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October 10,

CLA-2 RR:TC:SM 559891 BLS


TARIFF NO.: 9802.00.80

Andrew M. Parish, P.A.
100 West Cypress Creek Road
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33309-2181

RE: Applicability of subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, to wearing apparel subjected to washing process; bleaching; 19 CFR 10.14(a); incidental to assembly; HRL 557115; 557195; 559692; Mast Industries

Dear Mr. Parish:

This is in reference to your letter dated May 30, 1996, on behalf of Sewn Products International ("International"), requesting a ruling that wearing apparel subject to a type of washing process while abroad is entitled to the partial duty exemption under subheading 9802.00.80, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), upon return to the U.S. A sample garment is submitted with this request.


International intends to ship U.S.-origin cut fabric to the Dominican Republic where it will be assembled into finished garments. After assembly, the garments will undergo a finishing wash involving individual detergent, enzyme, and silicon washes. You state that to the best of your knowledge none of the wash chemicals include any type of bleach.

The assembled garments will be subjected to the following finishing operations:

First, the garments will be subjected to a scouring detergent wash for approximately ten minutes at one hundred forty degrees. The detergent will then be drained and the garments will then be rinsed twice for separate three minute intervals at one hundred twenty degrees and one hundred ten degrees Farenheit. Next the garments will be introduced to an enzyme wash for fifteen minutes at one
hundred forty degrees Farenheit. The enzyme wash will then be drained and the garments will then be rinsed twice at different temperatures. Finally, the assembled goods will be placed in a silicon wash. This wash will then be extracted and the garments will be tumbled dry. Included with your submission is a report prepared by a private laboratory which concludes that the three tested samples (powder detergent, liquid silicone product, liquid enzyme product) do not contain any type of bleach.


Whether the articles assembled abroad from U.S.-origin components and subject to the wash process described above are entitled to the partial duty exemption under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, upon return from abroad.


Subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, provides a partial duty exemption for:

Articles, except goods of heading 9802.00.90, assembled abroad in whole or in part of fabricated components, the product of the United States, which (a) were exported in condition ready for assembly without further fabrication,
(b) have not lost their physical identity in such articles by change in form, shape or otherwise, and (c) have not been advanced in value or improved in condition abroad except by being assembled and except by operations incidental to the assembly process such as cleaning, lubricating and painting.

All three requirements of subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, must be satisfied before a component may receive a duty allowance. An article entered under this tariff provision is subject to duty upon the full cost or value of the imported assembled article, less the cost or value of the U.S. components assembled therein, upon compliance with the documentary requirements of section 10.24, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 10.24).

Section 10.14(a), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 10.14(a)), states in part that:

[t]he components must be in condition ready for assembly without further fabrication at the time of their exportation from the United States to qualify for the exemption. Components will not lose their entitlement to the exemption
by being subjected to operations incidental to the assembly either before, during, or after their assembly with other components.

Operations incidental to the assembly process are not considered further fabrication operations, as they are of a minor nature and cannot always be provided for in advance of the assembly operations. See 19 CFR 10.16(a). For instance, section 10.16(b)(1), Customs Regulations {19 CFR 10.16(b)(1)}, provides that cleaning is an incidental operation. However, any significant process, operation or treatment whose primary purpose is the fabrication, completion, physical or chemical improvement of a component precludes the application of the exemption under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, to that component. See 19 CFR 10.16(c). The Customs Regulations expressly provide that the chemical treatment of components or assembled articles to impart new characteristics, such as shower-proofing, permapressing, sanforizing, dyeing, or bleaching of textiles, is not considered incidental to the assembly process. 19 CFR 10.16(c)(4).

In United States v. Mast Industries, Inc., 515 F. Supp. 43, 1 CIT 188 (1981), aff'd, 69 CCPA 47, 668 F.2d (1981), the court, in considering the legislative history of the meaning of "incidental to the assembly process," stated that:

[t]he apparent legislative intent was to not preclude operations that provide an "independent utility" or that are not essential to the assembly process; rather, Congress intended a balancing of all relevant factors to ascertain whether an operation of a "minor nature" is incidental to the assembly process.

The court then indicated that relevant factors included:

(1) whether the relative time and cost of the operation are such that the operation may be considered minor;

(2) whether the operation is necessary to the assembly process;

(3) whether the operation is so related to the assembly that it is logically performed during assembly; and,

(4) whether economic or other practical considerations dictate that the operation be performed concurrently with assembly.

You believe that the detergent, enzyme and silicon wash treatment should be considered an operation incidental to assembly, because it is analogous to a cleaning operation within the meaning of 19 CFR 10.16(b)(1). You further state that the wash process gives the garment a softer, smoother feel, but does not substantially change the characteristics or color of the fabric.

This ruling will only address the described wash process; it is assumed that the U.S.-origin components otherwise qualify for subheading 9802.00.80, treatment.

In Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 554676 dated November 23, 1987, dyed denim fabric was assembled into wearing apparel articles in the Dominican Republic, and then washed in a washing machine. The washing operation not only cleaned the newly assembled garments of dust and dirt but also of the excess dye, which would prevent the dye from running and staining other garments during the first washing. The detergents used in the foreign washing cycle were either plain high strength detergent or high strength detergent containing about 10 percent bleach substance. We stated in that case that washing the textile articles with high strength detergent was a process analogous to cleaning, and considered incidental to assembly. However, we found that washing with a high strength detergent containing a 10 percent bleach was too substantial to be treated as merely incidental. The bleaching changed the color of the exported fabric, similar to dyeing fabric, and thus was not considered an incidental operation. See also HRL 554232 dated August 25, 1986, (bleaching and softening exported fabric regarded as too substantial to be treated as merely incidental because there was not only a change in color, but a change in texture as well); and HRL 557115 dated May 28, 1993 (garments subjected to a "classic wash" process in which sodium perborate, a bleaching agent and disinfectant, was added to the wash cycle, was too substantial to be considered an acceptable operation incidental to the assembly process.)

The foregoing rulings can be distinguished from HRL 554695 dated June 16, 1989, which held that washing of assembled garments made from U.S.-origin fabricated components abroad with a detergent and fabric softener in hot water without any bleach is a "minor procedure with minimal expense which results in little change in color." We held in HRL 554695 that washing assembled garments with detergent and fabric softener abroad is considered "incidental to assembly" and an allowance in duty may be made under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, for the cost or value of the U.S. components. See also HRL 554497 dated March 18, 1987 (washing assembled garments of U.S.-origin components in a standard detergent and softener, tumble drying, and lightly pressing abroad, are considered operations incidental to assembly as they are minor in nature, related to the
assembly, and represent a small portion of the total assembly cost); and HRL 554482 dated March 12, 1987 (washing with an alkaline detergent and fabric softener, drying, and pressing of assembled garments of U.S.-origin components are considered operations incidental to the assembly process.)

In HRL 557195 dated October 14, 1993, we held that an enzyme wash treatment which contained no bleach was an operation incidental to assembly. We found that the washing and softening operation was more analogous to a cleaning operation, rather than an operation which adds new characteristics to the garment. Customs distinguished washing operations which contained bleach in the following manner:

Unlike those cases involving washing assembled garments with a detergent containing bleach, . . . . the addition of an enzyme in fabric softener does not alter the color of the fabric or change its texture. To the extent that there is any color change at all, it is caused by the washing process itself and not the enzyme. In addition, the use of an enzyme fabric softener does not result in a change in the surface composition of the fabric, which usually occurs in situations where a garment is washed with a high strength detergent containing bleach or in a stone-washing operation.

(See also HRL 558982 dated March 3, 1995, where we found that silicon and enzyme washes which included softeners and no sodium perborate or bleach were considered operations incidental to assembly.)

We find that the facts in the instant case are analogous to the facts in HRLs 557195 and 558982. After the garment parts are assembled, they are subject to detergent, silicon, and enzyme washes which do not contain any bleach. As we found in HRL 557195, the addition of the enzyme and other agents in the wash formula in the instant case does not appear (after examination of the sample) to alter the color of the fabric, change its texture, or result in a change in the surface composition of the fabric. Accordingly, washing the assembled U.S.-origin garments parts in the Dominican Republic as described above constitutes an operation which is incidental to the assembly of the trousers.


Based on the information provided, we find that the operations which include washing in detergent, silicone and an enzyme fabric softener, are considered operations incidental to the assembly process. Therefore, assuming all other operations performed in the Dominican Republic on the garments are acceptable assembly operations or operations incidental to assembly, the imported wearing apparel may be entered under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, with allowances in duty for the cost or value of the U.S. components incorporated therein, upon compliance with the documentary requirements of 19 CFR 10.24.

A copy of this ruling letter should be attached to the entry documents filed at the time this merchandise is imported. If the documents have been filed without a copy, this ruling should be brought to the attention of the Customs officer handling the transaction.



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