Press Releases & Art Market papers
May 20 2024 | CINOA

CINOA Feedback on U.S. MOUs Ukraine, Jordan & Ecuador for CPAC June 4, 2024 Agenda

Subject: Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) June 4, 2024 agenda: The Committee will review a request from the Government of Ukraine seeking import restrictions on archaeological and ethnological materials, the proposed extension of an agreement with the Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the proposed extension of an agreement with the Government of the Republic of Ecuador. In addition, the Committee will undertake a continuing review of the effectiveness of other cultural property agreements and emergency actions currently in force.

Comments from CINOA, the principal federation of art and antique dealing organisations in the world:

  1. We ask that you consider less drastic action, in keeping with the required conditions for MOUs as set out in
    the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, 19 U.S.C. § 2601. We ask you to introduce
    measures that would strike the balance of sensitivity referred to below, allowing the private sector to support
    the ethical and moral principles that the MOUs set out to preserve.
  2. As cultural property experts, CINOA’s members and their clients play a crucial role in protecting cultural heritage. Their support fosters ongoing research, improves due diligence standards, and maintains a thriving legitimate market. This delicate balance between collectors, scholars, and institutions is at risk if proposed restrictions discourage investment and study in these fields. Such measures would not only diminish financial contributions and expertise but also undermine cultural understanding and preservation efforts. The position of CINOA recognizes the value of well written laws that do not disenfranchise members of the art, decorative art, antiquities and coin collecting worlds whose goal is to foster the legitimate exchange of cultural goods which encourages people to people contacts as well as the appreciation of other cultures.
  3. The MOUs designed by the State Department are over broad and do not allow essential due process
    regarding the rights of collectors of archaeological and ethnological goods. The danger of the MOUs as they are written is that instead of being import restrictions applied prospectively to items illicitly exported, they act as embargoes on everything on ever broader designated lists. We urge the State Department to re-consider the breadth of its proposed MOUs.
  4. While the primary aim of the MOUs is to curb present-day looting of archaeological sites, their ramifications extend far beyond that scope. Essentially, they enable foreign governments to reclaim cultural artifacts that were lawfully sold and made available for export on foreign markets. In many cases, this situation arises because collectors lack provenance information, which is often unavailable for lower-value cultural items. This approach contradicts the fundamental Anglo-American perspective by shifting the burden of proof.
  5. To proceed with the proposals as they stand, unchecked, would overlooked property rights of private
    citizens, as enshrined in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment (Section 1) of the United States’ Constitution as well as in Article 17.2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  6. Feeling empathy for the Ukrainian people and their resistance against Russian imperialism complicates the opposition to any Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). However, the State Department is obligated to adhere to the statutory requirements of the CPIA (Consolidated Appropriations Act) when processing the request.
  7. The CPIA provides a precise definition for archaeological and ethnological items that could be subject to restrictions. One crucial criterion for items to be categorized as “archaeological or ethnological material” of Ukraine is that they were initially unearthed within Ukrainian territory and are under Ukrainian export control. This brings up a significant dilemma regarding relics and coins from the ancient Greek settlements along the Black Sea, now situated in occupied Crimea. Despite Ukraine’s assertion that Crimea is still part of its territory, the truth remains that Russia, having occupied the peninsula since 2014, is unlikely to relinquish its control.
  8. The problem of an excessively broad designated list is already evident in the existing import restrictions with Jordan. Moreover, the Jordanian MOU and its associated import limitations prompt further inquiries because identical types of pottery and coins that are now restricted for American citizens are openly sold there.
  9. The designated list for Ecuador continues to be excessively expansive, encompassing colonial-era artwork that stretches the definition of “ethnological objects.” According to legislative history, the drafters of the CPIA held the belief that “ethnological objects” should originate from what was then termed “primitive cultures.”