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Value Vinyls, Inc. v. United States

June 16, 2009

VALUE VINYLS, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
UNITED STATES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States Court of International Trade in Case No. 01-00896, Senior Judge Thomas J. Aquilino, Jr.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Newman, Circuit Judge.

Before NEWMAN and MOORE, Circuit Judges, and GETTLEMAN, District Judge*fn1

Dissenting opinion filed by District Judge GETTLEMAN.

This appeal concerns the proper classification of a plastic-coated textile product imported by Value Vinyls, Inc. The question is whether the Court of International Trade correctly concluded that the imported product, whose textile component is made entirely of man-made fibers, is a "product with textile components in which man-made fibers predominate by weight over any other single textile fiber" and hence is classified under subheading 3921.90.11 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), or whether, as the government argues, this category does not include product made entirely of man-made fibers. We conclude that the Court of International Trade correctly classified the subject goods.

BACKGROUND

Value Vinyls' product is a plastic-coated fabric material that is imported in sheets, and is used in making products such as truck covers, barrier coverings, dividers, upholstery, signs, and barriers. The product is comprised of a textile layer made from a polyester fiber, coated on both sides with a layer of compact polyvinyl chloride. Value Vinyls imported the goods during 1998, 1999, and 2000, through the ports of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Dallas. Upon import, United States Bureau of Customs and Border Protection ("Customs") (formerly known as the United States Customs Service, see 6 U.S.C. §542 & notes) classified the goods under HTSUS subheading 3921.90.19, at a duty rate of 5.3% ad valorem. Value Vinyls protested, arguing that subheading 3921.90.11 was the proper classification, at a duty rate of 4.2% ad valorem. Customs denied the protests, and Value Vinyls challenged the classification in the Court of International Trade.

The Court of International Trade held that subheading 3921.90.11, which includes "textile components in which man-made fibers predominate by weight over any other single textile fiber," encompasses product whose textile component contains only man-made fibers. Value Vinyls, Inc. v. United States, No. 01-00896, 2007 WL 273839 (Ct. Int'l Trade Jan. 30, 2007). The court granted rehearing, and then adhered to its decision. Value Vinyls, Inc. v. United States, No. 01-00896, 2007 WL 2071535 (Ct. Int'l Trade July 20, 2007). The government appeals.

DISCUSSION

Interpretation of the tariff schedules, as a question of statutory interpretation, is reviewed as a matter of law. Degussa v. United States, 508 F.3d 1044, 1047 (Fed. Cir. 2007). Whether a particular imported product fits within a correctly interpreted tariff provision is a question of fact, which we review for clear error. Id. In this case, the only question is interpretation of the tariff schedule. See General Elec. Co.-Med. Systems Group v. United States, 247 F.3d 1231, 1235 (Fed. Cir. 2001) ("When there is no genuine dispute over the nature of the merchandise, the classification of the merchandise is a question of law.").

The HTSUS is organized by chapters, which encompass broad subject matter categories; headings, which set forth particular classes of merchandise; and subheadings, which further separate goods within each class. See Orlando Food Corp. v. United States, 140 F.3d 1437, 1439 (Fed. Cir. 1998). Following the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI) of the HTSUS, the classification of merchandise is determined according to the terms of the headings and subheadings and any relevant section or chapter notes. See id. at 1440.

The parties agree that the goods here at issue are within chapter 39 and under heading 3921 for "Other plates, sheets, film, foil and strip, of plastics." The dispute is between subheadings 3921.90.11 and 3921.90.19. The relevant provisions follow:

3921 Other plates, sheets, film, foil and strip, of plastics:

3921.90 Other:

Combined with textile materials and weighing not more ...


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