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HQ 961103

September 24, 2001

CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 961103 SG


TARIFF NO.: 5602.10.1000

Mr. Bruce Schroeder
Corporate Purchasing
Findlay Industries
4000 Fostoria Road
Findlay, Ohio 45839

RE: Request for reconsideration of NY B89029; tariff classification of needleloom felt for various uses

Dear Mr. Schroeder:

This letter is in response to your request for reconsideration of New York Ruling Letter (NY) B89029, dated September 25, 1997, which classified a mat manufactured of needleloom felt material from Germany under heading 5602, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). We apologize for the delay in responding.


The merchandise at issue was described in the original submission by Trans-World Shipping Service, upon which NY B89029 was based, as being of a three-layer construction. The middle layer measures about ½ inch thick. It consists of a 50/50 mixture of bast vegetable fibers (kenaf) and thermoplastic polypropylene man-made staple fibers. The fibers have been carded and cross lapped together. The resultant mat is needled together in a standard needleloom, rolled and subsequently bonded with the two outer layers. The outer layers each measure 1/8 inch thick, and are made on the same equipment using a 70/30 blend of polypropylene/polyester man-made fibers. The fibers are prepared in similar manner to the inner material. According to your literature the middle layer is sandwiched between the two identical outer layers and fused together using hot air nozzles.

The material is used in sound deadening applications, e.g., door panels and inserts, as well as in package trays, seat backs, and automobile trunk liners.

You ask that we consider classifying the merchandise in heading 4601, HTSUS, or any other appropriate classification.


What is the proper classification for the subject merchandise?


Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that the classification of goods shall be determined according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relative Section or Chapter Notes. In the event that the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRI may then be applied.

There are three plausible headings under consideration in the classification of this merchandise. Heading 5603, HTSUS, which provides for, nonwovens, whether or not impregnated, coated, covered or laminated; heading 5602, HTSUS, which provides for, felt, whether or not impregnated, coated, covered or laminated; and heading 4601, HTSUS, which provides for plaits and similar products of plaiting materials.

Heading 4601 encompasses “Plaits and similar products of plaiting materials, whether or not assembled into strips; plaiting materials, plaits and similar products of plaiting materials, bound together in parallel strands or woven, in sheet form, whether or not being finished articles (for example, mats, matting, screens).”

In pertinent part, Note 1 to Chapter 46, HTSUS, states that:

In this chapter the expression “plaiting materials” means materials in a state or form suitable for plaiting, interlacing or similar processes; it includes straw...strips of wood, strips of other vegetable material (for example, strips of bark, narrow leaves and raffia or strips obtained from broad leaves), unspun natural textile fibers, monofilament and strip and the like of plastics and strips of paper, but not strips of leather or composition leather or of felt or nonwovens,..., or monofilament and strip and the like of chapter 54.

According to the Explanatory Notes, goods covered under heading 4601, HTSUS, including mats, are "either formed of strands woven together, generally in the manner of warp and weft fabrics, or they may be made of parallel strands placed side by side and maintained in position in the form of sheets by transverse binding threads or strands holding the successive parallel strands." This language indicates that the mats covered by heading 4601, HTSUS, must be woven with a generally warp and weft-like orientation or must consist of parallel strands maintained in a side by side orientation in the form of sheets. The merchandise at issue was not constructed in either of these ways and does not conform to either of these patterns. Rather, it consists of several component pieces where fibers have been carded and cross lapped together. The resultant mat is needled together in a standard needleloom. This construction and pattern are clearly different from the EN's description, above.

Thus, the merchandise at issue does not qualify as a product of plaiting materials or a mat covered under heading 4601, HTSUSA, because its construction differs from that of covered mats (and other covered goods).

We therefore turn our attention to Chapter 56, HTSUS.

Heading 5602, HTSUSA, provides for felt, whether or not impregnated, coated, covered or laminated. The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, Explanatory Notes, state at page 850, in pertinent part, that this heading includes needleloom felt which is made either:

(1) by punching a sheet or web of textile staple fibers (natural or manmade), without a textile fabric base, with notched needles; or

(2) by needling such textile fibers through a base of textile fabric or other material which is finally more or less hidden by the fibers.

The needleloom technique makes it possible to obtain felt from nonfelting vegetable fibers or manmade fibers.

Needled webs of staple fibres in which the needling is complementary to other types of bonding and needled filament- based webs are regarded as nonwovens (heading 56.03).

We must therefore determine whether the merchandise is felt or nonwoven for tariff purposes.

Textiles: Fiber to Fabric, 5th Edition (1975), p. 161, states the following concerning felt:

Before 1952, it was believed that felt could be made only from wool or fur. Then technicians at DuPont created a process for making felt from manmade fibers by carding, crosslapping or air dispersion, followed by passing the batt through a needle punching machine containing numerous barbed needles. (Needlepunching felt is now made of virtually every kind of fiber.) (Emphasis added).

Understanding Fabrics: From Fiber to Finished Cloth (1982), p. 54, states the following concerning felt:

Felt fabric structure is a nonwoven fabric structure produced directly from fibers forming an interlocking, uniform, compact matted layer or material by either the traditional form of wool felting, or the needlefelting process. Fibers used in the production of felt include: fine or coarse wool, hair, cotton, sisal, jute) fine rayon and fine or coarse manmade fibers.

In fact, felt can be made from many kinds of fibers, including vegetable fibers such as kenaf, using the needleloom technique.

When the subject merchandise was analyzed by the Customs Office of Laboratory and Scientific Services, the results obtained were as follows: The sample is textile mat composed of three layers. The outer two layers are composed of a blend of polyester fibers and olefin fibers. The middle layer is composed of a blend of vegetable bast fibers and olefin fibers. The bast fibers are processed beyond a state in which they may be considered as plaiting material. The fibers of the middle layer are laid in a state that indicates that they have been air carded or air laid. The three layers are laminated to each other by needle loom operation. This is indicated by the needle holes through all the layers and by the outer layer fibers being pushed into the middle layer. The sample is therefore a needleloom felt.

The manufacturing process by which the subject merchandise is made is consistent with the processes used for making needleloom felt described in the ENs as within the scope of heading 5602. Consequently, the merchandise at issue is classifiable in Heading 5602, HTSUSA. In particular, the three layers are entirely composed of staple fibers laminated together by needling. See EN 56.02 at 850, para. 5.


We affirm the classification rendered in NY B89029.

The subject merchandise is classified in subheading 5602.10.1000, HTSUSA, which provides for, felt, whether or not impregnated, coated, covered or laminated: needleloom felt and stitch-bonded fiber fabrics: laminated fabric. The applicable general column one rate of duty is 13.2 percent ad valorem and the quota category is 223.

The designated textile and apparel category may be subdivided into parts. If so, visa and quota requirements applicable to the subject merchandise may be affected. Since part categories are the result of international bilateral agreements which are subject to frequent negotiations and changes, we suggest that your client check, close to the time of shipment, the Status Report On Current Import Quotas (Restraint Levels), an issuance of the U.S. Customs Service, which is updated weekly and is available at the local Customs office.

Due to the changeable nature of the statistical annotation (the ninth and tenth digits of the classification) and the restraint (quota/visa) categories, your client should contact the local Customs office prior to importing the merchandise to determine the current status of any import restraints or requirements.


John Durant, Director

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