Pine nuts are not all that odd. I recently learned a lot more about pine nuts when I read Specialty Commodities Inc. v. United States, which involves the tariff classification of the seed of the Korean pine nut, Pinus koraiensis.
Customs and Border Protection classified these seeds as "Other nuts, fresh or dried, whether or not shelled or peeled: Other: Other: Shelled: Other" in HTSUS item 0802.90.97. The plaintiff believes they are best classified in 0802.90.25 as "Pignolia: Shelled." Clearly, the question is whether the seed of the Koreas pine, from China, is a "Pignolia" for purposes of tariff classification. Note that both classifications are in subheading 0802.90. This question is all about the last two digits.
While it may seem that a pine nut is a pine nut, that is not the case. The Explanatory Notes to the Harmonized System, which are not binding on U.S. Customs and Border Protection but are authoritative interpretations of the international parts of the tariff, state that the nuts of Heading 0802 include "pignolia nuts (seeds of the Pinus pinea)." It turns out that Pinus pinea is the Italian Stone Pine, which is native to Europe, north Africa and the Mediterranean, which would exclude both China and Korea and is in contrast to the Pinus koraiensis.
|Seeds of Pinus koraiensis via Wikipedia|
This does not resolve the issue because there is no disagreement as to the proper heading and subheading (i.e., to sixth digit), which is as far as the Explanatory Notes go. Nevertheless, the Notes clearly limit pignolia to the European variety. The U.S. drafters of the HTSUS presumably knew that and were also aware of the 1968 report. Taken together, that indicates to the Court of International Trade, that these particular pine nuts are not pignolia for classification purposes.
This is the point where I usually find something in the decision to pick at. Initially, my concern was that the Explanatory Notes insert a limitation to pignolia that is not in the HTSUS and should, therefore, be ignored. That would broaden the meaning beyond seeds of Pinus pinea. But, the Court addressed this saying that there was not sufficient evidence of a common and commercial meaning to establish a conflict with the Explanatory Notes. Touché.
Now, I will go home, open my basket, and make dinner from pine nuts, squid ink, elk loin, and a Boston cream pie. If my entre does not cut it, I will be Chopped.