United States v. Haggar Apparel Co., 526 U.S. 380, 5 (1999)

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Opinion of the Court

mere assembly without other steps, all agree the imported garments would have been eligible for the duty exemption which respondent claims.

Respondent, however, in the Government's view, added one other step at the Mexican plant: permapressing. Permapressing is designed to maintain a garment's crease in the desired place and to avoid other creases or wrinkles that detract from its proper appearance. There are various methods and sequences by which permapressing can be accomplished, and one of respondent's contentions is that the Treasury's categorical approach fails to take these differences into account.

For the permapressed garments in question here, respondent purchased fabric in the United States that had been treated with a chemical resin. Id., at 37. After the treated fabric had been cut in the United States, shipped to Mexico, and sewn and given a regular pressing there, respondent baked the garments in an oven at the Mexican facility before tagging and shipping them to the United States. The baking operation took some 12 to 15 minutes. Id., at 38. With the right heat, the preapplied chemical was activated and the permapress quality was imparted to the garment. If it had delayed baking until the articles returned to the United States, respondent would have had to take extra, otherwise unnecessary steps in the United States before shipping the garments to retailers. Id., at 127-128; App. to Pet. for Cert. 20a-21a. In addition, respondent maintained below, there would have been a risk that during shipping unwanted creases and wrinkles might have developed in the otherwise finished garments. Ibid.

The Customs Service claimed the baking was an added process in addition to assembly, and denied a duty exemption; respondent claimed the baking was simply part of the assembly process, or, in the words of the controlling statute, an "operatio[n] incidental to the assembly process." Sub-heading 9802.00.80, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the

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