicable to similar situations arising under the HTSUSA, since item 800.00, TSUS, and relevant Schedule 8, TSUS, headnotes were carried over virtually unchanged into the HTSUSA.

In HRL 555624 dated May 1, 1990, we considered U.S.- produced perfumes, toilet water, and lotion shipped in bulk to France, where they were repackaged into sample pouches of foreign origin. The pouches were composed of either polyethylene sheets laminated to aluminum foil, or paper and polyethylene sheets laminated to aluminum foil. Based upon United States v. John V. Carr & Sons, Inc., 69 Cust. Ct. 78, C.D. 4377, 347 F. Supp. 1390 (1972), 61 CCPA 52, C.A.D. 1118, 496 F.2d 1225 (1974), where the court stated that absent some alteration or change in the item itself, the mere repackaging of the item, even for the purpose of resale to the ultimate consumer, is not sufficient to preclude the merchandise from being classified under item 800.00, TSUS, the U.S. perfumes were not considered to have been advanced in value or improved in condition for purposes of subheading 9801.00.10, HTSUSA, and as a result, were exempt from duty under this tariff provision when returned to the U.S.

We therefore find that as in HRL 555624, shrink-wrapping the U.S.-origin paper items (i.e., stationery sheets, blank sheets, note cards, envelopes) with the pen, and placing these items with the U.S.-origin shredded paper in a tin which itself is shrink- wrapped, neither advances the paper items nor improves their condition. The paper items are not being altered in any way, but are merely being packaged for retail sale. Furthermore, pursuant to the decision in Superscope, the mere packaging of the U.S.- origin paper items with foreign items does not advance them in value or improve their condition. Therefore, the U.S. paper items are entitled to the duty exemption under subheading 9801.00.10, HTSUSA, assuming that the documentation requirements of 19 CFR 10.1 are met and the district director of Customs at the port of entry is satisfied that the paper items are, in fact, of U.S. origin.

However, regarding the pen from Taiwan and the tin from Korea which are sent from the U.S. to Mexico, U.S. Note 2, Chapter 98, HTSUSA, provides: "in the absence of a specific provision to the contrary, the tariff status of an article is not affected by the fact that it was previously imported into the customs territory of the U.S. and cleared through customs whether or not duty was paid upon such previous importation." Therefore, because they are foreign articles, they are not entitled to duty free treatment under subheading 9801.00.10, HTSUSA.

Applicability of country of origin marking requirements

The marking statute, section 304, Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1304), provides that, unless excepted, every article of foreign origin (or its container) imported into the U.S. shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the nature of the article (or its container) will permit, in such a manner as to indicate to the ultimate purchaser in the U.S. the English name of the country of origin of the article. Part 134, Customs Regulations (19 CFR Part 134), implements the requirements and exceptions of 19 U.S.C. 1304. Section 134.1(b), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.1(b)), defines "country of origin" as the country of manufacture, production or growth of any article of foreign origin entering the U.S. Further work or material added to an article in another country must effect a substantial transformation in order to render such other country the "country of origin."

Neither the HTSUSA nor the Customs Regulations contains any provisions regarding the marking of sets, mixtures or composite goods. The classification of a set or mixed or composite goods in one HTSUSA subheading by reference to GRI 3(b) is not determinative of the country of origin marking requirements of the materials or components which comprise the set. Instead, the general country of origin marking requirements apply with respect to the items comprising a set.

According to T.D. 91-7, "if the materials or components are not substantially transformed as a result of their inclusion in a set or mixed or composite goods, then, subject to the usual exceptions, each item must be individually marked to indicate its own country of origin." However, where the marking of the container will reasonably indicate the country of origin to the ultimate purchaser, the container may be marked instead of the individual articles. See 19 U.S.C. 1304(a)(3)(D) and 19 CFR 134.32(d).

Headquarters Ruling Letter 084935 dated August 23, 1989 (as modified in HRL 086895 dated August 17, 1990), concerned the proper classification and marking requirements applicable to a "Pocket Gym" imported from Canada. The "Pocket Gym" consisted of certain exercise equipment made in Canada, instruction sheets and poster printed in Canada, and a nylon bag of Korean origin. It was determined that the "Pocket Gym" qualified for classification purposes under GRI 3(b). Therefore, as the essential character of the merchandise was imparted by the exercise equipment, we held that the "Pocket Gym" (including the nylon bag) was classifiable in subheading 9506.91.0030, HTSUSA ("Other articles and equipment for gymnastics,***"). With regard to marking, however, we determined that the Canadian items should be marked to indicate their Canadian origin and the nylon bag should be marked "Made in Korea" since, for marking purposes, nothing was done to the bag or the printed materials in Canada that would change their country of origin.

In this case, the stationery kit items are not substantially transformed by the shrink-wrapping operations. Therefore, the tin and pen must be conspicuously, permanently and legibly marked with their respective country of origins. Although the tin is conspicuously marked on the bottom "Container Made in Korea" and such marking is visible through the packaging, the marking on the pen is partially obscured by the packaging. Therefore, the packaging must be marked "Pen Made in Taiwan." The marking of the tin with a visible exterior label placed on the shrink- wrapped tin, which reads "Made in USA" is not acceptable because the consumer may be led to believe that the entire set is made in the U.S. In addition, the label has a U.S. address. To avoid confusion, we will require that this label be changed to read "Tin (or container) Made in Korea, Pen Made in Taiwan." The country of origin must appear in close proximity and in comparable size letters as the U.S. location. See 19 CFR 134.46.

With regard to the paper items, products of the U.S. exported and returned are excepted from the general country of origin marking requirements. See 19 CFR 134.32(m). This provision applies if the U.S. products are returned without having been substantially transformed abroad. In this case, nothing is done to the paper items except packaging. Therefore, the paper items are excepted from marking under 19 CFR 132.32(m). Furthermore, it is indicated that a label which will read "Made in USA" will be placed on the shrink-wrapped paper. The specific use of the "Made in USA" label is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. While Customs has no objection if the label indicates that the "Paper Items are Made in USA" (in addition to the other required markings set forth above), we suggest that you contact the Federal Trade Commission, Division of Enforcement, located at 6th & Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20500, for advice on the marking of the paper items.


I. The stationery kit is classifiable under subheading 7323.99.9000, HTSUSA, which provides for table, kitchen or other household articles: other: other: not coated or plated with precious metal: other: other. The applicable rate of duty is 3.4 percent ad valorem.

Due to the changeable nature of the statistical annotation (the ninth and tenth digits of the classification) and the restraint (quota/visa) categories, you should contact the local Customs office prior to importing the merchandise to determine the current status of any import restraints or requirements.

II. Based upon the information provided, the paper items exported to Mexico where they will each be shrink- wrapped and placed in an open tin which is shrink wrapped, will not be advanced in value or improved in condition as a result of these packaging operations; therefore, the paper items will be entitled to duty- free treatment under subheading 9801.00.10, HTSUSA, provided the documentation requirements of 19 CFR 10.1 are met and the paper items are products of the U.S.

III. The stationery kit must be marked "Tin (or container) Made in Korea, Pen Made in Taiwan" in a conspicuous location on the outside of the kit in a manner which will be conspicuous to the ultimate purchaser prior to purchase. The country of origin marking must appear in comparable size letters and in close proximity to the U.S. references. The label which reads "Made in USA" is inappropriate because it may cause the ultimate purchaser to believe all the items were made in the U.S. Furthermore, the "Made in USA" label is subject to the requirements of the Federal Trade Commission. However, Customs does not object if the label reads "Paper Items Made in USA."


John Durant, Director

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