BCB International, Inc.
1010 Niagara Street
Buffalo, NY 14213-1501
RE: The tariff classification of OctoTerra coconut shell panels from China
Dear Ms. Carman:
In your letter, received February 11, 2013, you requested a tariff classification ruling on behalf of your client, Octopus Products, Ltd. The ruling was returned to you for additional information, which was resubmitted to this office on May 30, 2013. Product information and samples were submitted for our review, and will be retained for reference.
The ruling was requested on two OctoTerra panels of similar constructions. The first panel consists of convex, polished, rectangular pieces of coconut shell, measuring approximately 3/4" (W) by 1 1/2"(L) x 3mm thick, arranged evenly (in a brick-like fashion) and bonded to a fiberglass mesh backing. The second consists of slightly convex, polished, rectangular pieces of coconut shell, measuring approximately 3/8”(W) x 3/4"(L) x 3mm thick, arranged evenly and also bonded to a fiberglass mesh backing. You state that the shell may also be cut and unpolished. You state that the panels measure 24” square upon importation. The OctoTerra products are used as decorative panels for covering ceilings, walls, floors, furniture, displays, and retail fixtures.
The classification of merchandise under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation ("GRIs"), taken in order. GRI 1 requires that classification be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes. In the event that goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the heading and legal notes do not otherwise require the remaining GRI will be applied, in the order of their appearance. For the instant items, neither GRI 1 nor GRI 2 is applicable.
The OctoTerra panels are constructed of materials that are prima facie classifiable in different headings, i.e., cut coconut shells and fiberglass mesh. The panels are therefore composite goods within the meaning of General Rule of Interpretation (GRI) 3(b). GRI 3(b) states, in pertinent part:
(b) Mixtures, composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components, and goods put up in sets for retail sale, which cannot be classified by reference to 3(a), shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character, insofar as this criterion is applicable.
In accordance with the Explanatory Notes (ENs) for GRI 3(b), the essential character of an item may be determined by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight, or value, or by the role of a constituent material in relation to the use of the goods. While the fiberglass mesh secures the coconut shell pieces and facilitates installation, it is the coconut shells that constitute the bulk of the product and provide the panels with their consumer appeal. Therefore, it is the coconut shells that impart the essential character of each panel.
You suggest classification in subheading 4421.90.9780, HTSUS. However, coconut shell is not a material of a woody nature, as it is substantially different in structure from woods and woody materials such as bamboo. Coconut shell is instead a vegetable carving material. Classification in heading 4421 is therefore precluded.
The applicable subheading for the OctoTerra coconut shell panels will be 9602.00.5080, HTSUS, which provides for Worked vegetable or mineral carving material and articles of these materials; molded or carved articles of wax, of stearin, of natural gums or natural resins, of modeling pastes, and other molded or carved articles, not elsewhere specified or included: Other: Other. The rate of duty will be 2.7 percent ad valorem.
The applicable subheading for the swatches will be 9811.00.60, which provides for Any sample (except samples covered by heading 9811.00.20 or 9811.00.40), valued not over $1 each, or marked, torn, perforated or otherwise treated so that it is unsuitable for sale or for use otherwise than as a sample, to be used in the United States only for soliciting orders for products of foreign countries. The rate of duty will be free.
Duty rates are provided for your convenience and are subject to change. The text of the most recent HTSUS and the accompanying duty rates are provided on World Wide Web at http://www.usitc.gov/tata/hts/.
This ruling is being issued under the provisions of Part 177 of the Customs Regulations (19 C.F.R. 177).
A copy of the ruling or the control number indicated above should be provided with the entry documents filed at the time this merchandise is imported. If you have any questions regarding the ruling, contact National Import Specialist Nuccio Fera at (646) 733-3034.
Thomas J. Russo
National Commodity Specialist Division