Tuesday, January 19, 2016

MoUs: Italy Renewed; Egypt Still Pursued; Cambodia and Belize Get a CPAC Interlude

United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Treasury Department have promulgated rules, effective today, that extend import restrictions on archaeological material originating from Italy.

First erected by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the U.S. and Italy in 2001 and subsequently refreshed in 2006, 2011, and now 2016, the import barriers seek to deter cultural property looting and trafficking by denying entry to endangered pre-Classical, Classical, and Imperial Roman artifacts bound for the American marketplace.

The import barriers result from Italy's request for American assistance pursuant to Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

Under import regulations authorized by the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA), certain categories of 9th century B.C. through 4th century A.D. antiquities, armor, mosaics, jewelry, sculpture, and other archaeological material from Italy may be seized by CPB if trafficked across the U.S. border. The designated list of objects subject to the legal restrictions can be found here.

Italy asked for the latest MoU renewal in February 2015, and the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) met in April last year to weigh the matter. The renewal process concluded within a usual time frame. By contrast, Egypt's first and only request for an MoU with the U.S. seems to have stalled without explanation.

Egypt asked CPAC to consider enacting protective import measures in April 2014, attracting a variety of public comments from preservationists, ancient coin collectors, the Association of Art Museum Directors, and other stakeholders. Yet despite CHL's admonitions in June 2011 and July 2013 for emergency legislation to protect at-risk Egyptian material, followed by a call in March 2014 to implement CPIA import restrictions "with all deliberate speed," import regulations covering ancient Egyptian artifacts still have not been approved.

CPAC, meanwhile, will be meeting in executive session next month for an interim review of MoUs covering jeopardized archaeological material from Cambodia and Belize, both approved in 2013. Public comments will be solicited at a later date should either agreement be considered for extension.

Photo credit: Matthew Strickland

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