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HQ 955346

February 9, 1994

CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 955346 RFA


TARIFF NO.: 7223.00.50

Mr. Michael A. Hertzberg
Howrey & Simon
1299 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004-2402

RE: Coils of Stainless Steel Curved Wire; Wire, Other Than Round or Flat; Parts of Piston Engines in Automobiles; Heading 8409; Note 1 to Chapter 72; HQ 951565

Dear Mr. Hertzberg:

In a letter dated October 15, 1993, to the Regional Commissioner of Customs in New York, on behalf of Hitachi Metals America, Ltd., you inquired as to the tariff classification of coils of stainless steel curved wire under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Your letter was referred to this office for a response.


The merchandise consist of coils of stainless steel curved wire which is to be imported for direct sale to the end user who manufactures piston rings for automobile engines. The curved wire is a cold-formed wire designed for the manufacture of piston rings. Wire rod is drawn through a die multiple times for customization according to the end user's size requirements. The curved wire measures 3.545 to 3.555 mm in width and 1.240-1.250 mm in thickness, with a uniform cross section which is slightly tapered. The curved wire is designed to fit exactly into the grooves of pistons.

The cross section of the wire is designed with a slight convex curve on either end, which is invisible to the naked eye. The wire undergoes multiple heat treatments, which impart the wire with the great tensile strength and particular hardness required for use as piston rings. After importation, the curved wire is subject to the following processes to make piston rings: coiling to ring shape; cutting to individual rings; and slight surface finishing treatment.


Are the coils of stainless steel curved wire classifiable as parts of engines or as flat wire or wire, other than flat or round, under the HTSUS?


Classification of merchandise under the HTSUS 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 relative section or chapter notes.

Citing pre-HTSUS cases, you assert that the coils of curved wire should be classified under subheading 8409.91.91, HTSUS, as other parts suitable for use solely or principally with spark- ignition internal combustion piston engines. You state that after importation, the curved wire is subject to the following processes: coiling to ring shape; cutting to individual rings; and slight surface finishing treatment. However, this is not "substantial additional processing." You state that the convex curve in the wire's cross section along with its size and dimensions make it "virtually ready for use as piston rings."

The issue to be resolved is whether the coils of wire imported in material lengths is fixed as piston rings; a part for an internal combustion piston engine, even though it requires further manufacturing after importation. Under a longstanding Customs principle, goods which are material when entered are not classifiable as a particular article unfinished. See Sandvik Steel, Inc. v. United States, 321 F.Supp. 1031, 66 Cust. Ct. 12, C.D. 4161 (1971)(shoe die knife steel in coils and cutting rules in lengths, without demarcations for cutting or bending, held to be material rather than unfinished knives or cutting blades); The Harding Co. v. United States, 23 Cust. Ct. 250 (1936)(rolls of brake lining held to be material because the identity of the brake lining was not fixed with certainty); Naftone, Inc. v. United States, 67 Cust. Ct. 340, C.D. 4294 (1971)(rolls of plastic film without demarcations for cutting despite having only one use held to be insulating material).

In HQ 951565, dated April 23, 1992, Customs dealt with the issue of material versus finished article in regards to cold- rolled stainless flat wire which were cut to length without holes or notches and ready to be inserted into the rubber blade of a windshield wiper. In that ruling, Customs held that the wire was subject to other uses because the wire did not have holes or notches cut into it. Customs concluded that "just because the wire is cut to length and is in certain dimensions making it particularly adaptable for use as a part of a windshield wiper does not take it out of the category of wire. There is no evidence that the wire is incapable of being made into other articles requiring the same dimensions as that of the plain wire."

Applying the rationale in HQ 951565 and the numerous court cases to the subject merchandise, we find that even though the curved wire is manufactured in certain dimensions making it particularly adaptable for use as piston rings, it does not take it out of the category of wire. There is no evidence that the wire is incapable of being made into other articles requiring the same dimensions as that of the curved wire. Because the "use" of the wire is not definitive, classification is precluded as a part of piston engines. The merchandise should therefore be classified based upon its material components.

As an alternative to subheading 8409.91.91, HTSUS, you suggest that the merchandise is classifiable under subheading 7223.00.50, HTSUS, as flat wire. Note 1(o) to Chapter 72, HTSUS, defines "wire" as follows: "[c]old-formed products in coils, of any uniform solid cross section along their whole length, which do not conform to the definition of flat-rolled products." "Flat-rolled products" is defined in Note 1(k) to Chapter 72, HTSUS, as follows: "coils of successively superimposed layers, or straight lengths, which if of a thickness less than 4.75 mm are of a width measuring at least 10 times the thickness or if of a thickness of 4.75 mm or more are of a width which exceeds 150 mm and measures at least twice the thickness." The subject merchandise does not fall under the definition for flat-rolled products because it measures 3.545-3.555 mm in width and 1.240- 1.250 mm in thickness. Furthermore, the subject merchandise is cold-rolled, of a uniform solid cross-section along the whole length, and imported in coils. Therefore, the subject merchandise meets the definition of "wire" and is classifiable under heading 7223, HTSUS.

The alternative issue to be resolved is whether the subject merchandise is classifiable as flat or other wire. The term "flat wire" is not defined anywhere in the HTSUS. A tariff term that is not defined in the HTSUS or in the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) is construed in accordance with its common and commercial meaning. Nippon Kogasku (USA) Inc. v. United States, 69 CCPA 89, 673 F.2d 380 (1982). Common and commercial meaning may be determined by consulting dictionaries, lexicons, scientific authorities and other reliable sources. C.J. Tower & Sons v. United States, 69 CCPA 128, 673 F.2d 1268 (1982).

In HQ 045791, dated July 27, 1976, Customs consulted the dictionary term of "flat" to resolve the classification of a wire, with a slight crown or curve on its top surface, under the predecessor to the HTSUS. Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines "flat" as "having or marked by a continuous surface that is horizontal or nearly so without significant curvature or inclination and without noteworthy elevations or depressions." Based upon this definition, Customs held that because the wire had a visibly curved surface which was purposely imparted to the wire in a crowning process, it could not be classified as a flat wire.

The subject merchandise is purposely designed to have a convex curve on either side of the wire. Based upon the above definition and long-standing practice under the Tariff Schedule of the United States and the HTSUS, the provision for flat wire includes only those wires which are not designed to deviate from flat. Based on the design of the subject wire, it cannot be classifiable as a flat wire. Because the wire is curved on the sides, it is classifiable under subheading 7223.00.90, HTSUS, as other wire.


The stainless steel curved wire on coils is classifiable under subheading 7223.00.90, HTSUS, which provides for: other wire of stainless steel, not round nor flat. The general, column one rate of duty is 6.3 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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