CLA-2 RR:CTF:TCM W967801 HkP
Melvin S. Schwechter, Esq.
Paula S. Smith, Esq.
LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, LLP
1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20009
RE: Modification of NY L85665; cut-to-length insulated wire with connectors and terminals
Dear Mr. Schwechter & Ms. Smith:
This is in reference to your letter dated August 23, 2005, requesting reconsideration of New York Ruling Letter (“NY”) L85665, issued to you on July 12, 2005, on behalf of your client Alcoa Fujikura Ltd. (“AFL”), in which the tariff classification of certain types of cut-to-length insulated wire with connectors and terminals subassemblies (the “subassemblies”) were determined under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (“HTSUSA”). U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”), using a GRI 2(a) analysis, classified the subassemblies in subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA, as articles having the essential character of wiring sets and other wiring sets of a kind used in vehicles, aircraft or ships. You contend that the subassemblies are properly classified in subheading 8544.41.8000, HTSUSA, as other electrical conductors for a voltage not exceeding 80V. For the reasons set forth below, we hereby modify NY L85665.
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 modification was published on October 4, 2006, in the Customs Bulletin, Volume 40, Number 41. One comment was received from you in response to this notice. A discussion of the comment and CBP’s reasoning is found in the “Law and Analysis” section below.
The subject subassemblies consist of cut-to-length insulated wire (ranging in number from 2 to 50) joined with at least one connector and with terminals on one or both ends of each wire and will be imported from Honduras. Some models of subassemblies also contain clips, retainers, light bulbs, brackets, corrugated plastic tubing and/or tape. We were informed that in all cases the insulated wire is of a voltage not exceeding 80V. These subassemblies will be used in the manufacture of automobile wiring harnesses.
CBP was informed that, after importation into the United States the subassemblies will undergo finishing operations, including routing, splicing, twisting, taping, and inserting additional connectors or terminals where required. Clips, brackets, relays and/or fuses may also be added. The subassemblies will then be known as “modules.” Each module will be assembled with other Honduran subassemblies imported and converted into modules to form a complete and finished wiring harness. However, in no case will all of the subassemblies needed to complete a finished wiring harness be imported together. Each wiring harness will be dedicated for use in a particular model of automobile.
We were also told that, with respect to the majority of the types of subassemblies, the circuits contained in each subassembly are not dedicated for use in a particular electrical system of an automobile. Rather, the subassemblies contain circuits assigned to a variety of the vehicle’s electrical systems. For example, some of the circuits on one subassembly may be dedicated for use in the air conditioning unit, others for the CD player, and others for the sunroof of a vehicle. However, we note that all of the samples provided for our consideration are dedicated to a particular use.
There are nine subassemblies under consideration. Samples have been provided of seven types of subassemblies. The samples are identified in Exhibit D by model number as follows:
(1) 1J1 970 039 – modulo radiador (radiator module)
(2) 1J1 970 043 – modulo faros (headlight module)
(3) 1J1 970 083 – mod. tanque de combustible (fuel tank module)
(4) 1J1 970 126 – mod. cinturones (security system module)
(5) 1J5 970 149 – arnes tanque de combustible (fuel tank harness)
(6) 1J1 970 076 – arnes bocina (speaker harness)
(7) 1J1 970 016 – modulo de radio (radio module)
These photographs are included as representative of the items under consideration:
Sample 1 – radiator module
Sample 7 – radio module
You have provided us with photographs of model numbers: (8) 1K5 970 113, which is for an undetermined use, and (9) 1K5 970 091, which is identified in Exhibit E as a “bocinas”, a speaker assembly.
Whether the subject subassemblies are wiring sets of subheading 8544.30, HTSUS.
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:
8544 Insulated (including enameled or anodized) wire, cable (including coaxial cable) and other insulated electric conductors, whether or not fitted with connectors; …:
* * *
8544.30.0000 Ignition wiring sets and other wiring sets of a kind used in vehicles, aircraft or ships …..
Other electric conductors, for a voltage not exceeding 80V:
Fitted with connectors:
* * *
The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the official interpretation of the HTSUS. 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.
Heading 8544, HTSUS, provides for, inter alia: “Insulated (including enameled or anodized) wire, cable (including coaxial cable) and other insulated electric conductors, whether or not fitted with connectors.” EN 85.44 explains that the goods of heading 8544, HTSUS, are made up of (A) a conductor, (B) one or more coverings of insulating material, (C) in certain cases, a metal sheath, and (D) sometimes a metal armouring. Because the subject subassemblies are made up of conductors (i.e., wire) and one or more coverings of insulating material, we find that they are properly classified in heading 8544, HTSUS. CBP has consistently found that the main function of articles of heading 8544, HTSUS, is the conduction of electricity.
Classification must therefore take place at the subheading level. GRI 6 provides that the classification of goods in the subheadings of a heading shall be determined according to the terms of those subheadings and any related subheading notes and, mutatis mutandis, to GRIs 1 through 5, on the understanding that only subheadings at the same level are comparable.
You argue that the subject subassemblies are not “wiring sets” of subheading 8544.30.00, HTSUS, because they do not, in their condition as imported, meet the definition of “wiring sets” as used in that subheading and are therefore not specifically described by its terms. You state that all of the subassemblies have incomplete connections and are incapable of functioning by themselves without being assembled with up to 49 other modules to form a completed wiring harness. You further state that incomplete wiring sets are not classifiable in subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA. You contend that AFL’s subassemblies are properly classified in subheading 8544.41.8000, HTSUSA, as other electrical conductors, for a voltage not exceeding 80 V, fitted with connectors.
As an initial matter, we agree that unfinished wiring sets cannot be classified in subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA, because the terms of the subheading make it clear that articles classified therein must constitute a “set”. CBP erred in NY L85665 when it applied a GRI 2(a) essential character analysis to wiring sets.
As you have stated, the term “wiring sets” is not defined in the tariff. EN 85.44 merely provides an example of a wiring set, stating that heading 8544, HTSUS, “includes wire, etc. of the types described above made up in sets (e.g., multiple cables for connecting motor vehicle sparking plugs to the distributor).” You argue that this language indicates that “sets” may include more than one cable, and that a “wiring set” should perform a discrete specific function in a vehicle. However, we note that ENs are not dispositive or legally binding. In support of your position, you cite ITT Thompson Industries, Inc., v. United States (“ITT Industries”), 537 F. Supp. 1272 (citations omitted) (1982). In that case the court noted, “there is no patterned commercial definition of the term ‘wiring sets’.” On consulting a dictionary, the court found that “wiring” meant, inter alia, “an arrangement of wires used for electric distribution”, and that “sets” meant, inter alia, “an apparatus of electrical or electronic components assembled so as to function as a unit (radio set, television set, amplifying set, sending set).” The court concluded, “It is apparent from these definitions and related examples that a ‘set’ must be capable of performing a specific function by itself without assistance from an outside source.” The court went on to find that “a conclusion that the harnesses do not constitute a wiring set designed for use in motor vehicles would be directly in contrast to the visual samples as well as the weight of the overall evidence.” At 1280. Yet, despite concluding that a set must be capable of performing a specific function without assistance, the court also found that the harnesses constituted only parts of either electric lighting equipment designed for motor vehicles, or only parts of other sound or visual signaling apparatus because, “[t]he harnesses, standing alone, cannot produce actual illumination nor can they produce an actual sound or visual signal. They are only parts of those respective systems.” At 1281.
Decisions by the courts interpreting nomenclature under the HTSUS' predecessor tariff code, the Tariff Schedules of the United States (“TSUS”), are not deemed dispositive under the HTSUS. However, on a case-by-case basis, such decisions should be deemed instructive in interpreting the HTSUS, particularly where the nomenclature previously interpreted in those decisions remains unchanged and no dissimilar interpretation is required by the text of the HTS. Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988, Public Law 100-418, August 23, 1988, 102 Stat. 1107, 1147; H.R. Rep. No. 576, 100th Cong., 2d Sess. 549-550 (1988); 1988 U.S.C.C.A.N. 1547, 1582-1583. In this instance, we find that notwithstanding the CIT’s definition of “set” in ITT Industries, the court held the subject merchandise to be a wiring set.
A tariff term that is not defined in the HTSUS or in the ENs is construed in accordance with its common and commercial meaning. Nippon Kogaku (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). The online Oxford English Dictionary (www.askoxford.com) defines “wiring” as “a system of wires providing electric circuits for a device or building”, and “set” as “a number of things or people grouped together as similar or forming a unit.” Taken together, we consider the common and commercial meaning of “wiring set” to be a system of wires, grouped together to form a unit, to provide electric circuits for an automobile.
Your argument for classification in subheading 8544.41.8000, HTSUSA, appears to be based, in part, on the notion that only wiring harnesses, as defined by you, are properly classified in subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA. Based on your description of the production process, a wiring harness is formed only after several subassemblies are converted into “modules” and then several modules are assembled into a wiring harness. Anything less must be classified in subheading 8544.41, HTSUSA. We call your attention to the fact that subheading 8544.30.0000, HSTUSA, is an eo nomine provision for wiring sets; “harness” is not a part of the language of the provision. However, because eo nomine provisions normally include all forms of the article, and because wiring harnesses are within the terms of heading 8544, HTSUS, as explained by the ENs, in that they consist of a conductor and one or more coverings of insulated material, then insulated wiring sets, such as wiring harnesses, are classified in subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA, as if provided for by name. Indeed, this was the finding of the court in ITT Industries. Similarly, any other article that falls within the terms of the subheading is classified there as if provided for by name. A wiring harness is simply “the major assembly of a vehicle’s electrical system” usually bundled together in a loom or assembly, and more generally, a “harness” is “a group of electrical conductors laced or bundled in a given configuration, usually with several breakouts.” (www.autoglossary.com). Based on these definitions, we find that both a harness and a wiring harness are sets of subheading 8544.30.0000, HSTUSA. In fact, the language of the subheading, “ignition wiring sets” (a group of electrical conductors in a given configuration) and “other wiring sets” (an assembly of a vehicle’s electrical system), appears to aid such an interpretation.
In your comment you state that even though in coming up with its definition of wiring sets “the CIT looked to both Webster’s new International Dictionary and the IEEE Standard Dictionary of Electrical and Electronic Terms, HQ 967801 instead implicitly rejected the definitions in those dictionaries” and looked instead to find a definition “that omits any notion of the item having to be complete in itself to perform the function in question.” You further state that there is really no conflict in the ITT Industries definition because:
The specific function that a wiring set performs is not turning on the light bulb or opening the power window by itself, but rather the correct and effective conduction of electricity from the power source to the item that requires the electricity in order to function … If the item, such as the subassemblies at issue in the ruling request, cannot perform the required electrical conduction function properly on their own (because they need to be joined to other subassemblies), then they cannot be wiring sets. So much the more so if all one has is two wires soldered/joined together and terminated with nothing else to allow those wires to conduct electricity in a vehicle properly.
You also challenge the fact that CBP consulted the compact version of the Oxford English Dictionary found on the Internet. You state that the full official version of the Oxford English Dictionary provides a much more exact definition for the word “set”, that is, “A collection of instruments, tools or machines customarily used together in a particular operation; a complete apparatus employed for some specific purpose.” (your emphasis) and, “A piece of electrical or electronic apparatus, as a telephone, telegraph receiver or transmitter, a radio or television receiver, etc. Also, a radar transmitter and receiver.”
We note that even if, arguendo, your interpretation of what the court in ITT Industries meant is correct, this does not contradict the term “wiring sets” as used in this ruling. Subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA, provides for “ignition wiring sets”, i.e., “a complete apparatus employed for some specific purpose.” However, the subheading also provides for “other wiring sets” with no specific purpose mentioned. Accordingly, CBP cannot require any specific purpose of other wiring sets where none is required by the tariff.
You also comment that the definition of “wiring sets” as a “system of wires grouped together to form a unit” used in this ruling is “far too broad, goes far beyond any previous ruling by Customs dealing with wiring sets, and is unnecessary to resolve the matters at issue in the subject ruling request.” To the contrary, CBP has found that in order to properly classify merchandise it needs to understand the breadth of the classifications in contention. We do not find that determining the scope of a tariff provision exceeds our duty to correctly classify your merchandise.
You further comment:
[A]t a minimum, any ruling that is finally issued should make clear that its definition of “wiring set” does not apply to just any two insulated wires that are soldered/joined together and terminated, if they will ultimately be used in an automobile, unless they incorporate some or all of the items such as fuses, connectors, switches or transistors that allows those two wires to actually conduct electricity in an automobile properly.
With regard to the issue of whether or not a set is required to have connectors, we are aided by the rules of construction, which instruct that a subheading is subordinate to the terms of its superior heading. Heading 8544, HSTUS, provides for insulated wire, cable and other electric conductors, “whether or not fitted with connectors”. Generally, an electrical connector joins electrical circuits together. A search on the Internet for “electrical connector” revealed that there are many types of connectors, broadly classified in five groups: terminal blocks, crimp-on terminals, insulation displacement connectors, plug and socket connectors, and component and device connectors. In automotive terms, a “harness connector” is “an electrical connector at the end of a wire or harness used to connect the conductor to a device or system.” (www.autoglossary.com). Subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA, provides for ignition wiring sets and other wiring sets of a kind used in vehicles. When read in the context of heading 8544, HTSUS, it becomes clear that this subheading includes wiring sets whether or not fitted with connectors. Note the difference between this subheading and subheading 8544.41.8000, HTSUSA, which specifically includes the optional limiting language found in heading 8544, HTSUS: “fitted with connectors.” See HQ 966989, dated Feb. 10, 2005, stating CBP’s position on the relationship of subheadings to headings under the tariff. Based on the foregoing, we find that wiring sets of subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA, need not be fitted with connectors.
You have told us that after importation the subassemblies may be routed, spliced, twisted, taped, and have additional connectors or terminals inserted, and that clips, brackets, relays and/or fuses may also be added. You have also said that after this additional assembly operation, the module, as it is now called, must be further assembled with other modules in order to form a complete wiring harness. It is for these reasons that you argue these imports are not sets classifiable under subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA. However, EN 85.44 explains, “[p]rovided they are insulated, … heading  covers electric wire, cable and other conductors (e.g. braids, strip, bars) used as conductors in electrical machinery, apparatus or installations.” CBP has previously found that the only requirement for classification in subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA, is that the insulated wires or other electrical conductors be in sets. See HQ 955026, dated September 27, 1993, and HQ 958653, dated April 15, 1996. See also HQ 088477, dated May 9, 1991, and HQ 959173, dated September 10, 1996. Therefore, once the subject subassemblies (which are imported in sets) are capable of conducting electricity, then even if they are not routed, spliced, twisted, taped, and do not have additional connectors or terminals inserted, or clips, brackets, relays and/or fuses added, or other additions not required for conducting electricity, they are classified in subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA. In the present case, we find that none of the items added in the post-importation assembly stage is essential for conducting electricity, even though they may aid in the proper management of such electricity. Consequently, we find that the lack of these additional components on importation does not preclude the subassemblies from being classified in subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA.
It is your belief that a wiring set must be capable of performing a specific function by itself without assistance from an outside source. You argue that the subassemblies under consideration do not materially resemble the automotive wire harness assemblies typically classified under subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA. You state that CBP has classified wiring harnesses or wiring harness assemblies dedicated to a specific function in this subheading. You also state that an AFL subassembly may contain many different types of circuits, such as for headlights, air conditioning, and an alarm system, and therefore will perform multiple rather than a specific function within an automobile. You argue that because the subassemblies will not perform a specific function, they are not wiring harnesses and therefore cannot be classified in subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA. However, we note that the samples you have provided to us as representative of your imports are all each dedicated to a specific function. We also note that in your comment you state that of the seven subassemblies for which samples were submitted, only two of them are dedicated 100% to a single function and that the other five had wires used in multiple functions. You state that this was indicated in a column in Exhibit D to your Request for Reconsideration. We note that the column in question is the only indicator of multi-function use and that there is no indication of what these other uses might be. We consider the information we have before us, and when we are presented with samples identified by the importer as radiator, headlight, fuel tank, security system, and radio modules, and fuel tank and speaker harnesses, then in the absence of substantiated evidence to the contrary, CBP concludes that the identified use is the only use of the merchandise.
We believe that your reasoning indicates a misperception of the function of a wiring harness as the major assembly of a vehicle’s electrical system. By its nature, such an assembly contains circuits assigned to different components of a vehicle, but its specific function is to conduct electricity throughout the vehicle. The court has found such articles provided for in subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA. See ITT Industries. As we have previously stated, it is our position that wiring sets, whether assigned to one or many of a vehicle’s components, are classified in subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA. As we have consistently ruled, the unifying characteristic of wiring sets of subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA, is that their main function is to control the flow of electricity. We refer your attention to HQ 958653, dated April 15, 1996, in which we classified circuitry for most of a car’s engine control elements (sensors, fuel injectors, ignition control, air conditioning, clutch coil control, idle speed control, exhaust gas recirculation solenoid control, alternator and battery, oil pressure sensor, water temperature control, radio noise suppression, and some steering components) in subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA. In HQ 955026 (September 27, 1993) we classified an instrument panel assembly, the main function of which is to interface between the body computer, instrument cluster, radio, air bag module, I/P switches, body wiring, engine compartment wiring, and all other modules in the panel, in subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA. cf HQ 962623, dated July 22, 1999, and HQ 958653, dated April 15, 1996. AFL’s subassemblies are imported as sets, that is, as wires grouped together to form a unit, either by being taped together, or by being housed together in plastic casing, or fitted together with connecters, and whether containing a dedicated circuit or many circuits are used to conduct electricity within an automobile. They are substantially similar to articles classified in subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA, in previous CBP rulings.
Finally, we consider your argument that wiring sets of subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA, must conform to the characteristics of other “set” provisions found elsewhere in the tariff. Those other provisions require that the subject items be imported packaged together for retail sale without repacking. However, subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA, specifically provides that a wiring set need not have connectors in order to be considered a set, even though connectors are needed for the set to function as intended. Because the tariff implicitly recognizes that the wiring sets of subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA, may require further assembly, we find that these wiring sets are distinguished from other sets provided for in the tariff.
By application of GRI 1 we find that the AFL subassemblies are provided for in heading 8544, HTSUS, which provides for: “Insulated (including enameled or anodized) wire, cable (including coaxial cable) and other insulated electric conductors, whether or not fitted with connectors,” and are specifically provided for in subheading 8544.30.0000, HTSUSA, which provides for: “Ignition wiring sets and other wiring sets of a kind used in vehicles.”
EFFECT ON OTHER RULINGS:
NY L85665, dated July 12, 2005, is hereby modified with respect to its legal analysis. The classification of the items described therein is unchanged. In accordance with 19 U.S.C. §1625(c), this ruling will become effective 60 days after its publication in the Customs Bulletin.
Myles B. Harmon, Director
Commercial & Trade Facilitation Division