Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Dialogue on Export Licences

Washington's most infamous antiquitist lobboblogger expressed concern about a firm that was buying up Chinese antiques in America and shipping them off to the newly-expanding Chinese market, thus shifting the focus of trade in these things to the Far East. In that context, I asked (on May 28, 2012 2:25 PM):
Would "Cultural Property Observer" (defending the rights of US collectors) not consider that it would be a good thing if the USA had an export licensing system so that material which is leaving the States for countries which offer a better price for such collectables is in some way regulated? Otherwise at this rate the US market will be pretty quickly depleted of such items. Why does the US not protect its own collectors by an export licensing system? 
 Cultural Property Observer (May 29, 2012 6:16 AM) observed:
The last thing we need is more bureaucracy. In any event, why should foreign buyers be discriminated against because of the foolish actions of the US State Department? 
 Paul Barford May 29, 2012 7:47 AM said...
and had to explain it to him in simple words:
I was talking about ensuring not too much cultural property leaves the US market. This would surely protect the interests of US citizens from foreign competition, would it not? 
Cultural Property Observer thought a while and then (May 29, 2012 10:30 AM) declared:
It would, but supporting it would also make me some sort of retentavist (sic) or cultural nationalist, and I'm not.
So having some kind of restrictions on the export of rare examples of Chinese porcelain, snuff bottles, rhino horn cups or scroll paintings, is an example of US cultural [property?] nationalism? In Tompa's mind clearly retention of cultural property is in some way always evil whatever country attempts it. If all dealers over there think the same, one more reason to kick the Americans out of the 1970 UNESCO Convention.

From the perspective of what happened in post-War eastern Europe (when due to the economic situation, vast numbers of antiques ended up in the west before 1989) such perspectives seem rather short sighted. But then of course the difference is between Europe which has a rich cultural property heritage going back millennia which people want to collect and participate in, and the USA which has very little to speak of of its own (but willingly helps itself to other people's).


Cultural Property Observer said...

I suspect I'm probably wasting my time responding, but yet again you take things totally out of context. I only said the US should not put export controls on Chinese artifacts. Import controls to assist other countries may be appropriate in limited circumstances, but those imposed by the US State Department and US Customs on Chinese cultural artifacts are grossly overbroad, and arguably inconsistent with the Congressional grant of authority. They certainly make little sense “to protect archaeology” if all they do is to redirect the trade in cultural artifacts back to China.

As for your own comments, they make it seem like you are for repatriation in all circumstances. I suspect that may not be the case, but I am unclear what your actual position is.

Is it all artifacts of foreign origin without demonstrable provenance and/or export permits presumed stolen? Please explain your own position clearly for all to assess.

It's only fair that given your incessant lecturing, we are clear where you yourself stand.

Paul Barford said...

Well, you are "wasting everybody's time" if you cannot formulate your questions with any semblance of precision. In your legal Latin course I presume they taught you the difference between "in" et "ex". I'm writing here in response to your sniping CPO blog post about export licences, you are twisting it round to "import controls".

As for "...I only said the US should not put export controls on Chinese artifacts..., I was asking about the US instituting an export licensing system like that of most other countries.

The only way I can answer your question is if you define your vague term "repatriation"

Since we have (and the US has acceded to) the 1970 UNESCO Convention, the position can be no more, and no less than what its Article 3 states.

"The import, export or transfer of ownership of cultural property effected contrary to the provisions adopted under this Convention by the States Parties thereto, shall be illicit". Of course for that to be useful, you actually have to apply those provisions, which the USA manifestly has FAILED to do, applying its habitual isolationist and ("it does not apply to US") exclusionism.

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