Published: July 24, 2018
WASHINGTON, DC – Art and antiques journals and cultural policy groups are reporting that the Trump administration’s threat to implement a 10 percent tariff in its mounting trade war with China is raising concern among Asian antiques and art dealers and will be the subject of public hearings in August.
“Ordinarily, there are no customs duties on art or antiques. It is considered in the public interest to bring art and literature to the United States, so in the past, no duties were imposed on foreign art or books,” the pro-trade Committee for Cultural Policy stated in its June 20 newsletter. “The Trump administration is changing that, at least for art and antiques from China. This is one of the more bizarre stories in the tariff saga, since a tariff on antiques will please the Chinese government and reinforce its global dominance and monopoly on Chinese art.”
Artworks, antiques and historical and archaeological collections are included in the Trump administration’s proposed 10 percent retaliatory tariff on an additional $200 billion of China imports. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is requesting comments on the proposed list. Opinions could be expressed directly to the US government up until July 27.
What makes this tariff different is that US import restrictions already cover virtually all Chinese art and artifacts from the Paleolithic through the Tang period as well as monumental sculpture and wall art more than 250 years of age. The restrictions claimed by China are meant to protect ancient archaeological sites, but in fact, they reinforce China’s monopoly on Chinese art. Global Heritage Alliance executive director Peter Tompa stated, “A tariff will only drive more Chinese artifacts back to China, which is exactly what the State Department is doing with its import restrictions.”
The US art trade has been subject to import restrictions amounting to a ban on Chinese antiquities since 2009. US art community representatives asked the administration not to renew these restrictions just last May, in testimony submitted to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee to the president.
The dealers’ primary arguments against extending restrictions on Chinese art imports are based on the harm done to the US museum and public interest in access to Chinese art and culture and the harm to hundreds of American small businesses.
Goods affected include artworks, including paintings, drawings, pastels, collages, engravings, prints, lithographs, sculpture and statuary. A specific category applies to “antiques of an age exceeding one hundred years,” and another to “collections and collectors’ pieces of historical and archaeological interest.”
For working artists, artists’ supplies, including paint, ink and all manner of photography and cinematic supplies, are also included in the list of goods to which the new tariff will apply.
On August 20-23, the Section 301 Committee is scheduled to convene a public hearing in the main hearing room of the US International Trade Commission.
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