In ruling NY N321168 (September 9, 2021), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) discussed the country of origin of a bypass lopper and a pruner. Both objects are hand tools made of long, rectangular of bulk, raw steel, consisting of two halves joined by a steel pin known as the fulcrum. The halves have a handle on one end and the cutting jaws on the other. The bypass lopper has an aluminum handle extension in order to further amplify the force applied by the user. Alternatively, while the pruner lacks the bypass lopper’s extended handle, it does include a small spring that allows for faster hand cutting. The cutting ends of the tools have a similar shape and design, and contain characteristics that make the tools suitable for cutting and pruning plants, shrubs, and tree branches.

The production process for the bypass lopper and pruner begins in Vietnam where raw steel sheet is drop forged and die cut into two halves. Notably, the two halves of each tool are distinct from each other. One half is drop forged and die cut into a steel handle with the cutting blade while the other into a curved counter blade. The halves for each tool are then drilled with a hole near the working part. The handles of the bypass lopper and pruner are then press-formed to offset the two handles from each other. Afterwards, the two halves for each respective tool are sent to China for finishing and assembly – which consist of heat-treating the halves, milling the edges, and coating the two halves with Teflon.  The bypass lopper is then assembled with the extension handles, handle grip covers, and the fulcrum pin, while the pruner is assembled with the fulcrum pin through the pre-drilled holes, the spring, and the clips.

In its determination, CBP notes that, as defined under 19 CFR 134.1(b), the country of origin is the “country of manufacture, production, or growth of any article of foreign origin entering the United States. Further work or material added to an article in another country must effect a substantial transformation in order to render such other country the ‘country of origin’ within the meaning of this part.”

CBP also established that “substantial transformation” takes place when a particular product “emerges from a process with a new name, character or use different from that possessed by the article prior to processing.” In this case, the agency established that the two halves constitute the essence of the finished bypass lopper and pruner. Despite the additional pieces added to the two halves in China – and based on the assembly and processing operations in China – the two halves are not substantially changed. As such, CBP determined that the country of origin of the bypass lopper and pruner is Vietnam.