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HQ 967351

February 18, 2005

CLA-2: RR:CR:TE 967351 KSH


TARIFF NO.: 4202.22.4500

Area Director
Customs and Border Protection
JFK International Airport Area
Chief, Liquidation and Protest Branch
Building 77
JFK International Airport Area
Jamaica, New York 11430

RE: Application for Further Review of Protest 4701-04-100291

Dear Area Director:

This is in reply to your correspondence forwarding Application for Further Review (AFR) of protest no. 4701-04-100291, filed by Tompkins & Davidson LLP on behalf of Y & S Handbags, Inc.

The protest is against Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) classification and liquidation of one entry of “cigar box” handbags under subheading 4202.22.1500 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), which provides for “[t]runks, suitcases, vanity cases. . .: [h]andbags, whether or not with shoulder strap, including those without handle: [w]ith outer surface of sheeting of plastic or of textile materials: [w]ith outer surface of sheeting of plastic,” with a rate of duty of 16.4% ad valorem. Liquidation of the entry occurred on January 9, 2004. Protestant entered the merchandise subject to this protest in subheading 4202.22.4500, HTSUS, as "[t]runks, suitcases, vanity cases...: [h]andbags, whether or not with shoulder strap, including those without handle: [w]ith outer surface of sheeting of plastic or of textile materials: [w]ith outer surface of textile materials: [o]ther: [o]f vegetable fibers and not of pile or tufted construction: [o]f cotton,” with a rate of duty of 6.4% ad valorem.

Protestant filed the protest with an AFR on April 7, 2004, challenging the reclassification of the entry at issue. The importer’s request for AFR was approved. The protest was timely filed pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1514(c)(3) and 19 C.F.R. 174.12(e)(1).

Protestant has alleged the decision against which the protest is filed as inconsistent with a decision made at a port with respect to the same merchandise. Specifically, protestant states that merchandise classifiable in heading 4202, HTSUS, is classified based on its visual and tactile characteristics and not on the physical measurement of the components of the outer surface. Thus, further review is warranted pursuant to 19 CFR §§174.24(a) and 174.25.


The merchandise at issue is identified on the invoice as “Ladies 100% Cotton Woven Handbags.” The handbags are known commonly and commercially as “Cigar Box” handbags. The sample submitted with the protest is a handbag measuring approximately 9 ¼” wide by 7 ½” high by 2 ¼” deep and is reminiscent of an actual cigar box. The base is constructed from a medium density fiber board. The exterior back and sides of the handbag are constructed from plastic coated paper depicting a black and white illustration similar to that found on cigar boxes. The exterior face of the handbag is constructed of non-pile, non-tufted, cotton textile fabric. It depicts a woman in an airport lounge and the phrase “Jet Lag”. The woman’s attire and the pictured handbag are decorated with beads and sequins. The handbag has a plastic “bamboo” handle and the corners have gold colored metal ornamental plates. The interior incorporates a plush textile leopard patterned material over foam padding. It has a wall pocket and two side ribbons secured to the lid, which are used to secure the box and its contents. Cost information was submitted that indicates that the value of the textile and beads is approximately three times that of the paper.


Whether the “Cigar Box” handbags are classified in subheading 4202.22.1500, HTSUS, as a handbag with outer surface of sheeting of plastic or subheading 4202.22.4500, HTSUS, as a handbag with an outer surface of cotton.


Classification of goods under the HTSUSA is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that classification 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 (EN), constitute the official interpretation at the international level. While neither legally binding nor dispositive, the EN provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUSA and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of the headings.

Initially, we note that there is no dispute as to the classification of the handbag at issue under heading 4202, HTSUS. Handbags are among the named articles of the heading. Since the handbag is mainly covered with plastic-coated paper and textile material, it is prima facie classifiable in heading 4202. The dispute in the instant case concerns the subheading level classification according to the material considered to comprise the outer surface.

The structure of heading 4202 is such that the outer surface of an article plays an important role in its classification at the subheading level. At the four-digit level, heading 4202, HTSUS, requires that a good be "of" or "wholly or mainly covered with" a specified material. However, at the six-digit level, the nomenclature classifies goods by the material which comprises the "outer surface." Thus, an article may be of or wholly or mainly covered with a material that is a sheeting of plastic, textile material, or paper for purposes of classification at the four-digit heading level, but may not be classified based on that material for purposes of determining the outer surface for subheading level classification. (See Headquarters Ruling Letter (HQ) 087210, May 10, 1991; HQ 966822, December 29, 2003; HQ 963618, dated August 2, 2002; and HQ 954021, November 1, 1993.)

The outer surface of the instant handbag consists of two materials: (1) textile materials: a non-pile/ non-tufted cotton textile fiber that forms the outer surface of most of the front or face of the handbag and (2) sheeting of plastic: the plastic-coated material that forms the rest of the handbag's outer surface.

The outer surface determination cannot be made solely on the basis of GRI 1 and will require application of additional GRI. GRI 2(b) directs that the "classification of goods consisting of more than one material or substance shall be according to the principles of rule 3." GRI 6 provides that the classification of goods at the subheading level "shall be determined according to the terms of those subheadings and any related subheading notes and, mutatis mutandis, to the above rules [GRI 1 through 5], on the understanding that only subheadings at the same level are comparable. In relevant part, GRI 3 provides that goods classifiable under two or more headings (and, by application of GRI 6, subheadings), such as composite goods, are classified as follows:

(b) Mixtures, composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components, and goods put up in sets for retail sale, which cannot be classified by reference to 3(a), shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character, insofar as this criterion is applicable.

(c) When goods cannot be classified by reference to 3(a) or 3(b), they shall be classified under the heading which occurs last in numerical order among those which equally merit consideration.

Prior cases demonstrate how GRI 3 essential character analyses involving multi-component outer surfaces have proceeded. In HQ 955515, dated May 5, 1994, we classified in heading 4202, HTSUSA, a tote bag with an outer surface consisting of both a vinyl plastic material and a leather material as having an outer surface of sheeting of plastic. Since neither the plastic material nor the leather material was sufficiently predominant to impart the essential character to the outer surface, GRI 3(b) did not resolve the classification and we applied GRI 3(c). (See also HQ 952831, February 24, 1993; HQ 962022, June 6, 2001; HQ 953306, May 14, 1993, all applying GRI 3(c).) When the facts permit, such decisions will be made on the basis of GRI 3(b). Such decisions are generally somewhat subjective and conclusions are often reached on a case by case basis. In this regard, Explanatory Note VIII to GRI 3(b) states the following regarding essential character determinations:

The factor which determines essential character will vary as between different kinds of goods. It may, for example, be determined by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the role of a constituent material in relation to the use of the goods.

Based on examination of the sample and the guidance of the EN, we conclude that the essential character of the outer surface cannot be determined, since neither the textile material nor the compact plastic material is predominant. The value of the cotton fabric is greater than the plastic coated paper. While function may weigh somewhat in favor of the plastic material, this is not so clear as to be conclusive. The aesthetic factor (marketability) appears relatively equal, as both the look of a real cigar box and the colorful textile front would appear to influence the ultimate purchaser. Looking at all these factors, we are unable to conclude that either material imparts essential character. Thus, classification of the instant handbag will be in accordance with GRI 3(c). Subheading 4202.22.4500 appears last in numerical order among the subheadings which equally merit consideration.


The ”Cigar Box” handbag is classified in subheading 4202.22.4500, HTSUS, textile category 369, which provides for "[t]runks, suitcases, vanity cases...: [h]andbags, whether or not with shoulder strap, including those without handle: [w]ith outer surface of sheeting of plastic or of textile materials: [w]ith outer surface of textile materials: [o]ther: [o]f vegetable fibers and not of pile or tufted construction: [o]f cotton.” The applicable general column one duty rate is 6.4 percent ad valorem.

The protest should be ALLOWED. In accordance with the Protest/Petition Processing Handbook, (CIS HB, June 2002, pp 18 and 21), you are to mail this decision, together with the CBP Form 19, to the protestant no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. Any reliquidation of the entry in accordance with the decision must be accomplished prior to mailing of the decision. No later than sixty days from the date of this letter, the Office of Regulations and Rulings will make the decision available to CBP personnel, and to the public on the CBP Home Page on the World WideWeb at www.cbp.gov, by means of the Freedom of Information Act, and by other methods of public distribution.

Quota/visa requirements are no longer applicable for merchandise which is the product of World Trade Organization (WTO) member countries. The textile category number above applies to merchandise produced in non-WTO member-countries. Quota and visa requirements are the result of international agreements that are subject to frequent renegotiations and changes. To obtain the most current information on quota and visa requirements applicable to this merchandise, we suggest you check, close to the time of shipment, the “Textile Status Report for Absolute Quotas” which is available on our web site at www.cbp.gov. For current information regarding possible textile safeguard actions on goods from China and related issues, we refer you to the web site of the Office of Textiles and Apparel of the Department of Commerce at otexa.ita.doc.gov.


Myles B. Harmon, Director

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