United States International Trade Commision Rulings And Harmonized Tariff Schedule
faqs.org  Rulings By Number  Rulings By Category  Tariff Numbers
faqs.org > Rulings and Tariffs Home > Rulings By Number > 1994 HQ Rulings > HQ 0955232 - HQ 0955297 > HQ 0955297

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

HQ 955297

MAY 19, 1994

CLA-2:CO:R:C:M 955297 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 7217.21.50

Mr. Jonathan M. Fee, Esq.
Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz & Silverman 1201 West Peachtree St., N.E., Suite 4860 Atlanta, GA. 30309

RE: Clicker Die Steel, Coils, Steel for Cutting Dies; Nonalloy Strip Steel Cold Rolled to Non-Rectangular, Tapered Cross Section; Steel, Cold Rolled With Cutting Bevels on One or Both Edges; Flat Wire, Subheading 7217.21.10; Other Wire, Subheading 7217.21.50; Chapter 72, Notes (k), (n), (o); HQ 045719, HQ 081491, HQ 085295, NY 889448

Dear Mr. Fee:

In letters dated October 13, 1993, to the Regional Commissioner of Customs, New York, and February 24, 1994, to the Director, Office of Regulations and Rulings, Headquarters, on behalf of Viking Products, Inc., you inquire as to the tariff classification of certain clicker die steel from Austria. At your request, a meeting was held in our offices on February 24, 1994, where additional arguments were presented and samples provided.

In NY 889448 to you, dated September 13, 1993, the Area Director of Customs, New York Seaport, held that depending on cross-sectional configuration clicker die steel imported in material lengths or cut lengths was classified in the appropriate provision in heading 7215 for other bars and rods, or in heading 7216 as angles, shapes and sections. This request is limited to clicker die steel imported in coils of successively superimposed layers.


The merchandise is clicker die steel imported in coils, containing 0.48 percent, by weight, of carbon. Designated by codes BETR, BD, PZA, BET and BDQ, this steel is only used to make dies for a stamping or clicker machine to cut cloth, leather, textiles and other soft materials into specific shapes. Clicker die steel is made by cold-rolling hot-rolled, nonalloy strip - 2 -
steel to desired thicknesses. This process involves profile rolling which gives the product a non-rectangular cross-section in the shape of convex or concave polygons. The steel is then hardened and tempered, the surface decarbonized, and a cutting bevel ground on one or both edges to form the sharp cutting edges necessary for clicker dies. These edges, which may at times be serrated to cut textiles, are then heat treated a second time for additional hardness. The steel is said to be unique in that it has sufficient softness for bending to the desired die shape, yet enough hardness on the edge(s) to maintain sharpness during prolonged use. After importation, the customer cuts the steel to length, bends it to the desired shape, then welds the two ends together to complete the finished die.

You initially proposed classification in heading 7216, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), because, in your opinion, the product conforms to the Chapter 72 legal note defining Angles, shapes and sections, and heading 72.16 Explanatory Notes contemplate a broad range of further working beyond manufacture and finishing. Alternatively, you maintain that the provision for flat wire of nonalloy steel, in subheading 7217.21.10, HTSUS, is appropriate. This is because the width of even the narrowest product exceeds its thickness by at least 4.75 times; therefore, the deviations from perfect straightness are insignificant, the product is nearly horizontal, and is therefore "flat" for tariff purposes. Finally, as a second alternative you maintain that because this steel is used only for the manufacture of clicker dies, it is provided for in heading 7208, either as an unfinished die for drawing or extruding metal, or as part of such dies.

The provisions under consideration are as follows:

7216 Angles, shapes and sections of iron or nonalloy steel:

7216.90.00 Other...4.4 percent

7217 Wire of iron or nonalloy steel:

Containing by weight 0.25 percent or more but less than 0.6 percent of carbon:

Not plated or coated, whether or not polished:

7217.21.10 Flat wire...3.2 percent

7217.21.50 Other...5.5 percent - 3 -

8207 Interchangeable tools for handtools, including dies for drawing or extruding metal; base metal parts thereof:

8207.30 Tools for pressing, stamping or punching, and parts thereof:

8207.30.60 Not suitable for cutting metal, and parts thereof...3.7 percent


Whether clicker die steel in coils is within the legal note defining Wire; if so, whether it is flat wire for tariff purposes.


Merchandise is classifiable under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 states in part that for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and provided the headings or notes do not require otherwise, according to GRIs 2 through 6. Under Rule 6, the classification of goods in subheadings of the same heading shall be according to the terms of those subheadings and any related subheading notes and, by appropriate substitution of terms, according to Rules 1 through 5, on the understanding that only subheadings at the same level are comparable.

The Harmonized Commodity Description And Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the Customs Cooperation Council's official interpretation of the Harmonized System. While not legally binding on the contracting parties, and therefore not dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System and are thus useful in ascertaining the classification of merchandise under the System. Customs believes the notes should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).

Initially, clicker die steel in coils, as described, is not a flat-rolled product because it does not have a solid rectangular cross section. Chapter 72, Note 1(k), HTSUS. This note in part authorizes patterns in relief derived directly from rolling (for example, grooves, ribs, checkers, tears, buttons, lozenges) as an exception from this cross sectional requirement. There is no argument made, or independent evidence that the profile rolling of this steel into shapes with polygonal cross - 4 -
sections are such authorized patterns in relief. To qualify as angles, shapes and sections, a product must have a uniform cross section along its whole length and must not conform to the definition for wire, among other things. Chapter 72, Note 1(n), HTSUS. Finally, cold-formed products, in coils, of any uniform solid cross section along their whole length, qualify as wire if they do not conform to the legal note defining flat-rolled. Chapter 72, Note 1(o), HTSUS.

Reading the cited notes together, the merchandise in issue cannot be classified in heading 7216 if it is provided for as wire, in heading 7217. In this regard, relevant ENs at p. 1004, state that wire is produced by subjecting hot-rolled bars and rods to any cold-forming process, usually drawing or rolling. The notes state further that wire may be worked (e.g. crimped) and remain in heading 72.17, provided it does not thereby assume the character of articles or products of other headings. We do not agree with your claim that clicker die steel cannot be classified in the wire provisions because the heading 72.17 ENs do not expressly list heat treating as an authorized step in wire production. Because the cited ENs are silent on the issue of heat treating, they are simply inconclusive in that regard. It is clear that because of the mechanical stresses inherent in many cold working operations, it is often necessary in producing wire to anneal or otherwise heat treat wire rod or steel strip to restore ductility and to permit additional cold working. HQ 081491, dated November 8, 1989, HQ 085295, dated November 20, 1989.

Within heading 7217, both the provision for flat wire and the provision for other wire describe the clicker die steel in issue. Pursuant to GRI 3(a), HTSUS, the provision for flat wire, in subheading 7217.21.10, if it applies, would be the most specific provision from among the provisions under consideration. The term "flat" is not defined in any section or chapter note, or in any Explanatory Note. It is therefore appropriate to consider the common meaning of the term, as derived from dictionaries and other lexicons. Because the term "flat" is more or less uniformly defined in most dictionaries, we will examine the following Webster's Third New International Dictionary definition of the term cited in HQ 045791, dated July 27, 1976, a ruling which considered a provision for flat wire in the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS):

"...having or marked by a continuous surface that is horizontal or nearly so without significant curvature or inclination and noteworthy elevations or depressions."

The criteria you suggest for determining the flatness of the clicker die steel in issue, i.e., that (visually) the samples are more flat than they are polygonal or round, by measuring width to - 5 -
thickness ratios, or capability of tipping or rolling when placed on a horizontal surface, are not objective and cannot be uniformly applied. For this reason, it is Customs position to regard slight deviations from straightness which result from imprecise manufacturing techniques as insignificant. However, it logically follows that tapers, bevels, and other deviations from straightness that are designed into the steel, are to be regarded as significant and noteworthy because they were intended. For this reason, we do not consider the described clicker die steel in issue to be flat for tariff purposes.

As to the heading 8207 classification, it is inaccurate to claim under GRI 2(a) that the merchandise, as imported, has the essential character of a cutting tool or part because the cutting of cloth, leather and paper is "exactly what clicker die steel is made to do." In fact, it is the clicker dies and not the steel in coiled form, that are the tools encompassed by heading 8207. You cite Doherty-Barrow of Texas, Inc. v. United States, 3 CIT 228 (1982), for the proposition that the coiled clicker die steel qualifies as unfinished clicker dies because the steel is dedicated solely to the manufacture of clicker dies and the character and identity of the merchandise is fixed with certainty. We disagree with your assessment of Doherty-Barrow for several reasons. First, it is a case decided under the TSUS and the concept of essential character is not discussed. Second, the coiled steel strip in that case was to be cut to standard lengths of either 9ft. 6in. or 11ft. 6in. There is no compelling argument that the identity of individual cutting dies is established in the coiled steel under consideration, particularly where these dies vary so much in their configurations.


Clicker die steel imported in coils of successively superimposed layers is provided for as wire of iron or nonalloy steel. Under the authority of GR1 3(a), applied at the subheading level through GRI 6, the merchandise is classified as other wire of iron or nonalloy steel, in subheading 7217.21.50, HTSUS.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

See also: