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HQ 555743

April 26, 1991

CLA-2 CO:R:C:S 555743 RA


TARIFF NO.: 9802.00.80

District Director of Customs
P.O. Box 916
El Paso, Texas 79985

RE: IA 57/90 concerning applicability of subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, to glass reflectors for sealed beam lamps aluminized before assembly; 553675

Dear Sir:

This is in reference to your memorandum dated August 8, 1990, forwarding a Request for Internal Advice from Rudolph Miles & Sons Customhouse Brokers, on behalf of Philips Lighting Co., regarding the applicability of subheading 9802.00.80, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), to reflectors which are aluminized before being assembled in Mexico.


Glass reflectors of U.S. manufacture are exported to Mexico for assembly into automobile sealed beam lamps. The first foreign processing step is the aluminizing process which consists of the application of an electric field in a vacuum chamber which vaporizes aluminum metal and causes it to be deposited on the inner faces of the reflectors. The aluminized reflectors are then incorporated into the sealed beam lamps.

The importer's broker maintains that the aluminizing process constitutes an acceptable assembly of two solids -- aluminum and a glass reflector.


Can the aluminizing of the reflectors be considered an assembly or an operation incidental thereto which renders the reflectors eligible for a duty allowance under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS?


Subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, provides a partial duty exemption for articles assembled abroad in whole or in part of fabricated components of U.S. origin with no operations performed
thereon except the joining of the components and operations incidental thereto. The U.S. components must be exported in condition ready for assembly without further fabrication, and cannot lose their physical identity in the assembled article by change in form, shape, or otherwise. Duty is assessed on the full appraised value of the imported merchandise less the cost or value of the U.S.-made components, upon compliance with the documentation requirements of section 10.24, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 10.24).

Section 10.16(a), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 10.16(a)), states that the assembly operations may consist of any method used to join or fit together solid components and may be preceded, accompanied, or followed by operations incidental to the assembly process. This provision further provides that the combining of liquids, gases, chemicals, food ingredients, and amorphous solids with each other or with solid components is not regarded as an assembly. Moreover, 19 CFR 10.16(a) provides that any significant process, operation, or treatment other than assembly whose primary purpose is the fabrication, completion, or physical or chemical improvement of a component shall not be regarded as incidental to the assembly and shall preclude the application of the exemption to such component.

In support of its claim that the aluminizing process involves the joining of two solid materials, the importer's broker cites the holdings in C.J. Tower & Sons of Buffalo, Inc. v. U.S., 62 Cust. Ct. 643, 304 F.Supp. 1187, C.D. 3840 (1969), Sigma Instruments, Inc. v. United States, 2 Fed. Cir. 24, 724 F.2d 930 (1984), and Carter Footwear, Inc. v. United States, 11 CIT 554, 669 F.Supp. 439 (1987). In these cases, the courts held that an operation involving the heating of a substance such as plastic and attaching it while in a transitory molten state to a U.S.-origin solid component may constitute an acceptable assembly operation under this tariff provision where the molten substance solidifies upon cooling. "Nothing in the statute requires that whether a component is a solid be determined as of the instant of initial contact." Sigma Instruments, 724 F.2d at 931-932.

We believe that the aluminizing process in the instant case is distinquishable from the fact situations in the above court cases. The joinder of the components in those cases was found by the courts to constitute more than a mere coating operation, while the aluminizing process in this case clearly results in the uniform application of an aluminum coating on the inner face of the reflector. In our opinion, the aluminizing operation is analagous to painting and is not a valid assembly of solid components.

In Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 553675 dated August 6, 1985, we held that the aluminizing of a glass reflector for an automative sealed beam lamp was a operation which could not be considered incidental to assembly. The procedure, which was similar to that involved in this case, was described as follows:

The alumimum coating of the reflector is next accomplished by flashing an aluminum form in a vacum. This vaporizing deposits a coating of aluminum on the inner wall of the reflector.

We stated in HRL 553675 that the reflector without the coating was not a fabricated component ready for assembly, and the aluminizing operation was too substantial to be considered incidental to the foreign assembly operation.

In view of above, we are of the opinion that the aluminizing of the glass reflectors in the instant case is neither an acceptable assembly of solids nor an operation incidental to the assembly process under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS.


The aluminizing of glass reflectors for sealed beam lamps by a vaporizing process is not considered to qualify as an assembly of solids or incidental thereto under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS. Therefore, no allowance in duty may be made under this tariff provision for the cost or value of the U.S.-origin glass reflectors.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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