United States v. Haggar Apparel Co., 526 U.S. 380, 17 (1999)

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Opinion of Stevens, J.

nized Tariff Schedule of the United States, 19 U. S. C. 1202 (listing operations taking place abroad that meet the standard); Item 807.00, Tariff Schedule of the United States, 19 U. S. C. 1202 (1982 ed.) (same); 19 CFR 10.16(c) (1998) (listing such operations that do not meet the standard). Surely the agency's effort to enumerate "significant" and common operations not to be considered incidental to the assembly process was both permissible and sensible. Nothing in the statute or its history convinces me otherwise; in my opinion, the regulation is clearly valid.

Respondent's strongest challenge to the judgment of the Customs Service is that the Service has misinterpreted and misapplied one of its excluded examples: "Chemical treatment . . . to impart new characteristics, such as . . . perma-pressing." 19 CFR 10.16(c)(4) (1998). With respect to the entries denied a duty exemption in this case, the fabric was resin treated in the United States at the textile mill, but pressed and ovenbaked in Mexico after assembly. Yet the Service apparently granted a duty exemption for trousers respondent assembled from synthetic fabric; these trousers did not require ovenbaking or resin treatment, but they were pressed in Mexico after assembly. See App. to Pet. for Cert. 8a-9a, 15a-16a; App. 33-34, 37-38. Respondent contends that the Service cannot treat pressing-plus-ovenbaking, but not pressing alone, as a species of chemical treatment that is not incidental to the assembly process.

There is a rather obvious answer to this contention. One can certainly discern a meaningful difference between merely pressing a synthetic fabric, on the one hand, and using ovenbaking (or perhaps extended pressing) to treat a fabric to which another substance has been added. Based on that difference, the Service could logically conclude, in accord with its understanding of its own regulation, that only the latter is a form of "chemical treatment" excluded from a duty exemption. Indeed, distinguishing these two operations in this fashion is the product of the kind of line-drawing

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