State Department to Hear Requests for Import Restrictions on Nigerian, Greek, and Bolivian Art

Nigeria Seeks Import Restrictions on Ancient and Ethnographic Cultural Objects: Greece and Bolivia Ask for 5-year Extensions on Existing Agreements

Rilwan Babatunde Osuolale Aremu Akiolu, Oba of Lagos. Commanding Officer USS Barry (DDG 52), Cmdr. Jeffrey Wolstenholme, presented the Oba of Lagos with a ship's plaque during the ship's visit. The Oba is a spiritual leader in Nigerian culture with the respect of royalty. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Kurt Riggs, 2 June 2006.

Nigeria has filed a request seeking U.S. import restrictions on archaeological and ethnological material representing its cultural patrimony under the Cultural Property Implementation Act. Details of the basis for Nigeria’s request are not yet available. (Look for an analysis of the Nigerian request here in early October.)

At the same time, Greece and Bolivia are seeking 5-year renewals to the existing ban on importation of their cultural property.

A key issue for the renewal for Greece is a threatened expansion of import restrictions on certain ancient Greek coins. Coin collectors, coin businesses and auction houses have argued that expanding Greece’s MoU to include additional Greek coins would create extraordinary burdens for the legal trade and result in the seizure of Greek coins legally exported from the EU. Greek coinage not only circulated very widely in trade in antiquity, it has been avidly collected globally for hundreds of years.

Bolivia also wants an extension of its MoU until 2025; Bolivian imports have been illegal to import into the U.S. without an import permit since 2001. Bolivia does not actually issue export permits for antique cultural objects. An important factor for consideration in the upcoming renewal hearing for Bolivia is whether there is actual current looting of archaeological sites for objects, or if instead, as is the case in Peru, archaeological destruction now takes place largely as a result of the usurpation of archaeological sites by businesses for construction of buildings and other development projects, to which local governments turn a blind eye.

To impose import restrictions or make renewals, the CPAC must determine whether the request satisfies all four requirements set forth in the statute. The requirements are:

  1. The cultural patrimony of the State Party is in jeopardy from the pillage of archaeological or ethnological materials of the State Party.
  2. The State Party has taken measures to protect its cultural patrimony.
  3. The application of the requested import restriction if applied in concert with similar restrictions implemented, or to be implemented within a reasonable period of time, by nations with a significant import trade in the designated objects, would be of substantial benefit in deterring a serious situation of pillage, and other remedies are not available.
  4. The application of the import restrictions is consistent with the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes.

The Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) will meet October 27, 2020. CPAC will hold an open session at which the public may present comments on October 27, at 2:00 p.m. (EDT). You may participate in the open session by videoconference. It will last approximately one hour. To participate, visit http://culturalheritage.state.gov for information on how to access the meeting. Please submit any request for reasonable accommodation not later than October 20, 2020, by contacting the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at culprop@state.gov.

The Committee will review written comments if received by October 13, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. (EDT). You are not required to submit a written comment in order to make an oral comment in the open session. To submit written comments, use http://www.regulations.gov, enter the docket [DOS–2020–0036] and follow the prompts. For general questions concerning the meeting, contact Allison Davis, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs— Cultural Heritage Center, by phone 202–632–6305 or email culprop@state.gov.

For more info in CPAC, see CPAC – Building a Wall Against Art

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