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HQ 966559

February 4, 2004

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 966559 DSS


TARIFF NO.: 7223.00.50

Mr. Peter T. Middleton
Middleton & Shrull
44 Mall Road, Suite 208
Burlington, MA 01803-4530

RE: Stainless Steel Flat Wire; NY I88995 Affirmed; 201 Steel Duties terminated

Dear Mr. Middleton:

In a letter dated July 11, 2003, on behalf of The Gillete Company (importer), you request reconsideration of New York Ruling Letter (NY) I88995, which the Director, National Commodity Specialist Division, New York, issued to you on December 23, 2002. The issue is the classification, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), of certain stainless steel wire used for razor blades. We have reviewed NY I88995 and determined that the classification is correct for the reasons set forth below.


In NY I88995, we classified the instant article under subheading 7223.00.50, HTSUS, which provides for wire of stainless steel, flat wire. We described the wire as follows:

The product to be imported is cold-rolled stainless steel strip material in coils with a chromium content ranging from 12.55 percent to 13.85 percent. This stainless steel strip, intended for production of razor blades, ranges from 0.076 mm to 0.1 mm in thickness and from 11.481 mm to 14.427 mm in width. It will be imported on a traverse wound coil, that is, one continuous strip of the material is wound back and forth across a spool in layers.

In NY I88995, Customs also noted that the merchandise was subject to additional duties under subheading 9903.74.22, HTSUS, in accordance with the Section 201 Relief for Certain Steel Products (steel safeguard measures), the subject of Presidential Proclamation 7529, issued on March 5, 2002. However, Presidential Proclamation 7741 terminated the assessment of these duties with respect to goods entered or withdrawn from warehouse for consumption, on or after 12:01 a.m., EST, December 5, 2003. See 68 Fed. Reg. 68483, 68485 (Dec. 8, 2003).

The instant merchandise is intended for production of razor blades for various razor cartridges depending on the razor model. You argue that the stainless steel wire is identical in chemical and physical properties to wire classified as a flat-rolled product you import under subheading 7220.20.80, except for the fact that it is not wound in coils of successively superimposed layers; as such, you argue, the wire should be classified under subheading 7220.20.80, HTSUS, as “Flat-rolled products of stainless steel . . . Razor blade steel.” You contend that the usual commercial practice of packaging steel strip recognizes both traverse wound or oscillating wound coils and pancake or ribbon wound coils.


Whether stainless steel wire not wound in successively superimposed layers falls under the definition of a flat-rolled product under the HTSUS.


Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). 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 GRIs 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 not legally binding, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS and are thus useful in ascertaining the classification of merchandise under the System. The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (Customs) believes the ENs should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-90, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

Flat-rolled products of stainless steel, of a width of less than 600 mm: 7220.20 Not further worked than cold-rolled (cold-reduced): Of a width of less than 300 mm:
Of a thickness not exceeding 0.25 mm:
Razor blade steel

Wire of stainless steel:
7223.00.50 Flat wire

You contend that the instant steel wire is identical to steel wire that you currently import in a pancake coil configuration under subheading 7220.20.80, HTSUS, as razor blade steel.

Chapter 72, notes 1(k) and 1(o), HTSUS, state that:

[i]n this chapter and, in the case of notes (d), (e) and (f) below throughout the tariff schedule, the following expressions have the meanings hereby assigned to them:

. . .

(k) Flat-rolled products

Rolled products of solid rectangular (other than square) cross section, which do not conform to the definition at (ij) above in the form of:

- coils of successively superimposed layers, or

- straight lengths, which if of a thickness less than 4.75 mm are of a width measuring at least 10 times the thickness or if of a thickness of 4.75 mm or more are of a width which exceeds 150 mm and measures at least twice the thickness.

Flat-rolled products include those with patterns in
relief derived directly from rolling (for example, grooves, ribs, checkers, tears, buttons, lozenges) and those which have been perforated, corrugated or polished, provided that they do not thereby assume the character of articles or products of other headings.

Flat-rolled products of a shape other than rectangular or square, of any size, are to be classified as products of a width of 600 mm or more, provided that they do not assume the character of articles or products of other headings.

. . .

(o) Wire

Cold-formed products in coils, of any uniform solid cross section along their whole length, which do not conform to the definition of flat-rolled products.

Chapter 72, Additional U.S. Note 1(d) provides:

For the purposes of the tariff schedule the following expressions have the meanings hereby assigned to them: . . .
(d) Razor blade steel

Flat-rolled products of stainless steel not over 0.25 mm in thickness and not over 23 mm in width, and containing by weight not over 14.7 percent of chromium, certified at the time of entry to be used in the manufacture of razor blades.

The crux of this issue is that the method by which the strip is wound, coiled, or “packaged” determines how the strip is classified. Chapter 72, Note 1(k) clearly states that flat-rolled products that are in coils must be in “coils of successively superimposed layers.” If the instant merchandise does not meet the definition of a flat-rolled product then it cannot be classified under heading 7220, HTSUS. Indeed, the legal notes prevail over commercial practices, as the notes are prima facie evidence of congressional intent. The instant article fails to meet the statutory definition of the term "flat-rolled product," as defined in the legal notes to Chapter 72 and the statutory definition of a term determines the scope of the tariff provision covering the articles defined. See Overton & Co. v. United States, 85 Cust. Ct. 76, 81, C.D. 4875 (1980). See also Lonza, Inc. v. United States, 849 F. Supp. 51 (CIT 1994); Customs Service Decision (C.S.D.) 81-182; C.S.D. 81-187. In fact, resort to the common or trade practices with regard to winding strip would be in error, because where the intent of Congress is apparent, rules of construction may not be employed to narrow, limit or circumscribe the statute. See Esco Manufacturing Co. v. United States, 63 CCPA 71, C.A.D. 1167, 530 F.2d 949 (1976).

Products wound in successively superimposed layers that are ribbon wound or pancake wound are wound onto themselves to form coils that are the same width as the strip – each layer is wound directly over the one below so that the width of the strip is the width of the coil. Traverse wound or spirally oscillated strip is wound back and forth across a spool so that the width of the spool is several times greater than the width of the strip.

There are specific subheadings in the HTSUS that provide for flat wire. EN 72.17 for nonalloy steel wire (which applies to EN 72.23, mutatis mutandis), states that wire is mostly produced from hot-rolled bars and rods by drawing through a die but wire may be obtained by any other cold-forming process (e.g., cold-rolling). The manner in which narrow flat-rolled products are coiled therefore appears to be a determining factor in whether these products will be classified as cold-rolled flat-rolled products or cold-rolled flat wire products.

As you stated in your request for reconsideration, Headquarters Ruling Letter (HQ) 960186, dated May 23, 1997, clearly states that the flat strip was not in coils of successively superimposed layers but was spirally-oscillated in layers (i.e., wound back and forth across a spool). In that ruling, we classified the strip as flat wire, under subheading 7223.00.50, HTSUS, because it did not meet the definition of a flat-rolled product and was classifiable as wire of stainless steel. HQ 957492, dated June 6, 1995, deals with a similar situation. In HQ 957492, Customs classified steel strapping imported both in ribbon wound coils, which consist of successively superimposed layers, and in oscillated wound coils, which consist of layers wound back and forth across a spool. The strapping in ribbon wound coils was classified as a flat-rolled product, while the strapping in oscillated wound coils was classified as wire under heading 7223, HTSUS.

Because the strip is imported in coils and possesses a uniform solid cross section along its whole length, we find that it meets the terms of wire in Chapter 72, note 1(o), HTSUS. Therefore, based on the foregoing analysis, it is classifiable under subheading 7223.00.50, HTSUS.


Under the authority of GRI 1, the instant merchandise is provided for in heading 7223, HTSUS. It is classified under subheading 7223.00.50, HTSUS, as “Wire of stainless steel: Flat wire.” Pursuant to the termination of the Section 201 steel safeguard measures, as provided by Presidential Proclamation 7741, stainless steel wire, flat wire, classified in the foregoing subheading, entered, or withdrawn from warehouse for consumption, on or after 12:01 a.m., EST, December 5, 2003, is no longer subject to additional ad valorem duties.


NY I88995 is AFFIRMED.


Myles B. Harmon
Commercial Rulings Division

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