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HQ 953588

April 19, 1993

CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 953588 DFC


TARIFF NO.: 8308.90.60

Mr. J. M. Peters
Peters & Company
2211 Ala Wai Blvd. (#3212)
Honolulu, HI 96815

RE: Knife, belt buckle; Composite good; Switchblade Knife Act; 19 CFR 12.95(a)(1)

Dear Mr. Peters;

In a letter dated December 31, 1992, you inquired as to the tariff classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), of a belt buckle knife with four spare steel blades manufactured in China and/or Taiwan. You also inquired as to the proper country of origin marking of the merchandise and whether it is admissible into the U.S. A sample was submitted for examination.


The merchandise consists of an ornate brass belt buckle with a raised center section which is actually the handle of a removable knife with a retracted steel blade which releases upon removal of the knife from the buckle. The handle slides out of the belt buckle at which point the exposed blade locks into position and the open knife is lifted out of the groove ready to be used. To close the knife, the blade is positioned inside the groove and the handle is pressed against a nipple on the floor of the groove disengaging the blade lock and allowing the handle to slide into position and enclose the blade completely within the belt buckle. The knife handle measures 2 inches in length while the blade measures 1-3/4 inches long.


What is the proper tariff classification of the belt buckle knife with its four spare blades?

How should the merchandise be marked to indicate the country of origin?

Does the presence of knife blade in the buckle cause this merchandise to be a prohibited importation?



Classification of goods under the HTSUS is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1 provides that "classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and provided such headings or notes do not otherwise require, according to [the remaining GRI's taken in order]. In other words, classification is governed first by the terms of the headings of the tariff and any relative section or chapter notes.

Inasmuch as the belt buckle knife is a composite good (buckle plus a knife), its classification is governed by GRI 3(b), HTSUS, which reads as follows:

3. 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 . . . which cannot be classified by reference to 3(a), shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which give them their essential character, insofar as this criterion is applicable.

The belt buckle knife with four spare blades is prima facie classifiable under subheading 8211.93.00, HTSUS, which provides for knives having other than fixed blades, and parts thereof (except blades) [See, HRL 952988 dated February 4, 1993] or under subheading 8308.90.60, HTSUS, which provides for buckles and buckle clasps, and parts thereof.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes to the HTSUS (EN), although not dispositive, should be looked to for the proper interpretation of the HTSUS. SEE, 54 FR 35128 (August 23, 1989). EN (IX) to GRI 3(b), at page 4, reads as follows:

(IX) For the purposes of this Rule, composite goods made up of different components shall be taken to mean not only those in which the components are attached to each other to form a practically inseparable whole but also those with separable components, provided these components are adapted one to the other and are mutually complementary and that together they form a whole which would not normally be offered for sale in separate parts.

Composite goods are classifiable as if they consisted of the component which gives them their essential character. EN VIII to GRI 3(b), at page 4, reads as follows:

(VIII) 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 materials or component, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the role of a constituent material in relation to the use of the goods.

It is our observation that the essential character of the article is derived from the belt buckle. Because of the small size of the knife handle and blade, we find that the buckle's alternate function as a cutting tool is secondary to its primary function which is to act as a belt buckle. In view of our finding that the essential character of the article is derived from its buckle portion, classification is under subheading 8308.90.60, HTSUS.

Even if the knife function were equally essential and the essential character of the article could not be determined, classification under subheading 8308.90.60, HTSUS, would be appropriate following GRI 3(c), HTSUS, which states that "[w]hen goods cannot be classified by reference to 3(a) or 3(b), they shall be classified under the heading which occurs last in numerical order among those which equally merit consideration."


Section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1304) requires that:

Except as hereinafter provided, every article of foreign origin (or its container, as provided in subsection (b) hereof) 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 manner as to indicate to an ultimate purchaser in the United States the English name of the country of origin of the article.

Section 134.43, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.43) provides that certain articles, including knives, shall be marked with the country of origin by die stamping, engraving or similar marking. Knives with folding or retractable blades are generally marked on the main blade. In this case such marking of the country of origin on the back of the buckle may be more appropriate. However, either form of marking would be acceptable as long as it complies with the law and regulations.


The Switchblade Knife Act (15 U.S.C. 1241-1245), prohibits the introduction, manufacture, transportation or introduction into interstate commerce of any switchblade knife.

Section 12.95(a)(1), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 12.95(a)(1)), provides in pertinent part that a switchblade knife means any imported knife with a blade which opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button or device in the handle of the knife, or any knife with a blade which opens automatically by operation of inertia, gravity, or both.

Examination of the sample reveals that the buckle contains a knife with a blade that opens by simply sliding the knife out of the buckle groove. No other action is required to open the blade. It is our observation that this operation is an automatic one that is made possible by the use of a spring mechanism in the handle. Consequently, the article is a switchblade knife as defined in section 12.95(a)(1), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 12.95(a)(1), and is prohibited from entering the U.S. by 15 U.S.C. 1241-1245).


The buckle knife with its four spare blades is a composite good classifiable under subheading 8308.90.60, HTSUS. The applicable rate of duty for this provision is 5.7% ad valorem.

The presence of a switchblade knife in the buckle causes this merchandise to be a prohibited importation.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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