CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 966674 RSD
Tariff No. 8536.90.40
Mark C. Joye, Esq.
Jaime A. Joiner, Esq.
Baker & Hostetler, LLP
1000 Louisiana, Suite 2000
Houston, Texas 77002-5009
RE: Revocation of NY F86670 and NY F86672; Terminal Blocks
for voice and data telecommunications
Dear Mr. Joye and Ms. Joiner:
This is in response to your letter dated July 18, 2003, on behalf of Krone, Inc., and Krone Comunicaciones S.A. de V.V. (“Krone-Mexico”) requesting reconsideration of New York Ruling Letters NY F86670 dated June 19, 2000, and NY F86672 dated June 19, 2000, concerning the tariff classification of two types of terminal blocks. The National Commodity Specialist Division forwarded your letter with the accompanying submissions to our office. We also received samples of the two terminal blocks under consideration.
The subject merchandise consists of two voice and data telecommunication products that are referred to as terminal blocks. The two products are 1) 200-Pair Collocation Blocks (product number 6637 1 180-49) (NY F86670) and 2) Feed Through Termination Blocks (product number 6631 2 135-05) (NY F86672).
The 200-Pair Collocation Blocks are pre-terminated assemblies (connecting blocks) with a special disconnect feature that are pre-terminated to an industry standard high pair count (50-pin) female (socket) cable connectors. This feature allows for the rapid connection and/or breakout of telecommunication equipment circuits inside a building. Normally, these blocks would be used to provide a connection point for cables coming from telecommunication or computer electronic equipment, so that the cables could be connected, in turn, to the user circuits in an equipment room. The plastic blocks are mounted in a metal bracket with “Velcro” cable straps that help relieve strain, and a ground lug to attach to the electrical building ground, if it is required by the electrical building codes where they are installed. The special disconnect feature allows a repairperson to test a circuit without having to physically remove a cable from the block. This is achieved with the use of a 2-piece contact inside the blocks that can be opened by using special interface cords.
The Feed Through Termination Blocks (“FT") are connecting blocks that allow for the field termination of telecommunication cable conductors for voice or data circuits in an industry standard 25-pair group. The initials “FT” are used to designate the term for “feed through” which is the type of one-piece metal contact used in the block. The block would normally be used to provide a connection point for cables coming from a telephone or a computer jack at the user end, so that they could be connected, in turn, to a computer or a telephone circuit. It has a plastic housing and a base that allows it to mount mounting hardware, and it is color-coded in accordance with industry standards for using 4 pair (8 conductor) cables. This block does not actively use electricity, but only acts as a passive connection.
Are the two terminal blocks classified as electrical apparatus for switching or protecting electric circuits…terminals in subheading 8536.90.40, HTSUS, or in subheading 8536.90.80, HTSUS, as electric apparatus for switching for protecting electrical circuits …other?
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI’s). 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 headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRIs may then be applied. GRI 3(a) provides in pertinent part that where goods are, prima facie, classifiable under two or more headings, the heading which provides the most specific description shall be preferred to headings providing a more general description. GRI 4 and GRI 5 are not applicable here. GRI 6 provides in pertinent part that the classification of goods in the subheadings of a heading shall be determined according to the above rules, on the understanding that only subheadings at the same level are comparable.
The Harmonized Commodity Description And Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN’s) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System. While not legally binding on the contracting parties, and therefore not dispositive, the EN’s provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System and are thus useful in ascertaining the classification of merchandise under the system. Customs believes the EN’s should always be consulted. See T.D. 8980, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).
The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:
8536 Electrical apparatus for switching or protecting electrical circuits,
or for making connection to or in electrical circuits (for example,
switches, relays, fuses, surge suppressors, plugs, sockets,
lamp-holders, junction boxes), for a voltage not exceeding 1000 V:
8536.90 Other apparatus:
8536.90.40 Terminals, electrical splices and electrical
couplings; wafer probers.
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Section (III) of EN 85.36 concerns “APPARATUS FOR MAKING CONNECTIONS TO OR IN ELECTRICAL CIRCUITS.” The EN states that this apparatus is used to connect together the various parts of an electrical circuit: Section (III)(B) is entitled “Other connectors, terminals, terminal strips, etc.” It provides that:
These include small squares of insulating material fitted with electrical connectors (dominoes), terminals which are metal parts intended for the reception of conductors, and small metal parts designed to be fitted on the end of electrical wiring to facilitate electrical connection (spade terminals, crocodile clips, etc.).
Terminal strips consist of strips of insulating material fitted with a number of metal terminal or connectors to which electrical wiring can be fixed. The heading also covers tag strips or panels; these consist of a number of metal tags set in insulating material so that electric wires can be soldered to them. Tag strips are used in radio or other electrical apparatus.
The two items under consideration, the 200-pair collocation blocks and the feed through termination blocks, are both types of terminal blocks. The issue that must be resolved is whether terminal blocks should be classified as electrical apparatus for switching or protecting electric circuits…terminals in subheading 8536.90.40, HTSUS, or in subheading 8536.90.80, HTSUS, as electric apparatus for switching for protecting electrical circuits …other.
A tariff term that is not defined in the HTSUS or in the ENs is construed in accordance with its common and commercial meanings, which are presumed to be the same. 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).
To supplement the description of the term terminal provided in the ENs, you have presented a definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary for the word “terminal” as:
A device attached to the end of a wire or cable or to an electrical apparatus for convenience in making connections.
The phrase “terminal blocks” is not defined in the HTSUS or ENs. You cite a web site, www.cutler-hammer.eaton.com/unsecure/html/101basics/Module18/Output/WhatYouWillLearn.html, which defines “terminal blocks” as:
Terminal blocks are modular, insulated blocks that secure two or more wires together and consist of an insulation body and a clamping device. Their flexibility allows wiring to be centralized and makes it easier to maintain complex control circuits.
A terminal block secures two or more wires together to set up a circuit. Basically, there are just two parts: an insulating body and the current carrying parts.
The same web site continues:
Imagine the hassle involved with running wire from each device to the next, thus creating spiderweb of wiring. Instead, put a terminal block assembly inside a centralized control panel. You have now centralized and reduced the wiring so that a maintenance crew can quickly assess the status of the system and verify its performance…
When changes in the circuit need to be made, terminal blocks can be easily added or pulled off the rail without disrupting other wire terminations.
Along with reducing the complexity of control wiring, the plastic bodies of terminal blocks also prevent shorts and therefore provide greater safety to installers and maintenance crews.
Based on the information that was submitted, we find that terminal blocks are devices at the end of a wire or a cable used for connecting electrical circuits together. Accordingly, consistent with the description provided in EN 85.36, Section (III)(B), we conclude that terminal blocks can be considered as electrical terminals. We note that subheading 8536.90.40 HTSUS specifically includes electrical terminals. In contrast, the alternative tariff provision under consideration, subheading 8536.90.80, HTSUS, is a general basket provision for “Other.” Thus subheading 8536.90.40, HTSUS provides a more specific description of the merchandise than subheading 8536.90.80, HTSUS.
In reaching this conclusion, we are following the holding in NY H82293 dated July 2, 2001. In NY H82293, Customs considered the classification of binding post blocks, items that were identified as jumpering devices used in feeder distribution and cross-connect application for building entrance terminals. The products consisted of a terminal block and pairs of electrical wiring. Customs determined that the applicable subheading for the binding post blocks was 8536.90.40, HTSUS. In essence, Customs held that the terminal blocks were classified as terminals in subheading 8536.90.40, HTSUS.
Accordingly, we conclude that the subject merchandise, the two types of terminal blocks, are classified in subheading 8536.90.40, HTSUS, as: “Electric apparatus for switching or protecting electric circuits, or for making connection to or in electrical circuits..: Other apparatus: Terminals, electrical splices and electrical couplings; wafer probers.”
Pursuant to GRI 6, the subject terminal boxes are classified in subheading 8536.90.40, HTSUS as “Electric apparatus for switching for protecting electric circuits, or for making connection to or in electrical circuits…for voltage not exceeding 1,000V: Other apparatus: Terminals, electrical splices and electrical couplings; wafer probers.”
EFFECT ON OTHER RULINGS:
NY F866670 dated June 19, 2000 and NY F86672 dated June 19, 2000 are revoked.
Myles B. Harmon, Director
Commercial Rulings Division