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Obscure EU Ruling Means Chinese Bolt Blanks Subject to ADD?
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In June 2012 the EU enacted an obscure regulation, which subsequent investigations by the British Association of Fastener Distributors suggest has serious implications for importers of bolt blanks from P.R. China. Regulation EU 553/2012 stemmed from considerations by the EU Customs Code Committee, Tariff and Statistical Nomenclature Section, responsible for reconciling differences in national Customs interpretation of TARIC classifications for imports. The regulation rules that “an unthreaded article of steel, other than stainless steel, with a hexagon head, a tensile strength of 1,040 MPa and dimensions of 160mm (length), 32mm (head size) and 16 mm (shank diameter)” should be classified using CN code 7318 1589 when imported to the EU. Essentially the decision reflects an interpretation that this particular, by no means standard, blank can only be processed to become a bolt and should, therefore, be classified as a bolt when it enters the EU.
 Unhelpfully, the regulation was titled “concerning the classification of certain goods in the Combined Nomenclature”, which is why it slipped under the radar of most of the fastener industry since its enactment in June 2012. For the BAFD, which unearthed the regulation late in 2012, the question was “what does this mean for steel bolt blanks in general?” The question was posed directly to the TAXUD section of the European Commission. Simultaneously BAFD asked EFDA to make similar inquiries and subsequently it has become clear that at least one UK bolt manufacturer also asked the same question independently. In view of its apparent significance BAFD has provided this magazine (Fastener & Fixing  Magazine) with a copy of the response from TAXUD and we have also seen the response to the UK manufacturer. The responses make it clear Regulation 553/2012 applies specifically to the cited product. Critically, though, TAXUD also told BAFD: “Customs administrations however are expected to use the reasoning of this classification regulation by analogy for classifying other similar blank screws or bolts with different dimensions or heads or with a lower tensile strength.”
 The legal basis for this is General Rule 2 (a) for the interpretation of the Combined Nomenclature (EU Regulation 927/2012 is the latest version) which states: "any reference in a heading to an article shall be taken to include a reference to that article incomplete or unfinished, provided that, as presented, the incomplete or unfinished article has the essential character of the complete or finished article […]." The seemingly unavoidable conclusion is that national customs authorities should require importers to code bolt blanks imported to the EU under CN code 7318 15 89. This CN code is one of those cited under the ‘product concerned’ section of Regulation 91/2009, which applied anti-dumping duties to imports of steel fasteners from the P.R. China. TAXUD makes it clear in its responses that the responsibility for providing advice to individual businesses on classification rests with customs authorities in the member states using the Binding Tariff Information system.
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