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HQ 963711

June 12, 2001

CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 963711 RH


TARIFF NO.: 3919.10.2055; 3919.90.5060

Area Port Director
1000 Second Avenue
Suite 2100
Seattle, Washington 98104

RE: Protest number 3001-99-10444; pressure sensitive adhesive label material; release paper; glassine paper backing

Dear Sir:

This is in reply to your memorandum of February 1, 2000, concerning the Application for Further Review of Protest (AFR) number 3001-99-10444, filed by Deloitte & Touche, LLP, on behalf of Sinclair Systems International. The protest was timely filed on August 23, 1999, against the liquidation of two entries of pressure sensitive adhesive label material under subheading 4821.90.2000 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), as pressure sensitive paper labels. We note that the merchandise was liquidated as entered, but the duty rate under the correct classification set forth below is higher than the liquidated rate.


The merchandise in question is food grade pressure sensitive adhesive label material, slit to widths of 157 mm, 235 mm and 393 mm. It is imported in rolls 2000 meters in length. For purposes of this ruling, we assume that the material is not transparent. The material consists of a film of food grade polyethylene that has been coated on one side with a natural rubber based adhesive. The adhesive surface has been backed with a release paper (glazed Kraft glassine paper) to protect the adhesive and to keep the sheet from sticking to itself. After importation, the rolls will be cut into labels that will be applied to individual items of produce. When the labels are applied to items of produce the glassine paper backing will be discarded.

The protestant asserts that the merchandise is properly classified under subheading 4811, HTSUS, as other paper and paperboard coated, impregnated or covered with plastic.


What is the correct classification of the subject merchandise?


Merchandise is classifiable under the HTSUS in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI’s). 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 GRI’s 2 through 6.

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

The protestant claims that the imported merchandise is classifiable under a GRI 3(b) analysis as it is comprised of three different components – (1) a release paper layer classifiable under heading 4811, HTSUS (coated paper or paperboard in rolls or sheet), (2) polyethylene film classifiable in heading 3919, HTSUS (other self-adhesive sheetsof plastics), and (3) rubber adhesive classifiable under heading 3506, HTSUS (other adhesives based on rubber or plastics).

Heading 3919, HTSUS, provides for “Self-adhesive plates, sheets, film, foil, tape, strip and other flat shapes, of plastics, whether or not in rolls.” While we agree with the protestant that the pressure sensitive adhesive label material is a composite good, we find that it is classifiable under the principles of GRI 1 in heading 3919, HTSUS, because the heading clearly describes the merchandise. See Headquarters Ruling Letter (HQ) 952669, dated November 30, 1992, HQ 086756, dated July 27, 1990, and HQ 084135, dated July 14, 1989 (If a single heading within the Nomenclature describes the product in issue, classification is determined under GRI 1, according to the terms of the headings
and any relative section or chapter notes). See also EN's to GRI 1 (V)([T]he terms of the headings and any relative Section or Chapter Notes are paramount, i.e., they are the first consideration in determining classification); EN to GRI 2(b) (X)([M]ixtures being preparations described as such in a Section or Chapter Note or in a heading text are to be classified under the provisions of Rule 1).

We further find that heading 3919, HTSUS, presumes that self adhesive material contains some kind of a temporary backing, such as the release paper in this case, in order to keep the material from sticking to itself or to something else until it is used. Customs applied this principal in HQ 953917, dated June 27, 1994, holding that temporary paper backing on adhesive transfer tapes of subheading 3506.10.5000, HTSUS, “merely keeps the tape in a useful form and is in the nature of packaging.”

Since the self adhesive material clearly meets the terms of heading 3919, HTSUS, under GRI 1, resort to GRI 3 to classify the merchandise in this case is not warranted, and this ruling will not address protestant’s essential character arguments.


Since the rate of duty under the classification indicated above is more than the liquidated rate, you are instructed to DENY the protest in full.

The adhesive label material imported in a width of 157 mm is classifiable under subheading 3919.10.2055, which provides for self-adhesive plates, sheets, film, foil, tape, strip and other flat shapes, of plasticsin rolls of a width not exceeding 20 cm, other, other, other.

The adhesive label material imported in widths of 235 mm and 393 mm is under subheading 3919.90.5060, HTSUS, which provides for self-adhesive plates, sheets, film, foil, tape, strip and other flat shapes, of plastics, whether or not in rolls, other, other, other.

The rate of duty for both subheadings is 5.8 percent ad valorem.

In accordance with Section 3A(11)(b) of Customs Directive 099 3550-065, dated August 4, 1993, Subject: Revised Protest Directive, you are to mail this decision, together with the Customs Form 19, to the protestant no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. Any reliquidation of the entry or entries in accordance with the decision must be accomplished prior to mailing the decision.

Sixty days from the date of the decision, the Office of Regulations and Rulings will make the decision available to Customs personnel, and to the public on the Customs Home Page on the World Wide Web at www.customs.ustreas.gov, by means of the Freedom of Information Act, and other methods of public distribution.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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