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HQ 951261

May 11, 1992

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 951261 JED


TARIFF NO.: 3924.90. 5000

Mr. Gerald E. Gray
661 Jean-Paul Vincent
Longueuil, Quebec
Canada J4G 1R3

RE: Classification of a plastic sewing kit box and contents

Dear Mr. Gray:

Your request to Customs in New York for a tariff classification ruling on a plastic sewing kit box, with sewing items inside, has been referred to this office for decision. The sample you submitted to our New York office has been forwarded to us for examination.


The plastic box is (all measurements approximate) 8 1/2" high x 13 1/2" wide x 81/2" deep. Molded into the bottom of the box in letters 1/8" high is the phrase, "MADE IN CANADA". There is a plastic handle recessed into the lid, plastic hinges allowing the lid to swing open, and a plastic swivel latch on the front panel to secure the lid to the body of the box. The first plastic tray visible upon opening the lid has 20 plastic spindles in compartments marked "THREAD" to hold spools of thread, and other compartments marked RULER, SCISSORS, THIMBLES, BUTTONS, PIN CUSHION, NEEDLES, BOBBINS, PINS, and four small unmarked compartments. There is a small handle in the center to lift the tray. A second plastic tray has five generalized compartments and eight plastic dividers that can be placed into grooves in those compartments to subdivide them into smaller areas.

Three plastic bags were packed in the sample box we examined. We understand the sewing kit is marketed with only two bags; one bag of sewing accessories and either a bag with 10 spools of thread of 68% polyester/32% cotton or a bag with 12 spools of 100% polyester thread. The thread is U.S. made and is wound onto small plastic spools in Canada. The sewing accessories consist of: pin cushion; dressmaker pencil; sewing & knitting gauge; scissors; tape measure; two thimbles; box of dressmaker pins; seam ripper; plastic dispenser with 30 assorted
needles; plastic bobbin; needle threader; and nine safety pins on a cardboard card. The accessories come from various source countries, e.g., the scissors are marked "KOREA" and the pin cushion is marked "TAIWAN".

What is the proper classification of the sewing kit under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of United States Annotated?


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

GRI 2(b) states in pertinent part, "The classification of goods consisting of more than one material or substance shall be according to the principles of rule 3."

GRI 3 states, in pertinent part:

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:

(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 items in a set put up for retail sale, 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.

Since the sewing kit at issue consists of, at least, both plastic and textile articles, which are separately provided for in the HTSUSA, GRI 3Ib) applies as follows:

(b) ... 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...

Explanatory Note X to GRI 3(b), which constitutes the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level, provides in part:

(X) 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. ...;

(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 in cases or on boards).

The sewing kit at issue here satisfies the criteria of paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). At least two of the articles are classifiable in different headings: the pin cushion in Heading 6307, Other made up articles, including dress patterns; and the polyester sewing thread in Heading 5508, Sewing thread of man- made staple fibers, whether or not put up for retail sale. The articles are included for their utility in the activity of sewing and they are saleable directly to users in the plastic box.

Since the sewing kit is a set, and classification of its component parts cannot be made pursuant to GRI 3(a), the essential character of the set must be determined in accordance with GRI 3(b). 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.

After due consideration of the matter, it is the opinion of this office that the plastic box imparts the essential character of the sewing kit. It is the box which serves to organize and store all the other included components. (See also HQ 082736, March 20, 1990; a knitting and crochet kit consisting of a quilted textile, fold-over case fitted with various craft supplies was classified based on a determination that the foldover case imparted the essential character.)

Two headings deserve consideration in arriving at the proper classification of the sewing box; Heading 4202 and Heading 3924. Heading 4202 is as follows:

Trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, attache cases, briefcases, school satchels, spectacle cases, binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, gun cases, holsters and similar containers; traveling bags, toiletry bags, knapsacks and backpacks, handbags, shopping bags, wallets, purses, map cases, cigarette cases, tobacco pouches, tool bags, sports bags, bottle cases, jewelry boxes, powder cases, cutlery cases and similar containers, of heather or of composition leather, of plastic sheeting, of textile materials, of vulcanized fiber, or of paperboard, or wholly or mainly covered with such materials

HQ 088184, April 11, 1991, concerned the classification of a plastic sewing box described as, "a portable plastic container which consists of four interlocking and removable trays with a large center compartment for storage. The trays and the main compartment have sections for sewing accessories such as a [sic] buttons, pins and needles, and other sewing items." The ruling provided a detailed discussion of the choice between classifying the sewing kit in either Heading 4202 or Heading 3924. First, classification based on similarity to any of the articles included after the semicolon in Heading 4202 was precluded since the sewing box was not of, or wholly or mainly covered with, any of the specified materials.

In determining whether the sewing box was similar to any of the articles in the first portion of the heading, the ruling listed size, use, physical attributes and structural integrity as factors considered in assessing similitude. A similar container may be an item designed to store, organize and protect those contents from which the container derives its name. However, the ruling also recognized a degree of portability and suitability for withstanding the rigors of travel. Accordingly, since the sewing box in HQ 088184 was suitable only for home storage and convenience it was excluded from classification in Heading 4202.

The plastic sewing box at issue in the instant matter is quite similar to the box of HQ 088184. Both contain inner trays used to organize sewing paraphernalia. The plastic hinges and latch on the subject box make it unlikely to "withstand the rigors of travel" much like the box in HQ 088184. Therefore, the sewing box at issue here is not classifiable in Heading 4202. Accordingly it is classified as an article of its constituent material, namely plastic. Heading 3924 provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

3924 Tableware, kitchenware, other household articles and toilet articles, of plastics:
3924.90 Other
3924.90.5000 Other

Such a classification carries a "General" column duty rate of 3.4% ad valorem.

The rate line for subheading 3924.90.5000 also indicates in the "Special" duty rate column that articles so classified that qualify for consideration under the United States-Canada Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) are assessed at 2% ad valorem. To be eligible for tariff preferences under the CFTA, goods must be "originating goods" within the rule of origin in General Note 3(c)(vii)(B), HTSUSA. There are two basic means in that note by which articles imported into the United States may be "goods originating in the te.~ritory of Canada." The first method is if the goods are "wholly obtained or produced in the territory of Canada and/or the United States." General Note 3(c)(vii)(B)(1). The second method is if the goods are "transformed in the territory of Canada and/or the United States." General Note 3(c)(vii)(B)(2).

A product which is "wholly obtained or produced in the territory of Canada and/or the United States" is one which is grown, mined, harvested, born and raised in Canada and/or the United States, or otherwise intimately connected to the two countries and their land, air and sea territories as defined in General Note 3(c)(vii)(L), HTSUSA. The sewing kits include articles from third countries. Accordingly, they may not be considered "wholly obtained or produced in Canada under General

The second method to become an originating good for CFTA purposes is for an article made of foreign materials to be transformed in Canada and/or the United States in accordance with General Note 3(c)(vii)(B)(2). A transformation is evident when a change in tariff classification occurs that is recognized in General Note 3Ic)(vii)(R), HTSUSA.

As described above, the articles in the sewing kit do change classification based on the kit being treated as a "set" for tariff purposes and the "essential character" being used to determine proper classification. However, this is not the type of classification change to which the CFTA refers.

General Note 3(c)Ivii)Ic)(1), HTSUSA, states;

(C) Goods shall not be considered to originate in the territory of Canada pursuant to subdivision (c)(vii)(B)(2) merely by virtue of having undergone--

(1)simple packaging or, except as expressly provided by the rules of subdivision (c)(vii)(R) of this note, combining operations...

The House Committee on Ways and Means report on the CFTA stated:
Goods containing materials from third countries will qualify for preferential treatment only if the materials undergo a sufficient degree of processing or assembly in one or both Parties to result in physically and commercially significant changes in the product that change its tariff classification
under the Harmonized System. H. Rep. 816, Part 1, 100th Cong., 2d Sess. 15 (1988). "

The Committee focused'on the change in classification which occurs to third country materials after the third country materials undergo some processing or assembly. The articles in a set do not change their classification because of processing or assembly. The classification change of articles in a set occurs because of the packaging or combining of the articles. This is not a change in classification entitling an article to consideration under the CFTA. Accordingly, the sewing kit is not entitled to any tariff preference under the CFTA.

There may however be duty benefits derived from the application of subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUSA, to certain articles in the sewing kit, namely, the U.S. thread which is exported to Canada to be wound on spools.

HTSUSA subheading 9802.00.80 provides for a partial duty exemption for:

(a)rticles assembled abroad in whole or in part of fabricated components, the product of the United States, which (a) were exported in condition ready for assembly without further fabrication; (b) have not lost their physical identity in such articles by change in form, shape or otherwise; and (c) have not been advanced in value or improved in condition abroad except by operations incidental to the assembly process, such as cleaning, lubricating and painting.

Customs has held that winding wire around a spool is considered an acceptable assembly operation within the meaning of this tariff provision. See HRL 555533 (June 4, 1990); and General Instrument Corporation v. United States, 61 CCPA 86, C.A.D. 1128, 499 F.2d 1318 (1974), rev'g 70 Cust. Ct. 151, C.D. 4421, 359 F. Supp. 1390 (1973). In the present matter, we consider winding the U.S. made thread around plastic spools in Canada an acceptable assembly operation. In situations in which a portion of a set consists of components or items assembled abroad in whole or in part of U.S. origin fabricated components, duties will be assessed pursuant to subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS~ upon the full value of the set less the cost or value of the U.S. fabricated components. Accordingly, upon compliance with the documentary requirements of 10.24, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 10.24), duty will be assessed upon the full value of the sewing kit less the cost or value of the U.S. thread.

Finally, we must mention country of origin marking requirements. Section 304, Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19-7-

U.S.C. 1304), provides that, unless excepted, every article of foreign origin (or its container) imported into the United States shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly and permanently as the nature of the article (or container) will permit, in such a manner as to indicate to the ultimate purchaser in the United States the English name of the country of origin of the article. Further, as indicated in T.D. 91-7, if materials or components are not substantially transformed as a result of their inclusion in a set, then, subject to the usual exceptions and a common sense approach, each item must be individually marked to indicate its own country of origin. Should you require a ruling on the marking of the sewing kit, please contact the Value and Marking Branch, U.S. Customs Service, 1301 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20229.


The sewing kit submitted is considered a set for classification purposes pursuant to GRI 3. In accord with GRI 3(b), the essential character of the set is imparted by the plastic box. The plastic box is described, in accordance with GRI 1, in Heading 3924. The proper classification for the plastic box, and therefore for the sewing kit is subheading 3924.90.5000, HTSUSA.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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