CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 950048 KWM
District Director Los Angeles
300 South Ferry Street
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.
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
from your office, dated December 2, 1991, which formalizes your request. The following is
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
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
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
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
a woven textile. Plastics and textile combinations of this nature may be manufactured by
methods. One such method involves pouring one or more layers of liquified plastic over a
carrier, and then embossing or treating the resulting sheet material to obtain the desired
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
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
treated with heat or pressure, or both, to produce a compact "skin" over the cellular plastic
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,
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
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
fabric laminated with plastics, of which the plastics constituent makes up the exterior surface
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
Because the eight-digit subheading 4202.32.10 is a national breakout, the Explanatory Notes
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
the provision for reinforced or laminated plastics was accompanied by legal notes which
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
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
term(s) is paralleled in the HTSUSA, Customs considers any prior interpretation of those
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
or "plastic sheeting" (See Item 706.42, TSUS). Second, the headnote which defines
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
"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.
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
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,
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
without resort to external sources, we will apply that definition with consistency throughout
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
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
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
to Chapter 59, HTSUSA. Section XI, Note l(h) is a general exclusion for articles of Chapter
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
sheets combined with textiles for purposes other than reinforcing remain classified in Chapter
HTSUSA) None of the notes define "reinforced or laminated." Customs has classified
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
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
using heat, pressure, adhesives, or some combination thereof to form a single material.
joined by lamination may or may not be separable, depending on the lamination technique
In the case of the instant merchandise, a sheet of plastics has been combined with a
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
reasonably be inferred from the language of the statue as a whole, keeping intact the
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
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,
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
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