StarKist Co. v. United States


Slip Op. 20-164 UNITED STATES COURT OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE STARKIST CO., Plaintiff, Before: Timothy M. Reif, Judge v. Court No. 14-00068 UNITED STATES, Defendant. OPINION [Denying plaintiff’s Rule 56 motion for summary judgment and granting defendant’s Rule 56 cross-motion for summary judgment.] Dated: November 18, 2020 Michael E. Roll and Brett Ian Harris, Roll & Harris LLP, for plaintiff. Alexander Vanderweide, Trial Attorney, Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch, U.S. Department of Justice, of Washington, D.C., for defendant United States. With him on the brief was Justin R. Miller, Attorney-in-Charge, Jeanne E. Davidson, Director, and Ethan P. Davis, Acting Assistant Attorney General. Of Counsel was Sheryl A. French, Office of the Assistant Chief Counsel, U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Reif, Judge: Plaintiff StarKist Co. (“StarKist” or “plaintiff”), an importer of tuna fish products, challenges a decision by United States Customs and Border Protection (“Customs”) to classify four tuna salad products under subheading 1604.14.10 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), 1 which covers prepared or 1 All citations to the HTSUS, including Chapter Notes and General Notes, are to the 2013 edition. Court No. 14-00068 Page 2 preserved fish, specifically “[f]ish, whole or in pieces, but not minced . . . [I]n airtight containers: In oil,” and carries a 35% ad valorem duty. Customs liquidated the entries in question on different dates from February through May 2013, and StarKist filed two separate protests to challenge the tariff classification at liquidation. On January 22, 2016, plaintiff filed a complaint regarding the appropriate classification of these products. Plaintiff argues that the products at issue are correctly classified under subheading 1604.20.05, which covers “prepared meals” that are not “minced,” and carries a 10% ad valorem duty. Alternatively, plaintiff argues that the products are correctly classified under subheadings 1604.14.22 and 1604.14.30, which cover tuna that is not “minced” and not “in oil,” and carry 6% and 12.5% ad valorem duties, respectively. The question presented is which of these subheadings properly covers the subject merchandise. BACKGROUND This dispute involves the classification of four StarKist tuna fish products. Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts Not in Issue ¶¶ 1, 3-4 (“Pl. Stmt. Facts”); Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts Not in Issue ¶¶ 1, 3-4 (“Def. Resp. Pl. Stmt.”). The four products at issue are: Tuna Salad Chunk Light (Lunch-to-Go pouches); Tuna Salad Albacore (Lunch-to-Go pouches); Tuna Salad Albacore (24 retail pouches); and Tuna Salad Albacore (60 retail pouches). The subject merchandise contains cooked tuna mixed with celery, water chestnuts and a starch-based dressing. Id. Tuna Salad Albacore contains albacore tuna and white meat mayo, while Tuna Salad Chunk Light contains non-albacore tuna and light meat mayo. Pl. Stmt. Facts ¶¶ 3-4; Def. Resp. Pl. Court No. 14-00068 Page 3 Stmt. ¶¶ 3-4. The subject merchandise is exported to the United States in two different forms: as retail pouch packs, which contain individual pouches of tuna, or as Lunch-to- Go kits, which include a tuna pouch and a mint, spoon, napkin and crackers. …

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