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NY 816134

November 28, 1995

CLA-2-46:RR:NC:GI:230 816134


TARIFF NO.: 4602.10.0900

Ms. Renee E. Stein
963 Sixth Street South, Suite #120
Kirkland, Washington 98033-6712

RE: The tariff classification of split bamboo baskets from China

Dear Ms. Stein:

In your letter dated October 18, 1995, you requested a tariff classification ruling on behalf of Wald Imports, Inc. located in Kirkland, WA.

Your ruling request concerns bamboo baskets of various sizes and shapes which are the products of China. All the baskets in question are made of flat bamboo strips. Three catalogues and corresponding price lists have been submitted. In these catalogues, you have circled pictures of the baskets in question. A list of the bamboo baskets referred to as "Exhibit A" was not received. As per telephone discussion with NIS Paul Garretto, the catalogues will suffice.

Although the subject baskets may vary in size and shape, the common factor which is germane to the issue you present is the use of bamboo which has been cut into narrow strips and woven or shaped into the desired basket.

The Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) provides two competing subheadings for the bamboo baskets in question:

4602.10.07, which provides for bamboo wickerwork baskets,

4602.10.09, which provides for other bamboo baskets, i.e., baskets made of bamboo which is not in wickerwork form.

You state that Customs at the Port of Seattle has classified the subject baskets under subheading 4602.10.09, HTSUS, as other bamboo baskets. You believe that the present Customs interpretation of the tariff and the term "wickerwork" as used in Chapter 46, in particular, causes subheading 4602.10.07, HTSUS, to be "basically an empty provision".

Furthermore, it is Wald Imports' position that the subject baskets should be classified as bamboo wickerwork baskets under subheading 4602.10.07, HTSUS, free of duty.

It is not a relevant classification question to consider the quantity of a product which is imported and classified under one provision or another. What is relevant is to be able to distinguish which articles are classifiable under a specific provision.

In the case before us, the term which distinguishes bamboo baskets under the two cited competing provisions is "wickerwork".

Classification of goods under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1 provides that classification is determined first in accordance with the terms of the headings of the tariff and any relative section or chapter notes.

The Explanatory Notes (ENs) to the HTS constitute the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level. They 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.

A review of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule and the pertinent Explanatory Notes shows that in this case neither document provides a definition or guidance to the term "wickerwork".

In the absence of a definition or legislative guidance, we agree with your assertion that resort should be made to the common meaning of the term "wickerwork". Moreover, it is well established by case law that the common meaning, unless the contrary is shown, is the same as the commercial meaning.

The presence of two subheading provisions for bamboo baskets makes it clear that Congress intended to distinguish between baskets made of bamboo in "wickerwork" form and baskets of bamboo not in the form of "wickerwork". Therefore, it is not simply the material used, i.e., bamboo, that determines the classification but also the preparation or processing of the material prior to making the article, in this case, a basket.

The preparation and processing of materials is a fundamental theme critical in classifying articles under Chapter 46. This fundamental theme is clearly expressed in Chapter 46, Note 1 which states as follows:

In this chapter the expression "plaiting materials" means materials in a state or form suitable for plaiting, interlacing or similar processes.

A basket made of bamboo which has not been processed or prepared into plaiting material is not classifiable under Chapter 46. (See Chapter 44, Note 6.)

Mutatis mutandis, it is a logical and valid interpretation to require that material, e.g., bamboo, be prepared or processed into a "wickerwork" form before an article can be considered to be made from "wickerwork".

As we have stated, we agree with your assertion that we need to resort to the common meaning of the term "wickerwork". Thus, we have consulted various lexicographic authorities to establish the common meaning of the term "wickerwork".

Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1964 & 1981) defines "wickerwork" as follows:
work consisting of a texture of osier, twigs, or rods.

("Osier" is defined in Webster as "any of various willows whose pliable twigs are used for furniture and basketry.)

The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1993) and the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition, (1993) provide the same definition.

The New Encyclopedia Britannica, (1986), Vol. 12, page 646 states:
wickerwork, furniture made of real or simulated osier (rods or twigs) plaited into appropriate shapes.

We have also reviewed two sources cited in your letter and for which you have submitted the relevant pages. The first is The Complete Wicker Book by Frances Thompson and the second is Fine Wicker Furniture by Tim Scott. Both sources discus the term "wicker" not the tariff term "wickerwork". In any case, both sources do not contradict in any way the common definition of "wickerwork" as found in the above cited lexicographic sources.

Nevertheless, the term "wicker" is a very broad and general term which does not elucidate the meaning of the tariff term "wickerwork". Frances Thompson in The Complete Wicker Book states:

The term wicker, which came into use after 1800, is not a material, but rather a general classification covering all woven furniture and accessories.

We find that the common meaning of the tariff term "wickerwork" as expressed in the various lexicographic sources refers to "twigs" or "rods". Thus, the common factor is that to be "wickerwork" the material has to be in the form of "twigs" or "rods". Articles made of filaments, strips, fiber, parts of leaves, etc. are not "wickerwork".

Based on the foregoing, we conclude that the baskets at issue made from bamboo strips are not "wickerwork" for tariff purposes. Heading 4602, HTSUS, requires the product to be made of VEGETABLE PLAITING MATERIAL as defined in Chapter 46, Note 1. In addition, subheading 4602.10.07, HTSUS, requires that the material be BAMBOO in "WICKERWORK" form, that is, in the form of TWIGS or RODS. In the present case, the baskets are made from flat bamboo strips which can not be considered twigs or rods.

The applicable subheading for the subject baskets of flat bamboo strips will be 4602.10.09, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States, which provides for other baskets of bamboo (not in wickerwork form). The rate of duty will be 10 percent ad valorem.

This ruling is being issued under the provisions of Section 177 of the Customs Regulations (19 C.F.R. 177).

A copy of the ruling or the control number indicated above should be provided with the entry documents filed at the time this merchandise is imported.

If you have any questions regarding the ruling, contact National Import Specialist Paul Garretto at 212-466-5779.


Roger J. Silvestri

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