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HQ 956136

October 13, 1994

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 956136 BC


TARIFF NO.: 4202.22.8050

George R. Tuttle, Esq.
Three Embarcadero Center
San Francisco, CA 94111

RE: Reconsideration of New York ruling 894806; classification of handbag; outer surface; plastic sheeting vs. textile material; essential character; GRI 3(b); GRI 3(c)

Dear Mr. Tuttle:

This responds to your letter of September 16, 1994, and your client's letter of March 17, 1994, wherein reconsideration of New York Ruling Letter (NYRL) 894806 (classifying a handbag) was requested. We have reviewed the matter and our decision follows.


On March 8, 1994, Customs New York Seaport issued NYRL 894806, which classified a woman's handbag in subheading 4202.22.8050, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), which provides for handbags, with outer surface of textile materials, of man-made fibers. You contend that the handbag should be classified in subheading 4202.22.1500, HTSUSA, which provides for handbags, with outer surface of sheeting of plastic.

The woman's handbag at issue consists of several materials: cardboard and plastic strip for interior structure, a woven textile fabric, cellular plastic foam, a textile fabric consisting of a compact plastic sheet with a textile fabric backing and textile flock material, a zipper, a PVC carrying strap, and some PVC trim. It has a flap that folds over the front of the handbag with a snap closure mechanism. Closed, the handbag measures 9 inches x 10 1/2 inches x 2 3/4 inches. The exterior surface of the handbag consists of a woven textile fabric (on the lower back side of the handbag), textile flock material (applied to and partially covering the plastic sheeting), and plastic sheeting. The plastic sheeting component is embossed to simulate a leather-like grain. The flocking fills the interstices created by the embossing, imparting a more authentic grain leather appearance and contributing to the soft texture of the handbag. (This description of the merchandise at issue, as well as the following analysis, is based on an examination of a sample handbag and a sample swatch of material that was submitted in connection with this request for reconsideration.)


Is the subject handbag classifiable as having an outer surface of textile material or of sheeting of plastic?


Initially, we note that there is no dispute as to the classification of the handbag at issue under heading 4202, HTSUSA. Handbags are among the named articles of the heading. Since the handbag is mainly covered with textile material, it is prima facie classifiable therein. The dispute in the instant case concerns the subheading level classification according to the material considered to comprise the outer surface.

The structure of heading 4202 is such that the outer surface of an article plays an important role in its classification at the subheading level. We have seen before instances where an article is covered with a material that is a sheeting of plastic, textile material, or paper for purposes of qualifying for classification within the heading, but may not be considered such a material for purposes of determining the outer surface for subheading level classification. (See Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 087640, November 8, 1990; HRL 087755, December 4, 1990; HRL 087210, May 10, 1991; and 954021, November 1, 1993.)

The outer surface of the instant handbag consists of two materials: (1) textile materials: a woven textile fabric that forms the outer surface of most of the back side of the handbag (covering an area of 5 x 10 1/2 inches) and the textile flock that partially covers the embossed plastic material and (2) sheeting of plastic: the (embossed) plastic material that forms the rest of the handbag's outer surface.

Additional U.S. Note 2 to Chapter 42, HTSUSA, directs that articles of textile fabric that are impregnated, coated, covered, or laminated with plastics (compact or cellular) "shall be regarded as having an outer surface of textile material or plastic sheeting," depending on the extent to which the textile or plastic material makes up the "exterior surface" (or outer surface). It is not applicable here because the instant handbags do not fit the above description; their construction is more complex. Since it does not apply, the outer surface determination of the instant handbag will require application of General Rule of Interpretation (GRI) 3. (GRI 2(b) directs that the "classification of goods consisting of more than one material or substance shall be according to the principles of rule 3." GRI 6 provides that the classification of goods at the subheading level "shall be determined according to the terms of those subheadings and any related subheading notes and, mutatis mutandis, to the above rules [GRI 1 - 5], on the understanding that only subheadings at the same level are comparable.) In relevant part, GRI 3 provides that goods classifiable under two or more headings, such as composite goods, are classified as follows:

(b) Mixtures, composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components, and goods put up in sets for retail sale, which cannot be classified by reference to 3(a), shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character, insofar as this criterion is applicable.

(c) When goods cannot be classified by reference to 3(a) or 3(b), they shall be classified under the heading which occurs last in numerical order among those which equally merit consideration.

Prior cases have shown how GRI 3 essential character analyses involving multi-component outer surfaces have been handled. In Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 955515, dated May 5, 1994, we classified in heading 4202, HTSUSA, a tote bag with an outer surface consisting of both a plastic vinyl material and a leather material as having an outer surface of sheeting of plastic. We applied GRI 3(c), since GRI 3(b) could not be applied on the grounds that neither the plastic material nor the leather material was sufficiently predominant to impart the essential character to the outer surface. (See also HRL 952831, February 24, 1993, applying GRI 3(c).) On appropriate facts, these decisions will be made on the basis of GRI 3(b). All such decisions are somewhat subjective and must be made on a case by case basis. In this regard, the Explanatory Notes for GRI 3(b) state the following regarding essential character determinations:

(VIII) The factor which determines essential character will vary as between different kinds of goods. It may, for example, be determined by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the role of a constituent material in relation to the use of the goods.

Based on the samples we have examined, we conclude that the essential character of the outer surface cannot be determined, since neither the textile material nor the compact plastic material is sufficiently predominant. Consideration of factors typically evaluated in making determinations of this kind does not lead to the conclusion that either material imparts essential character. Neither the textile nor the plastic material appears to predominate sufficiently with respect to surface area and weight. While function may weigh somewhat in favor of the plastic material, this is not so clear as to be conclusive. The aesthetic factor (marketability) appears relatively equal, as the (sought after) simulation and feel of authentic grain leather is produced by both the embossed plastic and the textile flock. While figures on value were not submitted, we feel that this is a less important factor in the instant case than surface area and aesthetic considerations. Looking at all these factors, we are unable to conclude that either material imparts essential character. Thus, classification of the instant handbag will be in accordance with GRI 3(c). Subheading 4202.22.8050 appears last in numerical order as between the competing subheadings meriting consideration.


The handbags at issue are classifiable in subheading 4202.22.8050, HTSUSA, as having an outer surface of textile materials. Accordingly, NYRL 894806 is affirmed.


John Durant, Director

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