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HQ 950404

December 23, 1991

CLA 2 CO:R:C:F 950404 ALS


TARIFF NO.: 3920.10.00 3920.20.00

Ms. Beth C. Brotman
Siegel, Mandell and Davidson, P.C.
1 Astor Plaza
1515 Broadway, 43rd Floor
New York, New York 10036

RE: Synthetic Wood Pulp (SWP~) from Japan

Dear Ms. Brotman:

This is in reference to your request of August 27, 1991, submitted on behalf of Mitsui Petrochemicals (America) Ltd., for a binding ruling on synthetic wood pulp (SWP~). Your request was referred to this office for consideration. A sample of the product was submitted.


SWP~ is a polyolefin synthetic pulp composed of a highly fibrillated fiber product with either a polyethylene or polypropylene base. The SWP~, marketed under the tradename "Fybrel" is imported in the form of wet sheets measuring approximately 25 inches by 27 inches. Counsel notes that the product has approximately 30 to 60 percent moisture content and an average fiber length of between 0.6 and 2.1 min. The product is used for a variety of purposes. It can be used on conventional paper making machines either alone or in combination with wood pulps. It can be placed in a slurry form on a moving wire screen where a combination of suction, heat and pressure remove the water and compress the individual fibers into a continuous sheet. The sheet is formed and obtains its strength from the interlinking of the individual fibers. It can be used as a binding agent in nonwoven materials by combining it with textile fibers and subjecting the resulting mass to heat, which causes the fibers to melt. Counsel has alternatively suggested classification under subheading 3920.10 or 3920.20, HTSUSA, depending on the base of the product.


Is synthetic wood pulpclassifiable under the provisions for "Other plates, sheets..of plastic, noncellular and not reinforced, laminated, supported or similarly combined with other materials in Heading 3920, Harmonized Tariff Schedules of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA)?

Classification of merchandise under the HTSUSA is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's) taken in order. GRI 1 provides that the classification is determined first in accordance with the terms of the headings and any relative section and chapter notes. If GRI 1 fails to classify the goods and if the heading and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRI's are applied, taken in order.

In considering the headings and subheading under which the subject article may be classified, we note three possibilities. Subheading 3901.20 or 3902.10, HTSUSA, depending on whether the article has a polyethylene or polypropylene base and provided it is a polymer in its primary form. Subheading 3920.10 or 3920.20, HTSUSA, depending again on the nature of its base, if the article was a sheet of such polymers. Alternatively, subheading 3926.90, HTSUSA, a provision for other plastics, if the productSnot classifiable under the other noted subheadings.

In considering the applicability of the various subheadings we note that SWPTM is a form of polyethylene or polypropylene resin. Since these pol~mers, in their form at the time of importation, have been extruded into fibers, chopped and pressed, we believe that they can no longer be considered as polymers in their primary form. Therefore, they are not classifiable under subheadings 3901.20 or 3902.10, HTSUSA.

In considering the other subheading alternatives, we note that subheadings 3920.10 and 3920.20, HTSUSA, which counsel has suggested, refer to, as herein pertinent, sheets of polymers or ethylene or propylene. The remaining subheading to be considered, 3926.90, HTSUSA, generally provides for other articles of plastics. In considering these two groups of subheadings we normally would chose the former in accordance with GRI 3(a) since it provides a more specific description of the product.

Heading 3920, HTSUSA, however, is not generally considered applicable to the subject type products, since they are considered intermediate products. Thus, it would not appear that classification under this heading would be appropriate. Counsel, however, has noted that the Explanatory Notes (EN), in EN 39.20, specifically provide that this heading "covers synthetic paper pulp consisting of sheets on non-coherent polyethylene or polypropylene fibres (fibril) of an average length of about 1 mm and generally containing 50% moisture." Since the EN's represent the view of the international classification experts and since syn,thetic wood pulp and synthetic paper pulp are the same thing, EN 39.20 seems to specifically cover the subject product and, therefore, counsel's classification suggestion appears to have merit.

We, however, believe that the poss~ classification under heading 3920, HTSUSA, presents several problems. While EN 39.20 would seem to cover the SWPTM we note that the EN specifies that the product must be in sheet form. While the SWPTM is packaged in flat form to facilitate transportation, we are not certain that this form can be considered sheets. In reference to The American Heritage Dictionary, (Second College Edition) we note that a sheet is a rectangular mass or piece of material and that a rectangle is parallelogram with a right angle. We note that the sample of SWPTM, while it does generally appear rectangular in shape, has irregular edges and does not have any right angles. Thus, it appears that this product does not meet the definition of sheets.

We are also concerned that if the product, with irregular edges, is considered asheet, there would be continuing problems in determining when the irregular edges became so irregular as to make the product something other than a sheet. It appears that such an uncertainty could cause a problem for Customs and that the importation of the importer's product could be delayed pending a determination of the matter.

We, however, understand that the subject product normally comes with irregular edges. This is due to the nature of the manufacturing process, the relative brittleness of the product, and the result of the transportation and handling process. These characteristics are true of all synthetic paper pulp. We also understand that this product, which has the general appearance of a rectangle, would usually have the same relative degree of irregular edges. Further since this is an intermediate product and will always be mixed with other ingredients subsequent to
importation, we understand that it would not normally have worked edges so as to require classification elsewhere in Chapter 39, HTSUSA, as indicated in EN 39.20. In light of the above, we believe it is reasonable to conclude that heading 3920, HTSUSA, specifically covers the subject product.

Since heading 3920 specifically covers the subject product, consideration of the applicability of subheading 3926.90, HTSUSA, is not necessary.

Polyolefin synthetic pulp, referred to synthetic wood pulp (SWP~), composed of a highly fibrillated fiber product imported in form of wet sheets measuring approximately 25 inches by 27 inches, with approximately 30 to 60 percent moisture content and an average fiber length of between 0.6 and 2.1 mm is classifiable under Heading 3920, HTSUSA. If the pulp has a polyethylene base it is classifiable under subheading 3920.10.00, HTSUSA, and is subject to a general rate of duty of 4.2 per cent ad valorem. If the pulp has a polypropylene base it is classifiable under subheading 3920.20.00, HTSUSA, and is subject to a general rate of duty of 4.2 per cent ad valorem.

Your sample is being returned under separate cover.


John Durant, Director

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