CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 950048 KWM

District Director Los Angeles
300 South Ferry Street
Terminal Island
Room 2017
San Pedro, California 90731

RE: Flatgoods; Goods carried in the pocket or handbag; Plastic sheeting; Outer surface; Reinforced or laminated plastics; Additional U.S. Legal Note 2.

Dear Sir:

We have received two separate requests from your office for advice regarding the "reinforced or laminated" language in heading 4202, HTSUSA. The first, an informal inquiry via the New York Seaport, concerned a coupon holder of a plastic sheeting material combined with textile fabric; a sample of that merchandise was also received. The coupon holder is the subject of protests numbered 2704-1-100527 and 2704-1-101650. We have also received a letter from your office, dated December 2, 1991, which formalizes your request. The following is our response.


The precise details of the transactions involved were unavailable to us, but we do not consider them necessary for a classification determination. No detailed information was available regarding the construction techniques for the product and materials in question, but Customs' experience with similar items provides us with sufficient background to issue our advice.

The sample coupon holder measures approximately 7 inches by 4 1/2 inches. It has a 'bellows' type construction: a folded exterior holds 5 clear plastic dividers which expand when the item is opened. The top opening is closed by a zipper. In addition to the dividers, the interior also has two plastic pockets, one of which contains a small pair of scissors. The body of the article is comprised of two layers: an inner sheet of plastics and an outer sheet of plastics and textile combination.

Our examination reveals that the plastics/textile outer sheet has three distinct layers: The outermost layer is a compacted plastic; the center layer a cellular plastic; and the innermost layer a woven textile. Plastics and textile combinations of this nature may be manufactured by different methods. One such method involves pouring one or more layers of liquified plastic over a textile carrier, and then embossing or treating the resulting sheet material to obtain the desired surface finish. Another method involves laminating two preexisting sheets, one of textile and one of plastics, using heat, pressure, adhesives, or a combination of these, to produce a sheet material, the surface of which is then finished. Both methods can result in a plastics and textile material such as that present here. We believe, based on the sample article, that the latter method was employed in this case. The textile material is separable from the plastics, indicating that it has not become imbedded or subsumed into the plastics. Further, the exterior appears to have been treated with heat or pressure, or both, to produce a compact "skin" over the cellular plastic center.

Counsel for the importer suggests that this merchandise is classifiable in subheading 4202.32.1000, HTSUSA, as having an outer surface of plastic sheeting, of reinforced or laminated plastics. Your office initially classified the product under the provision for goods having an outer surface of plastic sheeting, other (4202.32.2000, HTSUSA).


Does the material used to construct the merchandise have an outer surface of plastic sheeting, of reinforced or laminated plastics, as described by subheading 4202.32.1000, HTSUSA?


Classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). The systematic detail of the harmonized system is such that virtually all goods are classified by application of GRI 1, that is, according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relevant Section or Chapter Notes.

Counsel does not take issue with the determination that the merchandise is an article normally carried in the pocket or handbag of heading 4202, HTSUSA. The sole issue here involves the subheading classification, based on the product's component materials.

Additional U.S. Legal Note 2 provides that:

For the purposes of classifying articles under subheadings 4202.12, 4202.22, 4202.32, and 4202.92, articles of textile fabric impregnated, coated, covered or laminated with plastics (whether compact or cellular) shall be regarded as having an outer surface of textile material or of plastic sheeting, depending on whether and the extent to which the textile constituent or the plastic constituent makes up the exterior surface of the article.

Emphasis added. The sample coupon holder is covered by this legal note: it is an article of textile fabric laminated with plastics, of which the plastics constituent makes up the exterior surface of the article. Therefore, the article has an outer surface of plastic sheeting, as described by subheading 4202.32, HTSUSA.

Within subheadings 4202.32, HTSUSA, the tariff includes the following two subheadings:

4202.32 With outer surface of plastic sheeting:

4202.32.10 Of reinforced or laminated plastics

4202.32.20 Other

Because the eight-digit subheading 4202.32.10 is a national breakout, the Explanatory Notes to heading 4202, and other international references are of limited assistance in deciphering this provision. Under the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS) (predecessor to the HTSUSA) the provision for reinforced or laminated plastics was accompanied by legal notes which defined, for TSUS purposes, the scope of the terms "reinforced or laminated." However, no such notes appear in the HTSUSA, and we are left to other devices to determine the meaning of these terms since their meaning is the central issue in this case.

TSUS provisions and extrinsic sources

We have considered applying the TSUS note language to the HTSUSA provision for flatgoods of reinforced or laminated plastics. When the language, provision and usage of a TSUS term(s) is paralleled in the HTSUSA, Customs considers any prior interpretation of those terms to be instructive. It is not binding, and we find that in this case, it is not applicable. First, the terms are used in the TSUS flatgoods provisions without the HTSUSA qualifiers "outer surface" or "plastic sheeting" (See Item 706.42, TSUS). Second, the headnote which defines "reinforced or laminated plastics" is not found with the flatgoods provisions of the TSUS. It is found in Schedule 7, Part 12, Subpart A, which provides for "Reinforced or laminated plastics ..."and applies specifically throughout or "for the purposes of the tariff schedules." Rules of statutory interpretation dictate that tariff terms be construed consistently throughout the nomenclature. Applying the same principle to the instant issue, we should consider first the definition given to "reinforced or laminated plastics" under the HTSUSA plastics provisions before relying on language from dissimilar provisions of the TSUS.

It has been suggested that Congress knowingly did not provide a definition for "reinforced or laminated" intending that prior tariff interpretations be carried into the new nomenclature. By the same token, we could argue that Congress knowingly did not carry forward prior interpretations, intending that a new definition be used. As proof, consider the language of subheading 4202.12.2010, HTSUSA, which provides for articles of luggage with an outer surface of plastics, structured, rigid on all sides. If, therefore, Congress had intended that TSUS definitions apply, the statute would reflect that intent. All of these arguments, however, require that we speculate or infer to some degree Congress' intent in enacting the tariff into law. We refuse to do so. We believe that the meaning of "reinforced or laminated" can be found within the HTSUSA. When we find that a term or terms may be defined within the scope of the tariff, without resort to external sources, we will apply that definition with consistency throughout the tariff provisions.

For these reasons we have analyzed below the provisions of Chapter 39, HTSUSA,(and accompanying Explanatory Notes) which provide for plastics and articles of plastics, concentrating on that language which classifies reinforced or laminated plastics and/or plastic sheeting.

Chapter 39, Plastics and plastic sheeting

We find no legal note to Section VII or Chapter 39, HTSUSA, which specifically defines "reinforced or laminated." Heading 3920, HTSUSA, provides for plates, sheets, etc. of plastic not reinforced or laminated, and heading 3921 provides for "other" plates and sheets of plastics. The subheadings under 3921 include provisions for plastic sheets "combined" with textile materials. The Explanatory Notes to Chapter 39 indicate that the classification of plastics and textiles combinations is governed by Note l(h) to Section XI, Note 3 to Chapter 56 and Note 2 to Chapter 59, HTSUSA. Section XI, Note l(h) is a general exclusion for articles of Chapter 39. Chapter 56 covers wadding, felt and nonwovens, and Chapter 59 covers impregnated, coated, covered or laminated textile fabrics. Together, Note 3 to Chapter 56 and Note 2 to Chapter 59 dictate that the following products are classified in Chapter 39:

(1) Felt impregnated, coated, covered or laminated with plastics, containing 50% or less by weight of textile material or felt completely imbedded in plastics.

(2) Textile fabrics and nonwovens, either completely embedded in plastics or entirely coated or covered on both sides with such material, provided that such coating or covering can be seen with the naked eye and no account being taken of nay resulting change in color.

(3) Textile fabrics, impregnated, coated, covered or laminated with plastics, which cannot, without fracturing be bent manually around a cylinder of a diameter of 7 mm, at a temperature between 15 degrees celsius and 30 degrees celsius.

(4) Plates, sheets, and strip of cellular plastics combined with textile fabrics, felt or nonwovens, where the textile is present merely for reinforcing purposes.

Items 1,2, & 3 are clearly inapplicable in this case. (Note that under number 4, only cellular plastic sheets. etc, combined with textiles merely for reinforcing purposes are included. Noncellular plastic sheets combined with textile merely for reinforcing purposes, and all plastic sheets combined with textiles for purposes other than reinforcing remain classified in Chapter 59, HTSUSA) None of the notes define "reinforced or laminated." Customs has classified reinforced or laminated sheets of cellular plastics combined with textiles merely for reinforcing purposes under heading 3921, HTSUSA. We generally regard textile reinforcing to be a question of fact.

Our experience with materials similar to that at issue indicates that most textiles serve some reinforcing purpose when combined with plastics, although they may also have other functions. Lamination is regarded by Customs as the combination of two pre-existing materials using heat, pressure, adhesives, or some combination thereof to form a single material. Materials joined by lamination may or may not be separable, depending on the lamination technique used.

In the case of the instant merchandise, a sheet of plastics has been combined with a textile fabric, probably through lamination, to form a plastics and textile combination in sheet form. This construction is common in goods of the type where the textile is present merely for reinforcing purposes, and we find that such is the case here. Lastly, we find that the plastics present in the sample article are cellular in nature. The noncellular 'skin' has been created by heating and pressing the surface of the cellular plastic sheet to form a more resilient surface. The material from which the piece goods for the coupon holder were cut would be classified in heading 3921, HTSUSA, as plates, sheets ...of plastic, specifically as sheets combined with textile material by lamination.

Heading 4202, HTSUSA

The second issue we address is whether the article's construction from a laminated plastic sheet brings it within the scope of subheading 4202.32.10, HTSUSA. We find that it does.

First, articles normally carried in the pocket or handbag, made of, or wholly or mainly covered with plastic sheet material classifiable in Chapter 39, HTSUSA, are classified in heading 4202, HTSUSA. As noted above, Additional U.S. Legal Note 2 to Chapter 42, HTSUSA, then provides that the outer surface dictates subheading classification, in this case subheading 4202.32, HTSUSA, outer surface of plastic sheeting. The question then becomes how the terms "reinforced or laminated" further modify that class of goods. Two interpretations have been considered at length.

Under the first interpretation, the designated "outer surface", i.e. that constituent comprising the exterior (tactile and visible component) of the article must be reinforced or laminated for inclusion in subheading 4202.32.10, HTSUSA. This interpretation would require sub-dividing the plastic(s) and textile components or layers, and would exclude the instant product from subheading 4202.32.10, HTSUSA, because the exterior is purely a compact plastics material not reinforced or laminated. Subheading 4202.32.10, HTSUSA, would then, in effect, be read as:

4202.32.10 With [reinforced or laminated] outer surface [i.e., tactile and visible exterior] of plastic sheeting

We believe this interpretation is incorrect. While the "reinforced or laminated" language does further divide products under subheading 4202.32, HTSUSA, reading the tariff in this manner would suggest a continuation of the TSUS definition, a position we consider legally incorrect (see above). Additional U.S. Note 2 expressly recognizes that goods of subheading 4202.32, HTSUSA, are made of a composite material having both a textile constituent and a plastics constituent.

Instead, we find that the provision should be read in accord with the second interpretation, namely that the terms "reinforced or laminated" refers to the plastic sheet as a whole. Subheading 4202.32.10, HTSUSA, would then, in effect, be read as:

4202.32.10 With outer surface of [reinforced or laminated] plastic sheeting

Logically, this interpretation makes more sense. We have already determined that the material is a plastic sheet by virtue of the piece goods' classification in the appropriate Chapter 39, HTSUSA, provision. The determination whether it is reinforced or laminated follows based on our technical tests or the factual allegations made by the importing party. We find no compelling reason to interpret the provision otherwise. While this interpretation is different from practice under the TSUS, it is correct under the HTSUSA. Just as the TSUS definition of "reinforced or laminated" was applicable under that tariffs flatgoods provisions, so too is the HTSUSA definition of reinforced or laminated" applicable in heading 4202, HTSUSA. The HTSUSA definition is, we find, broader in scope, and the resulting classifications must accurately reflect that definition.

Lastly we note that this issue has been the subject of protracted debate both within Customs and with counsel for various importers. We find no specific intent on the part of Congress to define "reinforced or laminated" in any particular fashion other than that which may reasonably be inferred from the language of the statue as a whole, keeping intact the principles of statutory interpretation. In the future we may be presented with uncontroverted information that we should proceed in a different manner. In that event, we will endeavor to notify the field of any change in our position. However, we now consider this matter settled and instruct that future liquidations of goods be in accord with this ruling.


A product normally carried in the pocket or handbag, and having an outer surface of plastic sheeting will be considered "of reinforced or laminated" plastics as described in subheading 4202.32.10, HTSUSA, if the piece goods which make up the article are cut from material which is considered a sheet of reinforced or laminated plastics of Chapter 39, HTSUSA.

We find that the sample coupon holder is an article normally carried in the pocket or handbag. It has an outer surface of plastic sheeting, as described by Additional U.S.Note 2 to Chapter 42, HTSUSA. It is made from piece goods of a material classifiable in Chapter 39, HTSUSA, as a sheet of cellular plastics combined by lamination with textile materials. The textile and plastics composite is, therefore, considered a sheet of laminated plastics as described heading 4202.32.10, HTSUSA.

The applicable rate of duty for products of subheading 4202.32.10, HTSUSA, is 12.1 cents per kilogram plus 4.6 percent ad valorem.


John A. Durant, Director