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HQ 954021

November 1, 1993

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 954021 BC


TARIFF NO.: 4202.92.9015

Peter J. Fitch, Esq.
116 John Street
New York, New York 10038

RE: Classification of jewelry presentation boxes covered with flock-covered paper; outer surface; external surface; duty allowance under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUSA; fabricated component; assembly; folding; gluing

Dear Mr. Fitch:

This responds to your letter of April 27, 1993, wherein you requested a ruling regarding the proper classification of plastic and metal framed jewelry presentation boxes that are covered with flock-covered paper. Our decision follows.


Your client intends to export from the United States certain cut-to-shape materials that will be used in the foreign assembly of jewelry presentation boxes. The boxes are made of plastic or metal, and are of the kind used in the presentation and/or sale of jewelry. After production, these jewelry boxes will be imported into the United States.

The cut-to-shape materials are made of paper and textile flock material. You submitted samples of each material, and you described them as follows: "[T]he materials enclosed consist of paper backings to which textile materials have been applied. In the case of the burgundy sample, the textile is a man made flocking which is glued onto the paper. In the case of the tan sample, the man-made decoration has been electrostatically drawn onto the glued surface of the paper." The textile covered paper materials will be assembled onto the jewelry boxes by a folding and gluing process.


(1) Are these jewelry boxes classifiable under subheading 4202.92., HTSUSA, as jewelry boxes with outer surface of textile materials, or under 4202.99, HTSUSA, as jewelry boxes wholly or mainly covered with paper?

(2) Do these jewelry boxes qualify for a partial duty allowance under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUSA, when returned to the United States?


(1) Classification

The essential question is as follows: For purposes of classification within heading 4202, HTSUSA, do these jewelry boxes have an outer surface of textiles or of paper?

In Headquarters Ruling Letter 087760, dated October 31, 1991, a case involving the classification of jewelry presentation boxes of the general kind at issue, Customs considered whether flock-covered paper was a paper or a textile material for purposes of classification at the heading level. At that time, October 31, 1991, paper was not among the materials specified at the end of the second part (after the semicolon) of heading 4202, HTSUSA. Therefore, the determination that the flock-covered paper was either a paper or textile material would determine whether the jewelry boxes would be classifiable under heading 4202, HTSUSA, or under another heading. If a textile, the jewelry boxes would be classified under heading 4202, HTSUSA; if a paper, they would have to be classified elsewhere. The operative language was the language of the heading: ". . . of plastic sheeting, of textile materials, of vulcanized fiber or of paperboard, or wholly or mainly covered with such materials."

The ruling stated the following regarding this particular issue:

At the four-digit level, heading 4202, HTSUSA, requires that a good be "of" or "wholly or mainly covered with" a specified material. However, at the six-digit level, the nomenclature classifies goods by the material which comprises the "outer surface." . . . In classifying goods such as these, we must distinguish between the requirements of the four- and six-digit headings, since they dictate different criteria for classifying goods.

. . . .

. . . We find that, used as a covering, the paper and textile material should be considered a paper for purposes of heading 4202, HTSUSA. [Emphasis in original.] As such, it [a covering of paper] is excluded from classification in that heading. We note that this finding does not address what the outer surface of the article might be for purposes of subheading classification. [Emphasis supplied.]

Evident in the above are two important distinctions: (1) a covering vs. an outer surface, and (2) classification at the four-digit (or heading) level vs. classification at the six- digit (or subheading) level. This ruling was a harbinger of the instant case, and its pointed reservation to conclude regarding the "outer surface" issue was an indication of Customs state of mind on this question in 1991. That is, if Customs position then was that the covering material was a paper for both heading and subheading level classification, it would have so stated. That it did not indicates a recognition that given appropriate facts, the conclusion might be otherwise.

Today, paper is one of the materials specified in the second part of heading 4202, HTSUSA. Thus, we are not concerned here with classification at the heading, or four-digit, level. The jewelry boxes are classifiable in heading 4202, HTSUSA; the only question is under which subheading. As stated in HRL 087760, "at the six-digit level, the nomenclature classifies goods by the material which comprises the 'outer surface'." See also HRL 087640 (November 8, 1990) and HRL 087755 (December 4, 1990).

The term "outer surface" is not defined in Chapter 42, nor anywhere else in the HTSUS. In HRL 086775, dated July 9, 1990, Customs stated that the outer surface "is that which is both visible and tactile." This statement was repeated with approval in HRL 087760, which revoked HRL 086775. See also HRL 087787 (December 20, 1990) and HRL 088571 (May 31, 1991). "Tactile" is defined as follows: "1. Perceptible to the touch: TANGIBLE." "Tangible" is defined as follows: "1.a. Discernible by the touch or capable of being touched." Webster's II New Riverside University Dictionary, (1984) at 1178 and 1182, respectively.

Additional U.S. Note 2 of Chapter 42, HTSUSA, provides that for purposes of classification under subheadings 4202.12, 4202.22, 4202.32, and 4202.92, "articles of textile fabric impregnated, coated, covered or laminated with plastics (whether compact or cellular) shall be regarded as having an outer surface of textile materials or of plastic sheeting, depending upon whether and the extent to which the textile constituent or the plastic constituent makes up the exterior surface of the article." Thus, this note explicitly provides the mechanism for making an "outer surface" determination where a textile is impregnated, coated, covered or laminated with plastic. The note expresses the concept of "outer surface" by use of the term "external surface." This note provides a useful clue in understanding the term "outer surface" when applied to other component combinations.

Customs application of this note makes it clear that a composite material that is a textile for classification at the heading level may be, nonetheless, a plastic for classification at the subheading level. For example, in HRL 087640, an article similar to a backpack was classified under heading 4202, HTSUSA. It was made of a composite textile and plastic material. For heading level classification purposes, the composite material was considered a textile, but for classification at the subheading level, the outer surface, or external surface, was considered a plastic sheeting. In HRL 087755, a handbag made of a composite textile and plastic material was classified under heading 4202, HTSUSA. As in HRL 087640, the composite material was considered a textile for heading level classification, but the outer surface, or external surface, was considered a plastic sheeting for subheading level classification. See also HRL 087210, dated May 10, 1991.

While there is no legal or U.S. note concerning the classification of a paper and textile composite material, we believe that Additional U.S. Note 2 of Chapter 42, HTSUSA, is instructional in understanding the meaning of "outer surface." The jewelry boxes at issue are classifiable under the heading as jewelry boxes wholly or mainly covered with paper. However, for purposes of classification within heading 4202, HTSUSA, the outer or "external surface" of the covering controls. The outer or external surface of the jewelry boxes is textile flock material. Thus, the jewelry boxes are classifiable under the appropriate subheading pertaining to articles with an "outer surface of textile materials." This conclusion is consistent with HRL 087760 and its distinctions pertaining to covering vs. outer surface and heading level vs. subheading level classification.

You argue that the existence of Additional U.S. Note 2 of Chapter 42, HTSUSA - restricted as it is to composite materials of textile and plastic - and the absence of any other note pertaining to other materials, such as paper and textile, evidences an intent to limit this kind of construction only to situations where textiles are impregnated, coated, etc., with plastic. Thus, you contend, a flock-covered paper covering would be a paper for both heading level and subheading level classification regardless of the external surface. The logic is that if the drafters of the additional U.S. notes intended that textile and paper combinations be treated in the same way that Additional U.S. Note 2, Chapter 42, treats plastic and textile combinations, the drafters would have so specified.

We disagree. We believe that the drafters included the "instruction" of Additional U.S. Note 2 for the simple reason that the structure of heading 4202, HTSUSA, calls upon the classifier to frequently make distinctions based on the appearance of outer surfaces of textile or plastic materials. The structure of the heading has not been set up with the same emphasis on paper and textile material distinctions. Also, articles consisting of textile and plastic composite materials are frequently, and properly, considered for classification under heading 4202, and instructions as to them in this regard, given the structure of the heading, are helpful. We do not believe that the absence of a note addressing paper and textile composite materials, or other composite materials, evidences an intent to interpret the term "outer surface" differently when confronted with other component combinations.

Based on the foregoing, we conclude that the composite paper and textile flock material that covers the jewelry boxes being imported by your client is a paper for heading level classification but has an "outer surface" of textile material for subheading level classification.

2. Duty Allowance Under 9802.00.80, HTSUSA

Subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUSA, provides 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 being assembled and except by operations incidental to the assembly process, such as cleaning, lubricating and painting.

All three of the above requirements must be satisfied before a duty allowance is granted. An article entered under this tariff provision is subject to duty upon the full cost or value of the imported assembled article, less the cost or value of the U.S. components assembled therein, upon compliance with the documentary requirements of section 10.24, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 10.24).

Section 10.14(a), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 10.14(a)), provides in part that:

[t]he components must be in condition ready for assembly without further fabrication at the time of their exportation from the United States to qualify for the exemption. Components will not lose their entitlement to the exemption by being subjected to operations incidental to the assembly either before, during, or after their assembly with other components.

Section 10.16(a), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 10.16(a)), provides that the assembly operation performed abroad may consist of any method used to join or fit together solid components, such as welding, soldering, riveting, force fitting, gluing, lamination, sewing, or the use of fasteners.

Operations incidental to the assembly process are not considered further fabrication operations, as they are of a minor nature and cannot always be performed in advance of the assembly operation. See 19 CFR 10.16(a). However, any significant process, operation or treatment, the primary purpose of which is the fabrication, completion, physical or chemical improvement of a component, precludes the application of the exemption under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUSA, to that component. See 19 CFR 10.16(c).

In HRL 555601, dated October 29, 1990, Customs held that the combined operations of scoring paper (of United States origin), applying tape to its ends, and folding the paper into a bellows portion in order to make an expandable 21-pocket letter file folder constituted a fabrication of the component paper within the meaning of 19 CFR 10.16(c). The bellows configuration was not only the essence of the U-shaped paper component, but was also the foundation of the expandable pocket file folder. These operations were also not considered incidental to the assembly process, pursuant to 19 CFR 10.16(b)(5), since they constituted more than "adjustments in the shape or form of a component to the extent required by the assembly being performed abroad." See Samsonite Corp. v. United States, 702 F. Supp. 908 (CIT 1988), aff'd 889 F. 2d 1074 (Fed. Cir. 1989). However, in HRL 556010, dated June 24, 1991, it was held that the sewing together of cut- to-shape United States origin fabric to enclose a collapsible cardboard box constituted an acceptable assembly operation pursuant to 19 CFR 10.16(a).

In this case, gluing the material, which already has been cut-to-shape in the United States, onto the metal or plastic box is explicitly provided for in 19 CFR 10.16(a) as an acceptable assembly operation. Furthermore, although the operation here involved includes a folding process, we find that it is distinguishable from the folding operation performed in HRL 555601, where the folding of the paper created the essence and foundation of the expandable pocket file folder. In addition, the United States origin material in the instant case qualifies as a fabricated component under 19 CFR 10.14(a). It is cut-to- shape in the United States and is used to cover the boxes without further fabrication. The United States origin material in HRL 555601 was not a fabricated component; it was further fabricated abroad in the assembly process.


(1) The jewelry boxes at issue, covered with a flock-covered paper, are classifiable under subheading 4202.92.9015, HTSUSA, as jewelry boxes of a kind normally sold at retail with their contents, with an outer surface of textile material. The applicable duty rate is 20% ad valorem.

(2) On the basis of the information provided, it is our view that the folding and gluing operations performed abroad in producing the jewelry boxes qualify as assembly operations under 19 CFR 10.16(a). Therefore, allowances in duty may be made under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUSA, for the cost or value of the United States origin materials used to cover the jewelry boxes, provided the documentary requirements of 19 CFR 10.24 are satisfied.


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