U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has published in The Customs Bulletin (Vol. 47, No. 14, March 27, 2013), a proposed testing method to determine the proper classification of certain footwear under the Harmonize Tariff Schedules of the United States (HTSUS).

Note 4(b) to Chapter 64 of the HTSUS provides with respect to that Chapter that constituent material of outer soles shall be taken to be material having the greatest surface area in contact with the ground, excluding accessories or reinforcements such as spikes, bars, nails, protectors or similar attachments.

Previously, footwear with outer soles of rubber or plastics to which textile material has been added were classified under Heading 6405 of HTSUS as "other footwear."

An ITC investigation of the classification of footwear led to the issuance of a Presidential Proclamation published in 76 Federal Register 68271 (11/3/11), at which time a new Note 5 was added to Chapter 64 of the HTSUS. This Note 5 provides that "For purposes of determining the constituent material of the outer sole pursuant to Note 4(b) to this Chapter, no account shall be taken of the textile materials which do not possess the characteristics usually required for normal use of an outer sole, including durability and strength."

The proposed test relates to CBP enforcement of the standard expressed in Note 5 above.

CBP, after receiving comments from the trade, has proposed the adoption of a standard of testing that relies upon ISO 20871 in assessing the characteristics of textile materials attached to the outer soles. An abrading machine is used in the test and "mass lost" is calculated.

CBP states that any party seeking to obtain a Customs ruling regarding footwear as described above should include an independent laboratory test using the above ISO standard. CBP also states that it may request samples of such footwear for its own independent testing.

It is recommended that whenever such testing is performed by an importer or other party concerned with the imported product that samples be retained and that the samples be tied to specific entry transactions, styles and lot numbers. Moreover, it is also recommended that preproduction and postproduction samples be tested (as appropriate) and that records be maintained to support the classification claim advanced.

Comments are due by May 28, 2013, and are to be directed to:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Office of International Trade, Regulations and Rulings

Attention: Trade and Commercial Regulations Branch

90 K Street NE (10th Floor)

Washington, D.C. 20229-1177

The contact person at CBP is Greg Connor: 202-325-0025.