CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 955346 RFA
Mr. Michael A. Hertzberg
Howrey & Simon
1299 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004-2402
RE: Coils of Stainless Steel Curved Wire; Wire, Other Than Round
or Flat; Parts of Piston Engines in Automobiles; Heading
8409; Note 1 to Chapter 72; HQ 951565
Dear Mr. Hertzberg:
In a letter dated October 15, 1993, to the Regional
Commissioner of Customs in New York, on behalf of Hitachi Metals
America, Ltd., you inquired as to the tariff classification of
coils of stainless steel curved wire under the Harmonized Tariff
Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Your letter was referred
to this office for a response.
The merchandise consist of coils of stainless steel curved
wire which is to be imported for direct sale to the end user who
manufactures piston rings for automobile engines. The curved
wire is a cold-formed wire designed for the manufacture of piston
rings. Wire rod is drawn through a die multiple times for
customization according to the end user's size requirements. The
curved wire measures 3.545 to 3.555 mm in width and 1.240-1.250
mm in thickness, with a uniform cross section which is slightly
tapered. The curved wire is designed to fit exactly into the
grooves of pistons.
The cross section of the wire is designed with a slight
convex curve on either end, which is invisible to the naked eye.
The wire undergoes multiple heat treatments, which impart the
wire with the great tensile strength and particular hardness
required for use as piston rings. After importation, the curved
wire is subject to the following processes to make piston rings:
coiling to ring shape; cutting to individual rings; and slight
surface finishing treatment.
Are the coils of stainless steel curved wire classifiable as
parts of engines or as flat wire or wire, other than flat or
round, under the HTSUS?
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Classification of merchandise under the HTSUS is in
accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's),
taken in order. GRI 1 provides that classification shall be
determined according to the terms of the headings and any
relative section or chapter notes.
Citing pre-HTSUS cases, you assert that the coils of curved
wire should be classified under subheading 8409.91.91, HTSUS, as
other parts suitable for use solely or principally with spark-
ignition internal combustion piston engines. You state that
after importation, the curved wire is subject to the following
processes: coiling to ring shape; cutting to individual rings;
and slight surface finishing treatment. However, this is not
"substantial additional processing." You state that the convex
curve in the wire's cross section along with its size and
dimensions make it "virtually ready for use as piston rings."
The issue to be resolved is whether the coils of wire
imported in material lengths is fixed as piston rings; a part for
an internal combustion piston engine, even though it requires
further manufacturing after importation. Under a longstanding
Customs principle, goods which are material when entered are not
classifiable as a particular article unfinished. See Sandvik
Steel, Inc. v. United States, 321 F.Supp. 1031, 66 Cust. Ct. 12,
C.D. 4161 (1971)(shoe die knife steel in coils and cutting rules
in lengths, without demarcations for cutting or bending, held to
be material rather than unfinished knives or cutting blades); The
Harding Co. v. United States, 23 Cust. Ct. 250 (1936)(rolls of
brake lining held to be material because the identity of the
brake lining was not fixed with certainty); Naftone, Inc. v.
United States, 67 Cust. Ct. 340, C.D. 4294 (1971)(rolls of
plastic film without demarcations for cutting despite having only
one use held to be insulating material).
In HQ 951565, dated April 23, 1992, Customs dealt with the
issue of material versus finished article in regards to cold-
rolled stainless flat wire which were cut to length without holes
or notches and ready to be inserted into the rubber blade of a
windshield wiper. In that ruling, Customs held that the wire was
subject to other uses because the wire did not have holes or
notches cut into it. Customs concluded that "just because the
wire is cut to length and is in certain dimensions making it
particularly adaptable for use as a part of a windshield wiper
does not take it out of the category of wire. There is no
evidence that the wire is incapable of being made into other
articles requiring the same dimensions as that of the plain
Applying the rationale in HQ 951565 and the numerous court
cases to the subject merchandise, we find that even though the
curved wire is manufactured in certain dimensions making it
particularly adaptable for use as piston rings, it does not take
it out of the category of wire. There is no evidence that the
wire is incapable of being made into other articles requiring the
same dimensions as that of the curved wire. Because the "use"
of the wire is not definitive, classification is precluded as a
part of piston engines. The merchandise should therefore be
classified based upon its material components.
As an alternative to subheading 8409.91.91, HTSUS, you
suggest that the merchandise is classifiable under subheading
7223.00.50, HTSUS, as flat wire. Note 1(o) to Chapter 72, HTSUS,
defines "wire" as follows: "[c]old-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."
"Flat-rolled products" is defined in Note 1(k) to Chapter 72,
HTSUS, as follows: "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." The subject
merchandise does not fall under the definition for flat-rolled
products because it measures 3.545-3.555 mm in width and 1.240-
1.250 mm in thickness. Furthermore, the subject merchandise is
cold-rolled, of a uniform solid cross-section along the whole
length, and imported in coils. Therefore, the subject
merchandise meets the definition of "wire" and is classifiable
under heading 7223, HTSUS.
The alternative issue to be resolved is whether the subject
merchandise is classifiable as flat or other wire. The term
"flat wire" is not defined anywhere in the HTSUS. A tariff term
that is not defined in the HTSUS or in the Harmonized Commodity
Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) is
construed in accordance with its common and commercial meaning.
Nippon Kogasku (USA) Inc. v. United States, 69 CCPA 89, 673 F.2d
380 (1982). Common and commercial meaning may be determined by
consulting dictionaries, lexicons, scientific authorities and
other reliable sources. C.J. Tower & Sons v. United States, 69
CCPA 128, 673 F.2d 1268 (1982).
In HQ 045791, dated July 27, 1976, Customs consulted the
dictionary term of "flat" to resolve the classification of a
wire, with a slight crown or curve on its top surface, under the
predecessor to the HTSUS. Webster's Third New International
Dictionary defines "flat" as "having or marked by a continuous
surface that is horizontal or nearly so without significant
curvature or inclination and without noteworthy elevations or
depressions." Based upon this definition, Customs held that
because the wire had a visibly curved surface which was purposely
imparted to the wire in a crowning process, it could not be
classified as a flat wire.
The subject merchandise is purposely designed to have a
convex curve on either side of the wire. Based upon the above
definition and long-standing practice under the Tariff Schedule
of the United States and the HTSUS, the provision for flat wire
includes only those wires which are not designed to deviate from
flat. Based on the design of the subject wire, it cannot be
classifiable as a flat wire. Because the wire is curved on the
sides, it is classifiable under subheading 7223.00.90, HTSUS, as
The stainless steel curved wire on coils is classifiable
under subheading 7223.00.90, HTSUS, which provides for: other
wire of stainless steel, not round nor flat. The general, column
one rate of duty is 6.3 percent ad valorem.
John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division