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HQ 952649

January 19, 1993

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 952649 jb


TARIFF NO.: 5603.00.9010

District Director of Customs
P.O. Box 2450
San Francisco, CA 94126

RE: Decision on Application for Further Review of Protest No. 280992-101138; merchandise not other wadding, heading 5601, HTSUSA; proper classification as nonwoven textile fabric, heading 5603, HTSUSA.

Dear Sir:

This is a decision on application for further review of a protest timely filed on behalf of Cleasby Manufacturing Co. Inc., on June 23, 1992, against your decision regarding the classification of a product described as "black felt". All entries were liquidated on May 8, 1992.


As per laboratory results, the subject merchandise consists of a sheet of nonwoven staple vegetable fibers (flax) embedded in asphalt and rubber. It weighs .784 kilograms per square meter, with a composition of 52 percent asphalt and rubber, and 48 percent vegetable fibers.

A letter accompanying the protest describes the manufacture of the product as starting with jute and flax fibers being put through a carding machine to fully open them. They are then fed into a scutcher machine which forms the fibers into a loose lap in the same way that cotton wadding used for surgical dressings is made. After the lap leaves the scutcher machine, it is passed between rollers coated with the asphalt or bitumen blend that saturates and bonds the wadding.

The merchandise was originally entered under heading 5601, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), which provides for other wadding. Customs classified the merchandise under heading 5603, HTSUSA, as a nonwoven textile fabric.

The protestant believes that the merchandise should be classified as wadding based on a May 5, 1972 court decision classifying similar merchandise. It is also argued by the protestant that as he has been importing this type of merchandise since 1960, the applicable rate of duty should be the rate in effect prior to the HTSUSA.


Is the submitted sample properly classifiable in heading 5601, HTSUSA as other wadding or in heading 5603, HTSUSA, as nonwoven textile fabric?


Classification of merchandise under the HTSUSA is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI), taken in order. GRI 1 requires that classification be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, taken in order. Where goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, the remaining GRI will be applied, in the order of their appearance.

Though the laboratory report establishes the composition, by weight, of the subject merchandise, it is deficient in its description. The product is referred to as an "asphalt substance" or "bituminous compound". In this type of product, a form of rubber (not identified) is generally added to the asphalt to render increased flexibility to the asphalt; the latter having a tendency of being brittle in nature. The saturant remains the asphalt, or bituminous compound, and as such, it is not a question of the wadding and asphalt being "embedded" in the rubber. To the contrary, the main component of the product remains the asphalt.

Customs has previously determined that classification of articles under the TSUS is not determinative of the proper classification under the HTSUSA. Where there is a legally required reason to deviate from past TSUS decisions, Customs will do so, giving the appropriate reasoning under the HTSUSA. It has been determined that though the meaning of a tariff term is a question of law (Digital Equip. Corp. v. United States, 889 F.2d 267, 268 (Fed. Cir. 1989)), whether a particular article fits within the meaning of a tariff term is a question of fact (Brookside Veneers, Ltd. v. United States, 6 Fed. Cir. (T) 121, 124, 847 F.2d 786, cert. denied, 488 U.S. 943 (1988)).

Under the prior tariff, webs, wadding, felt and nonwovens... whether or not coated or filled, were grouped together under TSUS items 355.02 through 355.25, relative to the component textile material in chief value. As the vegetable fibers predominated in value over the other components, the duty rate was always the lowest in the group.

Under the present HTSUSA, wadding has its own heading under heading 5601, HTSUSA. The fiber base of this product by its method of manufacture, is wadding. The Explanatory Notes (EN) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, are the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level. The EN to heading 5601, HTSUSA state, in part:

1. This Chapter does not cover:

(a) Wadding, felt or nonwovens, impregnated, coated or covered with substances or preparations (for example, perfumes or cosmetics of Chapter 33, soaps or detergents of heading No. 34.01, polishes, creams or similar preparations of heading No. 34.05, fabric softeners of heading No. 38.09) where the textile material is present merely as a carrying medium;

The EN to heading 5601, HTSUSA, further state, in part:


It should, however, be noted that wadding treated with an agglutinating substance and in which that substance has penetrated into the inner layers is classified as a nonwoven in heading 56.03, even if the fibers of the inner layers are readily separable.

In the case of the subject article, the asphalt compound thoroughly impregnates and saturates the vegetable wadding, thereby acting as an agglutinating substance. Customs classified similar merchandise in heading 5603, HTSUSA, in New York Ruling (NY) 875489, dated November 9, 1992. In that ruling Customs determined that "because of the complete saturation, this material is considered a nonwoven fabric for tariff purposes".

Heading 5603, HTSUSA, provides for nonwovens, whether or not impregnated, coated or covered or laminated. The EN to heading 5603, HTSUSA, state that nonwovens can be produced in various ways and production can be conveniently divided into the three stages: web formation, bonding and finishing. Among the methods enumerated are:

I. Web formation

(a) by carding or air-laying fibres in order to form a sheet. These fibres may be parallel, cross or random oriented (dry-laid process);

II. Bonding

(a) Chemical bonding in which the fibres are assembled by means of a bonding substance. This may be done by impregnation with an adhesive binder such as rubber, gum, starch, glue or plastics, in solution or emulsion, by heat treatment with plastics in powder form, by solvents, etc. Binding fibres can also be used for chemical bonding.

III. Finishing

Nonwovens may be dyed, printed, impregnated, coated, covered or laminated. Those covered on one or both surfaces (by gumming, sewing or by any other process) with textile fabric or with sheets of any other material are classified in this heading only if they derive their essential character from the nonwoven.

As these methods accurately describe the method of manufacture of the subject merchandise, the merchandise was correctly classified by the import specialist in subheading 5603.00.9010, HTSUSA, which provides for nonwoven textile fabrics.


The merchandise described as "interleaved black felt" was properly classified in subheading 5603.00.9010, HTSUSA, providing for nonwovens, whether or not impregnated, coated, covered, or laminated, with material other than or in addition to rubber, plastics, wood pulp or glass fibers. The applicable rate of duty is 12.5 percent ad valorem.

As the rate of duty under the classification indicated above is the same as the liquidated rate, you are instructed to deny the protest in full. A copy of this decision should be appended to the Form 19 Notice of action and furnished to the protestant.


John Durant, Director

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