CLA-2 OT:RR:CTF:TCM H011753 JER
Mr. Brian W. Ziha
Customs Express, Inc.
4500 Woodson Road
St. Louis, MO 63134
RE: Classification of certain metal chain fashion belts; Revocation of New York Ruling (NY) N004868
Dear Mr. Ziha:
Pursuant to your binding ruling request sent on behalf of the importer, Stars Design Group (Stars), the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), issued New York Ruling Letter, (NY) N004868, dated January 17, 2007, in which Stars’ chain belt was classified as an “article of imitation jewelry” under heading 7117 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA). We have since reviewed NY N004868 and find it to be in error.
Pursuant to section 625(c), Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. §1625(c)), as amended by section 623 of Title VI (Customs Modernization) of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, Pub. L. 103-182, 107 Stat. 2057, 2186 (1993), notice of the proposed revocation was published on March 5, 2008, in the Customs Bulletin, Volume 42, No. 11. No comments were received in response to this notice.
The subject article is a belt consisting of a 100% iron chain measuring approximately 34” in length with a 100% polyester strip of fabric that is woven through the links of the chain. The ends of the fabric strip extend approximately 17” beyond the ends of the chain and serve as ties for the belt.
Is the subject belt classifiable as imitation jewelry or as a clothing accessory?
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). 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 2 through 6 may then be applied in order.
The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:
7117 Imitation jewelry:
Of base metal, whether or not plated with precious metal:
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7326 Other articles of iron or steel:
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In addition to the terms of the headings, classification of goods under the HTSUS is governed by any applicable section or chapter notes. The legal notes to Section XV provide, in pertinent part:
Section XV: Base metals and articles of base metal
1. This section does not cover:
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(e) Goods of Chapter 71 (for example, precious metal alloys, base metal clad with precious metal, imitation jewelery);
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The legal notes to chapter 71 state, in pertinent part:
For the purposes of heading 7113, the expression “articles of jewelry” means:
(a) Any small objects of personal adornment (for example, rings, bracelets, necklaces, brooches, earrings, watch chains, fobs, pendants, tie pins, cuff links, dress studs, religious or other medals and insignia….
11. For the purposes of heading 7117, the expression “imitation jewelry” means articles of jewelry within the meaning of paragraph (a) of Note 9 above….
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The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. While not 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.
The ENs to heading 7117, HTSUS, provide, in pertinent part:
For the purposes of this heading, the expression imitation jewellery, as defined in Note 11 to this Chapter, is restricted to small objects of personal adornment, such as those listed in paragraph (A) of the Explanatory Note to heading 71.13, e.g., rings, bracelets (other than wrist-watch bracelets), necklaces, ear-rings, cuff-links, etc….
(Emphasis in original)
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Initially, we note that the subject import is a composite good, consisting of both metal and a non-metal component, i.e. the polyester strip of fabric. According to GRI 3(b), composite goods are to be classified “as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character….” The term “essential character,” refers to “the attribute which strongly marks or serves to distinguish what an article is; that which is indispensable to the structure, core or condition of the article.” Headquarters Ruling Letter (HQ) 956538, dated November 29, 1994; See also Better Home Plastics Corp. v. United States, 20 CIT. 221; 916 F. Supp. 1265 (1996). In the instant matter the essential character of the belt is the metal chain. The composite belt will therefore be classified as if it consisted only of iron. At issue is whether the metal belt is identifiable as imitation jewelry or as clothing accessories.
In NY N004868, the subject belt was originally classified under heading 7117, HTSUS, as an “article of imitation jewelry.” Upon review, we find that determination to be in error. The term “imitation jewelry” applies only to “small objects of personal adornment.” See chapter 71, note 9(a). These objects include, but are not limited to, “rings, bracelets, necklaces, brooches, earrings, watch chains, fobs, pendants, tie pins, cuff links, dress studs, religious or other medals and insignia.” Belts are not specifically named in this list of exemplars. Classification under heading 7117, HTSUS, is therefore dependent upon the canon of construction known as ejusdem generis, which means literally, “of the same class or kind.” “Where particular words of description are followed by general terms, the latter will be regarded as referring to things of a like class with those particularly described.” Nissho-Iwai American Corp. v. United States (Nissho), 10 CIT 154, 156 (1986). “As applicable to classification cases, ejusdem generis requires that the imported merchandise possess the essential characteristics or purposes that unite the articles enumerated eo nomine in order to be classified under the general terms.” Id. at 157.
Fashion belts do not share the same essential characteristics as the listed exemplars. The named articles are all “small objects of personal adornment” which share the characteristics of being generally lightweight and comparatively small in size. Belts, on the other hand, must be large enough to encircle the wearer’s waist, a circumference which is larger than the finger, neck or wrist. Furthermore, each of the articles listed is primarily decorative. Any functional use is subsidiary to the primary purpose of adornment. While belts may be used for their functional and decorative qualities, neither use is clearly primary. By application of ejusdem generis, therefore, the subject belts are excluded from heading 7117, HTSUS.
This conclusion is consistent with CBP practice with respect to plastic and textile belts. CBP has generally excluded such items from heading 7117, HTSUS, stating that they “do not meet the definition of ‘imitation [jewelry]’ pursuant to note 8(a) nor are they similar to the cited exemplars.” HQ 956014, dated June 8, 1994. See also HQ 083703, dated September 1, 1989, (holding that textile belts with metal fashion buckles did not meet the definition of “imitation jewelry,” and therefore could not be classified under heading 7117, HTSUS). Fashion belts, regardless of the constituent material, are excluded from heading 7117, HTSUS, because they do not satisfy the definition of “imitation jewelry.”
We next consider whether the subject belt is classifiable as a “clothing accessory.” The term “accessory” is not defined in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule or the ENs. When a tariff term is not defined in either the HTSUSA or its legislative history, the term's correct meaning is presumed to be its common meaning in the absence of evidence to the contrary. See Rohm & Haas Co. v. United States, 727 F.2d 1095 (CAFC 1984). In HQ 966506, dated August 26, 2003, CBP adopted a definition of the key term “accessory:”
Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged (1986), defines accessory as "an object or device that is not essential in itself but that adds to the beauty, convenience, or effectiveness of something else . . . . any of various articles of apparel…that accent or otherwise complete one's costume."…There is no requirement that accessories exhibit a reliance or dependence on the primary article(s). Accessories must be related to, or exhibit some connection to the primary article, and must be intended for use solely or principally as an accessory. For example belts used as clothing accessories need not rely or depend on a particular article of clothing. Fashionable belt accessories…are often used for adornment or to compliment [sic.] clothing. (Emphasis added)
The subject article satisfies the definition of “accessory.” The metal belt is not essential, but adds to the beauty of the wearer’s clothing. The belt “accent[s] or otherwise complete[s] one’s costume.”
We recognize that there has been some inconsistency in the classification of fashion belts. While textile or plastic belts are generally classified as clothing accessories, metal belts have been classified as both clothing accessories and imitation jewelry. See NY L88204, dated November 17, 2005 (classification of plastic belts under heading 3926, HTSUS, which provides for “…articles of apparel and clothing accessories”); NY I81111, dated April 29, 2002 (classification of a woven textile belt under heading 6217, HTSUS, which provides for “other made up clothing accessories”); NY 875846, dated July 22, 1992 (classification of an aluminum chain belt under heading 7616 as “other articles of aluminum”); and NY L88846, dated November 18, 2005 (classification of a metal chain belt under heading 7117, HTSUS, as imitation jewelry). It is CBP’s position that belts are classifiable as clothing accessories regardless of the component materials. We note that the HTSUS does not specifically contain a provision for clothing accessories of metal. Metal clothing accessories are therefore classified according to their constituent material.
By application of GRI 1 and GRI 3(b), the subject metal chain belt is classifiable under heading 7326, HTSUS. Specifically, it is classifiable under subheading 7326.90.8587, HTSUSA, which provides for: “Other articles of iron or steel: Other: Other: Other: Other…Other.” The 2008 general, column one rate of duty is 2.9 percent ad valorem.
Duty rates are provided for convenience only and are subject to change. The text of the most recent HTSUS and the accompanying duty rates are provided on the World Wide Web at www.usitc.gov.
EFFECT ON OTHER RULINGS:
NY N004868, dated January 17, 2007, is hereby revoked. In accordance with 19 USC §1625(c), this ruling will become effective 60 days after publication in the Customs Bulletin.
Myles B. Harmon, Director
Commercial and Trade Facilitation Division