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HQ 954287

September 30, 1994

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 954287 ch


TARIFF NO.: 5101.21.6000

District Director
U.S. Customs Service
200 E. Bay Street
Charleston, South Carolina 29401-2611

RE: Application for further review of Protest No. 1601-93-100048 under 19 U.S.C., section 1514(c)(2); classification of scoured wool subjected to bleaching and insect-proofing operations; degreased wool; not processed in any manner beyond the degreased condition.

Dear Sir:

This is a decision on application for further review of a protest timely filed by Standard Wool, Incorporated. We have considered the protest and our decision follows. Please be advised that the protestant has filed a claim for detrimental reliance in conjunction with the protest. As detrimental reliance is not a matter subject to protest, we will deal with the protest in this document and will respond directly to the importer as to the issue of detrimental reliance.


The subject merchandise are bales of wool imported from New Zealand. Prior to importation, the wool has been subjected to an aqueous scouring process known as a "scouring train." The primary chemicals used in the scouring process are detergent, alkali (sodium carbonate), and water. The detergent acts to emulsify grease (fat) present in the wool and holds the dirt in suspension. The alkali enhances this process by hydrolyzing the fat to form a soap and glycerol in a process known as saponification. The water serves as a medium for the solution of the detergent and alkali and the dispersal of the grease and impurities. The wool is also subjected to bleaching and insect-proofing steps and is finally dried.

The wool was entered under subheading 5101.21.1500, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), which provides for certain course wool, not processed in any manner beyond the degreased condition. Wool classified in this subheading was eligible for duty-free treatment, pursuant to subheading 9902.51.01, HTSUSA. However, the wool was classified in subheading 5101.21.6000, HTSUSA, which includes such wool processed beyond the degreased condition and is dutiable at 7.7 cents/kilogram + 6.25 percent ad valorem.


What is the proper tariff classification for the instant wool?


Subheading 5101.21, HTSUSA, provides for wool, not carded or combed: degreased, not carbonized: shorn wool. By agreement, the subject merchandise meets this description. At the eight digit national classification level, subheading 5101.21.15, HTSUSA, encompasses such wool, unimproved or not finer than 40s, "not processed in any manner beyond the degreased condition." Subheading 5101.21.60, HTSUSA, which is a residual provision, includes by implication such wool which has been processed beyond the degreased condition. Hence, the protest turns on an understanding of the degreasing process.

The Explanatory Notes (EN) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System constitute the official interpretation of the nomenclature at the international level. While not legally binding, they do represent the considered views of classification experts of the Harmonized System Committee. It has therefore been the practice of the Customs Service to follow, whenever possible, the terms of the EN when interpreting the HTSUSA.

The EN to heading 5101, HTSUSA, state in pertinent part, at pages 721 through 722, that:

This heading covers sheep's or lambs' wool, not carded or combed, whether obtained by shearing the animal or the pelt of the dead animal (shorn wool), or by pulling from the pelt after fermentation or appropriate chemical treatment (e.g., pulled wool, slipe wool or skin wool).

Uncarded and uncombed wool is generally in the form of:

(A) Greasy, including fleece-washed wool.

Greasy wool is wool not yet washed or otherwise cleaned; it is therefore still impregnated with wool grease and fatty matter derived from the animal itself and may contain an appreciable quantity of impurities (burrs, seeds, earth, etc.). Greasy shorn wool is often in the form of "fleeces" having more or less the contours of the pelt.

Greasy wool is normally yellowish.
Some, however, is grey, black, brown or russet in colour.

(B) Degreased wool, not carbonised.

This category includes:

(1) Hot-washed wool - washed with hot water only and relieved of the majority of wool grease and earthy matter.

(2) Scoured wool - wool from which the grease has been removed almost entirely by washing with hot water and soap or other detergents or with alkaline solutions.

(3) Wool treated with volatile solvents
(such as benzene and carbon tetrachloride) to remove grease.

(4) Frosted wool - this has been subjected to a sufficiently low temperature to freeze the grease.
The grease is then in a very brittle state and is easily broken up and removed as dust together with a large part of the natural impurities which are held in the wool by the grease.

Most washed and degreased wools still contain small amounts of grease and vegetable matter (burrs, seeds, etc.); this vegetable matter is removed mechanically at a later stage (see Explanatory Note to heading 51.05) or by carbonisation.

(Emphasis added).

The EN to heading 5101 define "greasy wool" as wool that is not yet washed or otherwise cleaned. Degreased wool includes wool that has been scoured. The EN state that scoured wool is "wool from which the grease has been removed almost entirely by washing with hot water and soap or other detergents or with alkaline solutions." It is important to note that degreased or scoured wool may be further cleaned by other processes (e.g. carbonized wool, which is classifiable in subheading 5101.20, HTSUSA). The instant product is comprised of wool that has been degreased by means of a scouring process. Accordingly, we shall use the terms "degreased" and "scoured" interchangeably for the purposes of this protest.

This matter was referred to the Office of Laboratories and Scientific Services. The laboratory advises that the term "degrease" refers to the removal of grease, suint, and extraneous matter from wool by an aqueous or solvent process. Thus, degreasing includes the removal of oils and fats secreted from the animal's skin, dried perspiration or suint, and acquired impurities such as sand, dirt, burrs, pollen and other vegetable matter from the animal's environment.

The series of processes described in this instance includes an example of an aqueous scouring process. Consistent with the EN to heading 5101, the primary chemicals used in the scouring process are detergent, alkali (sodium carbonate) and water. These chemicals function to remove the grease and impurities. On the other hand, the purpose of the application of bleaching agents to any textile material is to lighten or whiten the fibers. Insect-proofing is performed to protect wool from attack by larvae. As bleaching and insect-proofing do not function to remove grease or impurities from the wool, these processes are not part of the degreasing process.

Protestant argues that bleaching and insect-proofing are part of the "scouring train" and should be regarded as part of the scouring process. It is contended that there are many different methods by which wool may be scoured and that they each result in what is commercially referred to as scoured wool. In the interests of simplifying the administration of the applicable provisions, protestant suggests that processes which are incorporated as part of the scouring train and which occur prior to drying should be regarded as not advancing wool beyond the degreased condition.

While we agree that the administration of heading 5101, HTSUSA, would be simplified by distinguishing between operations occurring before and after drying, we do not believe that this result is consistent with the terms of the applicable provisions. It should be noted that the duty free provision is applicable for certain wool "not processed in any manner beyond the degreased condition." The underlined language suggests that any processes unrelated to degreasing are beyond the scope of the subheading. The laboratory has concluded the wool has been degreased at the time the bleaching and/or insect-proofing agents are applied. Consequently, these are processes which advance the wool beyond the degreased condition.

Protestant also observes that bleaching may be regarded as a cleaning process. As scouring is a cleaning process, protestant claims that bleaching may be regarded as an extension thereof. Protestant notes that the EN to heading 5101 specify that scouring may include the use of alkaline solutions and states that bleach may be regarded as such a solution.

Although bleaching is primarily applied to textile materials to whiten the fibers, the laboratory recognizes that it may be regarded as a cleaning operation to the extent that it also deodorizes or disinfects the wool. However, we are advised that hydrogen peroxide bleaching, an oxidation process, involves a separate and distinct chemical process from degreasing or scouring. Furthermore, carbonized wool is classified in a separate provision than degreased wool, despite the fact that carbonizing is also a cleaning operation. Hence, although bleaching may in some respects clean wool, this fact does not render it part of the scouring process.

Protestant directs our attention to the EN to heading 5101, at page 722, which states in part that "bleaching, dyeing or other processes applied prior to carding or combing do not affect the classification of wool in this heading." From this language, the importer infers that processes such as bleaching or insect-proofing have no bearing on the classification of wool within heading 5101, at the eight digit subheading level. Therefore, it is contended that these processes should have no bearing on the classification of the wool.

However, the quoted language refers to processes which affect the classification of wool in the "heading." The word "heading" is a term of art which refers to the four digit classification level. In this instance, the language merely indicates that "bleaching, dyeing or other processes applied prior to carding or combing" do not remove the wool from heading 5101. By its terms, the passage does not apply to the classification of wool at the subheading level (i.e. within heading 5101).

We have considered applying this language at the subheading level as the protestant suggests. However, as alluded to above, the pertinent subheading indicates that wool processed in any manner beyond the degreased condition is excluded from the duty free provision. Thus, the plain wording of the statute appears to draw a distinction between degreased wool and other minor processing operations.

Furthermore, as the provisions at issue occur at the eight digit national level, we have consulted with the International Trade Commission (ITC) to determine their intended scope. We have been advised that the relevant subheadings were intended to carry over the tariff treatment accorded to similar merchandise under the prior tariff, the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS). Item 307.52, TSUS, provided for "fibers of wool or hair processed in any manner beyond the washed, scoured, or carbonized condition (including tops), but not spun," carrying the same rate of duty as subheading 5101.21.6000, HTSUSA. We have been informed that item 307.52, TSUS, encompassed scoured wool which had been bleached and/or mothproofed. Therefore, we conclude that processing operations such as bleaching and mothproofing were intended to affect the classification of wool within heading 5101, HTSUSA.

Finally, the protestant states that it is impracticable to require the importer to verify whether importations of wool have been subjected to processes such as bleaching and/or insect-proofing. While conceding that it is possible to direct a processor to withhold certain processes, protestant notes that wool often passes through many hands prior to importation. In these circumstances, the protestant argues that an undue burden would be placed on the importing community if it is held responsible for monitoring whether wool has been subjected to processes regarded as unrelated to scouring.

We agree that monitoring the condition of wool places a burden on the importing community. Indeed, the relevant tariff provisions impose a significant administrative burden on Customs which would also be avoided if we disregarded processing operations such as bleaching. However, the Customs Service is charged with administering the tariff schedule as it has been enacted. Consequently, we conclude that bleaching and/or mothproofing scoured wool advances it beyond the degreased condition.


Therefore, based on the foregoing discussion, this protest should be denied in full. The subject merchandise is properly classifiable in subheading 5101.21.6000, HTSUSA, which provides for wool, not carded or combed: degreased, not carbonized: shorn wool: other. The applicable rate of duty is 7.7 cents/kilogram + 6.25 percent ad valorem. A copy of this decision should be attached to the CF 19 Notice of Action to satisfy the notice requirement of section 174.30(a), Customs Regulations. Please be advised that the attorney of record no longer represents the protestant. This decision should be forwarded instead to: Boston Wool Trade Association, Attention: Barry J. Savage, 425 Front Street, Weymouth, Massachusetts 02188-2801.

The claim for detrimental reliance will be the subject of a separate letter to the importer. Entries relating to this protest should be liquidated in accordance with the detrimental reliance letter.

In accordance with Section 3A(11)(b) of Customs Directive 099 3550-065, dated August 4, 1993, Subject: Revised Protest Directive, this decision should be mailed by your office to the protestant no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. Any reliquidation of the entry in accordance with the decision must be accomplished prior to mailing of the decision. Sixty days from the date of the decision the Office of Regulations and Rulings will take steps to make the decision available to Customs personnel via the Customs Rulings Module in ACS and the public via the Diskette Subscription Service, Freedom of Information Act and other public access channels.


John A. Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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