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HQ 965884

December 16, 2002

CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 965884 ASM


Tariff No.: 5503.10.9000

Christopher Perry
Area Port Director
U.S. Customs Service
198 West Service Road
Champlain, NY 12919

RE: Request for I.A. # 02/010; Classification of sealing compound

Dear Mr. Perry:

This ruling is in response to your letter dated April 17, 2002, requesting Internal Advice regarding the classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) of a sealing compound. A sample was forwarded for examination. The Request for Internal Advice was initiated by Deringer Logistics Consulting Group, on behalf of Tom-Pac, Inc.


The subject articles are identified as Tom-Pac™ Sealing Compound, TP-4000 and TP-5400. Both products are described as a total replacement for braided packing and mechanical seals. They are intended for use as a lubricating seal for valves, etc. According to marketing information contained in the file, these products are a colloidal mixture of solid and semi-solid lubricants amalgamated with synthetic yarns to form a dense flexible material that will not break down even under high temperature and pressure conditions. In reviewing the Laboratory Reports issued by the Customs Office of Laboratories and Scientific Services, the sealing compounds are composed of a mass of aramid fibers coated with a thin film of mineral oil. Also dispersed in the oil are powdered tetrafluroethylene resin, graphite, molybdinum disulfide (all solid lubricants), silica, and titanium dioxide.


What is the proper classification for the merchandise?


Classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) 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. The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (“ENs”) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. While neither legally binding nor dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).

Customs begins by noting that the subject articles are, prima facie, classifiable in different Sections and headings of the HTSUSA. If the components of this product were separately classified, the textile fibers would be classified in Section XI, Textile and Textile Articles, HTSUSA, and the mineral oil/chemical additives would be classified in Section VI, Products of the Chemical or Allied Industries, HTSUSA. As such, we cannot initially classify these goods in accordance with GRI 1. Furthermore, GRI 2(a) is not applicable to the subject merchandise since it covers incomplete or unfinished goods. GRI 2(b) directs that the classification of goods consisting of more than one material or substance shall be determined according to the principles of GRI 3.

GRI 3 establishes a hierarchy of methods for classifying goods that fall under two or more headings. GRI 3(a) states that the heading providing the most specific description is to be preferred to a heading, which provides a more general description. However, GRI 3(a) indicates that when two or more headings each refer to part only of the materials or substances in a composite good or to part only of the items in a set put up for retail sale, those headings are to be regarded as equally specific in relation to those goods, even if one of them gives a more complete or precise description than the other. In this case, the relevant headings under the HTSUSA, each refer to only part of the items. Thus, pursuant to GRI 3(a), we must consider the headings equally specific in relation to the goods. Accordingly, the goods are classifiable pursuant to GRI 3(b).

GRI 3(b) provides that “Mixtures consisting of different materials or made up of different components” are to be classified as if they consisted of the material or component that gives them their essential character. The EN for GRI 3(b) further states that the factor which determines essential character will vary as between different kinds of goods and may be determined as follows: “ by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the role of the constituent material in relation to the use of the goods”. In the subject case, the synthetic fibers provide the essential character of these products because this component provides the bulk, texture, and density required to form this sealing compound. Furthermore, the textile component serves as an essential base for application of the other components, i.e., mineral oil/chemical lubricants, which merely serve to enhance the sealing ability of the fibers.

In accordance with GRI 3(b), we have determined that the subject goods are classifiable as textile products. As such, we note that the textile component is composed of synthetic, i.e., man-made fibers. The HTSUSA, provides for “Man-Made Staple Fibers” in Chapter 55. The General EN for Ch. 55, defines man-made staple fibers as “discontinuous” fibers. The Customs Service, Office of Laboratories and Scientific Services reports indicate that the textile fibers in this product are of “aramid” fibers. In terms of its chemical composition, an “aramid” fiber is a manufactured fiber in which the fiber-forming material is a chain synthetic polyamide (-NH-CO-) attached directly to aromatic rings. See the encyclopedia of Polymers: Fibers and Textiles, A Compendium, published by John Wiley & Sons. A visual examination of the subject textile component reveals that it does not consist of one long continuous fiber; rather it is composed of “discontinuous” fibers, i.e., staple fibers.

In view of the foregoing, we have determined that the subject products are classified, pursuant to GRI 3(b), in heading 5503, HTSUSA, which provides for “Synthetic staple fibers, not carded, combed or otherwise processed for spinning”.


Based on the foregoing, the subject merchandise, identified as Tom-Pac™ Sealing Compound (TP-4000 and TP-5400), is correctly classified in subheading 5503.10.9000, HTSUSA, which provides for, “Synthetic staple fibers, not carded, combed or otherwise processed for spinning: Of nylon or other polyamides: Other.” The general column one duty rate is 4.4 percent ad valorem.

You are to mail this decision to the internal advice applicant no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. On that date, 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 Word Wide Web at www.customs.gov, by means of the Freedom of Information Act, and other methods of public distribution.


Myles Harmon, Acting Director

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