CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 967707 BtB
Mr. Martin W. Dooley
Multimodal International, Ltd.
2100 E. Devon Ave.
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
Re: Classification of Monolithic Catalyst Seal
Dear Mr. Dooley:
This is in response to your March 28, 2005 electronic request for a binding ruling on behalf of Toyota Tsusho America, Inc. to the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) requesting the classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (“HTSUSA”) of a certain monolithic catalyst seal.
Although your request was filed with CBP’s National Commodity Specialist Division in New York, it has been forwarded to this office for a reply.
The merchandise at issue is a monolithic catalyst seal (the “seal”) of an automotive catalytic converter. You state that the seals are imported in sheets that are sized 335 mm x 99 mm x 7.5 mm. The seal is wholly made of 3M( Interam( 1500HT non-woven material. You supplied a material safety data sheet from 3M stating that the article was composed of mullite (95-100% by weight) and an acrylate copolymer (0-5% by weight). Our laboratory analysis of 3M( Interam( 1500HT non-woven material showed that there is only a negligible amount of the acrylate copolymer in the seal. This acrylate copolymer in the material serves only as a binder.
What is the classification under the HTSUSA of the monolithic catalyst seal at issue?
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Classification under the HTSUSA is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides, in part, that classification decisions are to be "determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes." If 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 GRI may then be applied, in order.
The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level (for the 4 digit headings and the 6 digit subheadings) and facilitate classification under the HTSUSA by offering guidance in understanding the scope of the headings and GRI. While neither legally binding nor dispositive of classification issues, the EN provide commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUSA and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of the headings. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127-28 (Aug. 23, 1989).
Heading 6806, HTSUSA, provides for: “Slag wool, rock wool and similar mineral wools; exfoliated vermiculite, expanded clays, foamed slag and similar expanded mineral materials; mixtures and articles of heat-insulating, sound-insulating or sound absorbing mineral materials, other than those of heading 6811 or 6812, or of chapter 69.”
According to the EN to heading 6806, the heading “includes a class of ‘alumino-silicates’ known as ‘ceramic fibres.’ They are formed by fusing a blend of alumina and silica, in varying proportions, sometimes with the addition of small amounts of other oxides such as zirconia, chromia or boric oxide, and by blowing or extruding the melt into a mass of fibres.” CBP has held that “ceramic fibers” are mineral in nature, and thus meet the terms of the first part of heading 6806 (covering “mineral wools”). See Headquarters Ruling (HQ) 965475, dated September 4, 2002.
Mullite is an alumino-silicate or ceramic fiber. According to CBP lab analysis, the seal is almost purely composed of mullite. Mullite, in raw form, is classified in Section V of the HTSUSA. The General EN to Chapter 68 states that the chapter covers, among other articles, “[c]ertain goods made from mineral materials of Section V.” In regard to these articles, the EN states that they “ … may be agglomerated by means of binders, contain fillers, be reinforced, or in the case of products such as abrasives or mica be put up on a backing or support of textile material, paper, paperboard or other materials.” The EN also states that:
Most of these products and finished articles are obtained by operations (e.g., shaping, moulding), which alter the form rather than the nature of the constituent material. Some are obtained by agglomeration (e.g., articles of asphalt, or certain goods such as grinding wheels which are agglomerated by vitrification of the binding material); others may have been hardened in autoclaves (sand-lime bricks). The Chapter also includes certain goods obtained by processes involving a more radical transformation of the original raw material (e.g., fusion to produce slag wool, fused basalt, etc.).
CBP has previously held that subheading 6806.10.00, HTSUSA, covers mixtures that are “almost purely mixtures of those materials individually classifiable in that subheading and are in mineral wool form.” See HQ 965475. CBP has also ruled that “[m]ixtures consisting of mineral wools combined with other materials exceed the scope of the subheading 6806.10.00, HTSUS, and are classifiable in subheading 6806.90.00, HTSUS.” Id.
The subject seal is almost wholly mullite, a mineral wool covered by the first part of heading 6806, HTSUSA. While the seal contains an extremely small amount of binder, we find that the binder functions only to hold the mixture together and does not alter the nature of the constituent material (the mullite). As reflected in the EN to heading 6806, it is recognized that mineral materials of the seal’s nature sometimes may be agglomerated by means of binders. While the presence of other materials in a mixture consisting of mineral wools may push a mixture outside the scope of subheading 6806.10.00, HTSUSA, we find that, due to its extremely limited content and functionality, the binder in the subject seal does not.
The subject monolithic catalyst seal is classified in subheading 6806.10.0090, HTSUSA, which provides for: “Slag wool, rock wool and similar mineral wools; exfoliated vermiculite, expanded clays, foamed slag and similar expanded mineral materials; mixtures and articles of heat-insulating, sound-insulating or sound absorbing mineral materials, other than those of heading 6811 or 6812, or of chapter 69: Slag wool, rock wool and similar mineral wools (including intermixtures thereof), in bulk, sheets or rolls, Other: Other.” The applicable column one, general duty rate under the 2005 HTSUSA is 3.9% ad valorem.
Gail A. Hamill, Chief