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HQ 955524

February 23, 1995

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 955524 GG


TARIFF NO.: 5401.20.0000

Mary E. Wright, Esq.
Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz, Silverman & Wright 45 School Street, Second Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02108

RE: Classification of Embroidery Thread

Dear Ms. Wright:

This is in response to your request of December 8, 1993, for a binding ruling on the tariff classification of embroidery thread. Your client is Madeira USA Ltd. ("Madeira").


The merchandise at issue is 100% viscose rayon thread imported and sold by Madeira as embroidery thread, specifically, as Madeira #40 Rayon Black 1000 and Madeira #40 Rayon White 1001. The thread at issue is two-ply, has a final Z-twist, and is put up on supports weighing less than 1,000 grams. Three thread samples submitted to Customs' Office of Laboratories and Scientific Services for testing were found to be dressed or finished with silicone or paraffin wax. The percent by weight of finish varied from 1.2 to 3.1 percent.


How is the thread properly classified?


Articles are classified under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States ("HTSUSA") in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1 provides that classification shall be according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes. Merchandise that cannot be classified in accordance with GRI 1 is to be classified in accordance with the remaining GRI's, taken in order.

Heading 5401 of the HTSUSA provides for sewing thread of man-made filaments, whether or not put up for retail sale. Chapter 54 falls within Section XI of the HTSUSA. Section Note 5 defines the term "sewing thread" as follows:

For purposes of headings 5204, 5401 and 5508, the expression "sewing thread" means multiple (folded) or cabled yarn:

(a) Put up on supports (for example, reels, tubes) of a weight (including support) not exceeding 1,000 g;
(b) Dressed; and
(c) With a final "Z" twist.

The threads at issue are put up on supports weighing less than 1000 g, and have a final "Z" twist. Concerning the issue of whether the threads are dressed, the Explanatory Notes (EN) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, which constitute the official interpretation of the nomenclature at the international level, state:

The term "dressed" means given a finishing treatment. This treatment is designed to facilitate the use of textile yarn as a sewing thread, for example, by giving it antifriction properties or thermal resistance, preventing the formation of static electricity or improving its appearance. Such treatment involves the use of substances based on silicones, starch, wax, paraffin, etc.

The yarn samples submitted to the Customs laboratory were found to be coated with from 1.2 to 3.1 percent by weight of silicone or paraffin wax. In defining "finishing treatment", the EN's require only the presence of a coating substance. Thus, the yarns in question have been given a finishing treatment and are dressed according to this definition.

You agree that Madeira's threads meet the technical definition of "sewing thread". However, you contend that their inability to be used as sewing thread disqualifies them from being categorized in that manner. Specifically, you point out that rayon embroidery thread has low tensile strength and becomes unstable when exposed to moisture. While appropriate for ornamentation purposes, these factors render it unsuitable for carrying out the function commonly known as sewing, i.e., the uniting, joining, or attaching of two materials through the use of stitches. Therefore, you suggest that a fourth prong of the sewing thread test can be imputed from the use contemplated by the term "sewing". Namely, for thread to be deemed "sewing thread" under the HTSUSA, it must not only meet the first three requirements set down in Section Note 5, but must also be able to be used to "sew". Madeira's embroidery thread is not suitable for this purpose, and consequently, you argue, it must be classified under a different tariff provision. The proposed alternative heading is 5403, HTSUSA, which provides for artificial filament yarn (other than sewing thread), not put up for retail sale, including artificial monofilament of less than 67 decitex.

In our opinion, the fact that the thread at issue cannot be used in the same manner as sewing thread does not preclude its classification under heading 5401, HTSUSA. Madeira's thread meets the statutory definition of the term "sewing thread", and the statutory definition of a term determines the scope of the tariff provision covering the articles defined. See Overton & Co. v. United States, 85 Cust.Ct. 76, 81, C.D. 4875 (1980). See also Lonza, Inc. v. United States, 849 F. Supp. 51 (CIT 1994); Customs Service Decision (C.S.D.) 81-182; C.S.D. 81-187. Furthermore, resort to the common or trade meaning of the term "sewing thread" would be in error, because where the intent of Congress is apparent, rules of construction may not be employed to narrow, limit or circumscribe the statute. See Esco Manufacturing Co. v. United States, 63 CCPA 71, C.A.D. 1167, 530 F.2d 949 (1976).

The thread in question falls under the statutory definition of the term "sewing thread", and therefor, is properly classified under heading 5401, HTSUSA, as sewing thread of man-made filaments. The General Explanatory Note to Chapter 54 identifies viscose rayon as an artificial fiber; accordingly, the threads are classifiable as sewing thread of artificial filaments at the subheading level.


The viscose rayon thread is classifiable under subheading 5401.20.0000, HTSUSA, as sewing thread of man-made filaments, whether or not put up for retail sale: of artificial filaments. This merchandise is dutiable at the rate of 12.8% ad valorem, and is subject to textile quota category 200.

The designated textile category may be subdivided into parts. If so, the visa and quota requirements applicable to the subject merchandise may be affected. Since part categories are the result of international bilateral agreements which are subject to frequent renegotiations and changes, to obtain the most current information available we suggest the importer check, close to the time of shipment, the Status Report on Current Import Quotas (Restraint Levels), an internal issuance of the U.S. Customs Service which is updated weekly and is available for inspection at your local Customs office.

Due to the nature of the statistical annotation (the ninth and tenth digits of the classification) and the restraint (quota/visa) categories, the importer should contact his local Customs office prior to importation of this merchandise to determine the current status of any import restraints or requirements.


John Durant
Director, Commercial

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