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HQ W967953

August 30, 2007



TARIFF NO.: 7616.99.5090

Ms. Boullet
Import Specialist
Columbia Sportswear Co.
14375 NW Science Park Drive
Portland, OR 97229

RE: Classification of carabiners and split rings

Dear Ms. Boullet:

This is in response to your request on behalf of Columbia Sportswear concerning the classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) of items identified as carabiners and split rings. A sample has not been submitted to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) but we have received a photograph of the article in question.


The subject merchandise has been identified by you as a “carabiner” key ring, Style ZC3109, and consists of an aluminum “carabiner” that is snapped onto a steel split ring. A “carabiner” is an oblong metal loop or ring with one spring-hinged side, which can be used in mountain climbing as a connector or to hold a freely running rope. However, according to your submission, this carabiner is not load bearing but is made to clip keys securely to belts, belt loops, other apparel, bags, purses, etc. In response to an inquiry of July 3, 2005, the importer has verified that the carabiner is joined to the split ring and packaged in a plastic poly bag at the time of importation. 


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 heading 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).

CBP begins by noting that the subject article is prima facie classifiable in more than one heading. If imported separately, the carabiner would be classifiable in heading 7616, HTSUSA, which provides for “Other articles of aluminum” and the split ring would be classifiable in heading 7326, HTSUSA, which provides for “Other articles of iron or steel”. Thus, we have found that this article cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1. GRI 2(b) governs the classification of goods when there are mixtures and combinations of materials or substances, and when goods consist of two or more materials or substances. In relevant part, GRI 2(b) states that “The classification of goods consisting of more than one material or substance shall be according to the principles of rule 3.” GRI 3 states, in pertinent part, as follows:

(a) The heading which provides the most specific description shall be preferred to headings providing a more general description. However, when two or more headings each refer to part only of the materials or substances contained in mixed or composite goods 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 of the goods.

(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.

In this case, the headings 7616 and 7326, HTSUSA, each refer to only part of the materials that make up this product. 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).

It is important to note, that in applying a GRI 3(b) analysis, we cannot characterize the subject articles as “composite goods” because the carabiner and split ring are separable components that are often sold separately. Thus, in considering whether these components are “goods put up in sets for retail sale”, we note that the EN to GRI 3(b) provides guidance in relevant part as follows:

For the purposes of this Rule, the term “goods put up in sets for retail sale” shall be taken to mean goods which:
consist of at least two different articles which are, prima facie, classifiable in different headings. Therefore, for example, six fondue forks cannot be regarded as a set within the meaning of this Rule; consist of products or articles put up together to meet a particular need or carry out a specific activity; and are put up in a manner suitable for sale directly to users without repacking (e.g., in boxes or cases or on boards).

It has already been established that the components are, prima facie, classifiable in two different headings. Furthermore, since the carabiner and split ring are physically linked together for importation and retail sale, we deem this sufficient to be considered “put up in a manner suitable for sale directly to users”. The goods are not repackaged for retail sale and the importer has verified that at the time of importation, the carabiner is joined to the split ring and packaged in a plastic poly bag directly for sale to users. Accordingly, the subject merchandise qualifies as “goods put up in sets for retail sale”. Pursuant to GRI 3(b), such goods are to be classified as if they consisted of the material or component, which gives them their essential character.

With respect to determining the essential character of this set, the EN to GRI 3(b) provides the following guidance:

(VIII) 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.

There have been several Court decisions on “essential character” for purposes of GRI 3(b). These cases have looked to the role of the constituent materials or components in relation to the use of the goods to determine essential character. See, Better Home Plastics Corp. v. United States, 916 F. Supp. 1265 (CIT 1996), affirmed 119 F. 3d 969 (Fed. Cir. 1997); Mita Copystar America, Inc. v. United States, 966 F. Supp. 1245 (CIT 1997), motion for rehearing and reconsideration denied, 994 F. Supp. 393 (CIT 1998), and Vista International Packaging co., v. United States, 19 CIT 868, 890 F. Supp. 1095 (1995). See also, Pillowtex Corp. v. United States, 98-1227, CAFC, 171 F.3d 1370; 1999 U.S. App. LEXIS 4371.

The essential character of the subject merchandise can be determined by comparing each component as it relates to the use of the product. We recognize that keys would be attached to the steel split ring. However, it is the carabiner clip that allows the user to quickly and easily attach a set of keys to a belt loop, purse, or luggage whereas the split ring is not capable of attaching in this convenient manner. Furthermore, in considering the EN to GRI 3(b)(VIII), we note that the relative bulk and weight of each component may be assessed to determine the essential character. In this instance, the carabiner conveys greater bulk and weight than the split ring. In addition, the EN to GRI 3(b)(VIII) allows us to consider the value of each component. It has been confirmed by your office that the carabiner is more costly than the split ring. We further note that the carabiner is imprinted with the company logo and trade name as follows: “Columbia Sportswear Company”. Clearly the carabiner is the more important component due to the popularity of such utility clips, which are associated with outdoor sports and activities. Thus, pursuant to a GRI 3(b) analysis, it is our determination that the carabiner provides the essential character to the subject article.

We do not agree with your assertion that the subject merchandise should be classified in subheading 8308.90.9000, HTSUSA, which provides for “Clasps, frames with clasps, buckles, buckle clasps, hooks, eyes, eyelets and the like and parts thereof, of base metal, of a kind used for clothing, footwear, awnings, handbags, travel goods or other madeup articles; tubular or bifurcated rivets of base metal; beads and spangles of base metal: Other, including parts: Other”. EN 8308(c) specifically excludes from the heading, “snap hooks”, which are usually classifiable in Chapters 73 to 76. In that regard, we will be reconsidering the ruling you have cited, New York Ruling Letter (NY) D85660, dated January 7, 1999, which classified a substantially similar aluminum carabiner key chain with steel split ring in subheading 8308.90.9000, HTSUSA. In addition, we will be reconsidering the following rulings in light of our classification decision in this matter: NY K83504, dated March 11, 2004; NY J86363, dated June 27, 2003; NYJ82150, dated March 19, 2003; and NY F86800, dated May 15, 2000.

Inasmuch as the carabiner is constructed of aluminum and is not intended to be used as a weight bearing sporting clip, we find that the carabiner would be classifiable as “Other articles of aluminum” in heading 7616, HTSUSA, because it is not more specifically covered elsewhere in the Nomenclature. See EN 7616. This finding is consistent with CBP New York Ruling Letter (NY) L85319, dated June 8, 2005, which classified similar merchandise described as a metal carabiner key chain with attached steel split ring (Style #7411) as “Other articles of aluminum: . . . Other” in subheading 7616.99.5090, HTSUSA.

In view of the foregoing, it is CBP’s determination that the subject merchandise is classifiable pursuant to the carabiner component as “Other articles of aluminum” under heading 7616, HTSUSA, because it is the carabiner and not the steel split ring which provides the essential character to the set in accordance with a GRI 3(b) analysis.


The subject merchandise is correctly classified in subheading 7616.99.5090, HTSUSA, which provides for “Other articles of aluminum: Other: Other: Other, Other: Other: Other”. The general column one duty rate is 2.5 percent ad valorem.

Please note that the duty rates set forth in this ruling letter are merely provided for your convenience and are subject to change. The text of the most recent HTSUSA and the accompanying duty rates are provided on the World Wide Web at www.usitc.gov.


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