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HQ 960454

December 9, 1997

CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 960454 RH


TARIFF NO.: 4202.92.9015

Mr. Anthony Bonatesta
Vice President, Entry
Meadows Wye & Co., Inc.
2506 Forest Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10303

RE: Classification of a jewelry box; heading 4202; paper coated with a sheeting of plastic; subheading 4202.92; "outer surface

Dear Mr. Bonatesta:

This is in reply to your letters dated March 10, April 8 and August 18, 1997, concerning the classification of jewelry containers. We apologize for the delay in responding to your request.

We note that, as required by the Customs Regulations, you advised us in writing on August 18, 1997, that the merchandise under consideration has been imported into the United States. Section 177.5 of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR 177.5), requires each person submitting a request for a ruling to advise the Customs Service Office to which the request was made when any transaction described in the ruling request becomes current and under the jurisdiction of a Customs Service field office. The regulation further requires the ruling requester to advise the field office of that fact. The field office will normally withhold action with respect to any transaction for which a ruling has previously been requested pending the disposition of the ruling request.

We assume that you have advised the ports of entry that the merchandise is the subject of a pending ruling request.


One of the samples under consideration is a jewelry box, style 617C-E(D3), which is of a kind normally sold at retail with its contents. It is manufactured of a molded plastic box covered on all sides but the top with plastic coated paper. The lid is made of a compact plastic sheeting material on the exterior and a foam base material on the interior.

The other sample in question is a trifold jewelry folder, which you refer to as a "pearl folder." It is manufactured of a plastic coated paper material that covers the entire folder. It has a snap closure and two interior elastic tabs which also have snaps. The interior is lined with satin textile materials. It also appears to be of a kind normally sold at retail with its contents.


What is the classification of the subject jewelry box and jewelry folder?


Classification of goods under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 provides that classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, taken in their appropriate order. Jewelry boxes are specifically listed in heading 4202, which provides for:

Trunks, suitcases. . .and similar containers; traveling bags. . . jewelry boxes. . . and similar containers, of leather or of composition leather, of sheeting of plastics, of textile materials, of vulcanized fiber or of paperboard, or wholly or mainly covered with such materials or with paper. (Emphasis added).

The Explanatory Notes to heading 4202, HTSUSA, which constitute the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level, state that articles covered by the second part of the heading must be only "of" the materials specified therein or must be "wholly or mainly covered with such materials or with paper." Both the jewelry box and jewelry folder in this case are "covered with paper" and, therefore, meet the criteria in the Explanatory Notes for classification within heading 4202.

The next issue concerns the subheading under which to classify the jewelry containers. At the six-digit level, the nomenclature classifies the majority of goods in Chapter 42 by the material which comprises the "outer surface." HQ 954021, dated November 1, 1993, citing HQ 087760, dated October 31, 1991, and HQ 087640, dated November 8, 1990. The term "outer surface of" is not defined in Chapter 42, nor anywhere else in the HTSUSA. In HQ 086775, dated July 9, 1990, Customs stated that the outer surface "is that which is both visible and tactile." See 954021 and the cases cited therein. "Tactile" is defined as follows: "1. Perceptible to the touch: TANGIBLE." "Tangible" is defined as follows: "1a. Discernible by the touch or capable of being touched." Webster's II New Riverside University Dictionary, (1984) at 1178 and 1182, respectively.

Moreover, for purposes of heading 4202, Customs resolved the issue of what is the "outer surface of" articles made with composite materials. See HQ 954021. Specifically, we addressed whether jewelry box frames which were made of plastic or metal and were covered with paper backings to which textile materials had been applied had an outer surface of textiles or paper. In reaching our conclusion, we said that Additional U.S. Note 2 of Chapter 42 is instructive in understanding the meaning of "outer surface of" when applied to composite materials [not specifically listed in that note]. Additional U.S. Note 2 of Chapter 42 provides:

For purposes of classifying articles under subheadings 4202.12, 4202.22, 4202.32 and 4202.92, articles of textile fabric impregnated, coated, covered or laminated with plastics (whether compact or cellular) shall be regarded as having an outer surface of textile material or of plastic sheeting, depending upon whether and the extent to which the textile constituent or the plastic constituent makes up the exterior surface of the article.

Customs application of this note makes it clear that a composite material that is "of" textile for classification at the heading level may, nonetheless, have an "outer surface of" plastic for classification at the subheading level. HQ 954021, citing HQ 087640, HQ 087755, HQ 087210, dated May 10, 1991. In 954021, counsel argued that the paper covering would be a paper for both heading and subheading level classification [regardless of the external surface]. The argument in HQ 954021 was based on the logic that if the drafters of the Additional U.S. Notes intended that textile and paper combinations be treated in the same way that Additional U.S. Note 2, Chapter 42, treats plastic and textile combinations, they would have so specified. We disagreed with that argument and found that the absence of a note addressing paper and textile composite materials, or other composite materials (i.e. paper and plastic) did not evidence an intent to interpret the term "outer surface" differently when confronted with other component combinations. We held that the composite paper and textile flock material that covered the jewelry box was a paper for heading level classification (4202) but had an "outer surface of" textile material for subheading level classification (4202.92).

In this case, the jewelry box is constructed of molded plastic, and the pearl folder is constructed of plastic coated paper material. Both containers are wholly covered with paper which has an outer surface of sheeting of plastic. It is the plastic coating on the jewelry containers which gives them a smooth finish and appearance. Accordingly, based on the principle of Additional U.S. Note 2 to Chapter 42, and the rationale set forth in HQ 954021, we find that the jewelry box and jewelry folder are classified in subheading 4202.92, HTSUSA.


The jewelry box and jewelry folder in question are classified in subheading 4202.92.9060 of the HTSUSA, which provides for "Trunks, suitcases. . .and similar containers; traveling bags. . . jewelry boxes. . . and similar containers, of leather or of composition leather, of sheeting of plastics, of textile materials, of vulcanized fiber or of paperboard, or wholly or mainly covered with such materials or with paper: Other: With outer surface of sheeting of plastic or of textile materials: Other: Other: Other: Other" They are dutiable at the 1998 general rate of duty at 19 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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