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HQ 956790

OCTOBER 28, 1994

CLA-2:CO:R:C:M 956790 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 8708.99.80

Mr. Frank M. Murphy
Carr Consulting Group
P.O. Box 398
Farmington, MI 48332-0398

RE: Automotive Axle Housings Made From Hot Rolled Steel Tubing; Axle Housings for Rear Drive Axle Assemblies; Pipes and Tubes of Iron or Steel, Heading 7306; Cut-to-Length and Processed Tubes; Parts and Accessories of Motor Vehicles, Heading 8708; Incomplete or Unfinished Articles, Essential Character, Blanks, GRI 2(a)

Dear Mr. Murphy:

In a letter dated July 25, 1994, on behalf of Standard Tube Canada, Inc., you inquire as to the tariff classification of fabricated steel tubes from Canada you refer to as unfinished automotive axle housings. Blueprints and a lengthwise tube segment were submitted.


The articles in issue are said to be unfinished automotive components which, after importation, will be completed and incorporated into the rear drive axle assembly of the General Motors M-van vehicle series.

The merchandise is cut-to-length and processed steel tubes which are fabricated in a series of operations that begin with wide coils of hot rolled SAE 1026 flash controlled welded steel conforming to ASTM designation A 513 for electric resistance welded carbon steel mechanical tubing. These coils are slit lengthwise into narrower widths, then electro-fused and rolled into 280-inch lengths of tubing. After removing fusion residue from the inside of the tubing the lengths are annealed to soften them for further fabricating, then straightened and lubricated. The tubing is then lathe cut into 17-inch and 19.6-inch lengths. One length of tubing will become the right axle housing and the other the left axle housing. The tubes will then be rolled on a mandrel inside and outside to create uneven wall thicknesses, the - 2 -
thicker areas being necessary to accommodate brackets. The rolled tubes will then be trued back to their original finished lengths, then tapered to accept a mounted wheel bearing on one end and an axle carrier on the other end. Finally, one end of each tube is tapered to make it smaller than the other end. This last step brings the tubes to their condition as imported.

After importation, brackets will be welded to the thicker areas of each tube for mounting shock absorbers, springs, jounce pads and a parking brake cable. In addition, each tube will be machined on its thicker end to receive the wheel bearing. This completes the tubes into left and right axle housings, one of each which will slip over a rear drive axle to complete a drive axle assembly.

You maintain that upon importation the tubes are incomplete or unfinished automotive components that are identifiable as and dedicated to becoming parts of motor vehicles of HTS heading 8703. You claim that under General Rule of Interpretation (GRI) 2(a), Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), the tubes have the essential character of axle housings which are parts and accessories of heading 8708.

The provisions under consideration are as follows:

7306 Other tubes, pipes and hollow profiles (for example, open seamed or welded, riveted or similarly closed), of iron or steel:

7306.50 Other, welded, of circular cross section, of other alloy steel:

7306.50.10 Having a wall thickness of less than 1.65 mm...7.5 percent

Having a wall thickness of 1.65 mm or more:

7306.50.50 Other...4.9 percent

8708 Parts and accessories of the motor vehicles of headings 8701 to 8705:

Other parts and accessories:

8708.99 Other:


8708.99.80 Other...3.1 percent


Whether the steel tubes, cut to length and processed as indicated, have the essential character of automotive parts of heading 8708.


Merchandise is classifiable under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 states in part that for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and provided the headings or notes do not require otherwise, according to GRIs 2 through 6.

The Harmonized Commodity Description And Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the Customs Cooperation Council's official interpretation of the Harmonized System. While not legally binding on the contracting parties, and therefore not dispositive, the ENs 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. Customs believes the notes should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).

The provisions of Rule 2(a) apply to the imported merchandise if they qualify as blanks. The ENs to GRI 2(a) provide specific guidance on the application of the rule to articles referred to as "blanks." EN (II) to the GRI states on p. 2:

(II) The provisions of this rule also apply to blanks unless these are specified in a particular heading. The term "blank" means an article, not ready for direct use, having the approximate shape or outline of the finished article or part, and which can only be used, other than in exceptional cases, for completion into the finished article or part.

Semi-manufactures not yet having the essential shape of the finished articles
(such as is generally the case with bars, discs, tubes, etc.) are not regarded as

The ENs establish two criteria for articles which are "blanks" for GRI 2(a) purposes: approximate shape or outline and sole use for completion into the finished article or part. - 4 -

Applying these criteria to the merchandise in issue, it is apparent that the imported axle housing tubes have the approximate shape or outline, both in terms of length, outside diameter and varying interior wall thicknesses, of finished axle housings. They require only the welded brackets and slight additional machining on one end to receive the wheel bearing. Their dimensions upon importation, particularly the varying interior wall thicknesses, lead us to conclude the axle housing tubes will be completed only into automotive axle housings. For these reasons, the axle housing tubes qualify as blanks for tariff purposes, and have the essential character of parts of heading 8708. These same dimensions make it apparent that the finished axle housings will be principally if not solely used with motor vehicles of heading 8703.


Under the authority of GRI 2(a), the axle housing tubes in issue have the essential character of complete or finished automotive axle housings. They are considered unfinished parts and accessories of heading 8708 and are are classifiable in subheading 8708.99.80, HTSUS.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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