Monday, November 16, 2009

"The Italian MOU creates a 'one way street' in terms of trade"

Last Friday's review of Article II of the MOU between Italy and the US was interesting. Kerry K. Wetterstrom, the President Elect of the ACCG and editor of the Celator, was speaking. His closing section talked not about Italy at all but the way that the ACCG is seeking to challenge the US State Department over its MOUs with Cyprus and China.
Of course, the major issue is not so much how difficult it is to export coins from Italy, but the unfair, unworkable burden import restrictions would place on unprovenanced coins of Italian type, of which there are millions already in the marketplace. By way of example, ACCG imported unprovenanced coins of Cypriot and Chinese type from the United Kingdom for purposes of a test case. The coins could have come from literally anywhere, but U.S. Customs has assumed they were exported from Cyprus and China contrary to the import ban. The coins were detained in April 2009, seized in August 2009, and Customs still has not brought an action in court to allow ACCG to contest the seizure. One can only imagine the chaos that would take place if the State Department reverses prior precedent and imposes import restrictions on coins of Italian type. ACCG, of course, plans to argue this point further when CPAC addresses Article I of the current MOU with Italy.
The MOU under discussion is about "the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Archaeological Material Representing the Pre-Classical, Classical and Imperial Roman Periods of Italy". Archaeologists are rightly concerned about the protection of archaeological contexts and heritage.

But what does the President Elect of the ACCG talk about? Trade.
In the MOU that is under discussion today, we are favoring Italian consumers to the detriment of American consumers of the same product. The Italian MOU creates a “one way street” in terms of trade. While commerce in common ancient and medieval coins faces relatively few restrictions within Italy itself, Americans can participate in this market only with great difficulty and patience. It would be an even greater travesty if they were precluded legally from that market while Italian dealers and collectors continue to experience the rewards of independent scholarship and private collecting.
Wetterstrom has revealed the real concerns for the ACCG. It is about the right to trade in the cultural remains of other nations.

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7 comments:

Cultural Property Observer said...

Actually, Kerry Wetterstom was primarily concerned with keeping specifically to an assessment of Italy's obligations under Art. II--including the obligation to make it easier for US collectors to buy ancient coins for export from Italy.

Frankly, while ACCG, IAPN, PNG, a represntative of the antiqutities dealers and the AAMD museum directors ALL followed the Federal Register's instructions to keep the discussion on Italy's obligations under Art. II, the representaives of the archaeological commmunity were allowed to meander far from that provision into whether import restrictions should be extended to coins.

Of course, IAPN, PNG, ACCG and others interested in the continued ability to study and preserve coins hope to be able to take the opportunity to comment on why the current exemption should continue at a future time.

Sincerely,

Peter Tompa

David Gill said...

Dear Peter
It would be so helpful if you could post your presentation somewhere. It looks as if you were primarily concerned with coins:
"Peter Tompa spoke on behalf of IAPN and PNG, two trade associations for the small businesses of the numismatic trade. First, he highlighted the failure of Italy to care for its own cultural patrimony, including coins. Second, he discussed Italy’s relative success in staunching looting, and its implications against the extension of import restrictions. Third, he advocated that CPAC again suggest that Italian authorities adopt a Treasure Trove law and Portable Antiquities Scheme. Lastly, he noted that Italy has not as promised made its own export controls more efficient."
Perhaps you could elaborate on "the failure of Italy to care for its own cultural patrimony, including coins".
Best wishes
David

Cultural Property Observer said...

David- The text belongs to my clients not me, but here is a summary of the main points in that regard:

 Coins in museums have historically suffered from major thefts and poor internal documentation.
 Institutional collections are poorly documented in published form.
 The publication record for coins found in Italian excavations is poor.
 Without publication it is almost impossible to know what has been found and what has become of the material.

If you check with your collegues, they should note Stefano De Caro did not dispute them-- nor did they for that matter.

Best,

Peter Tompa

Nathan T. Elkins said...

With all due respect, it is inaccurate to say that members of the archaeological community introduced coins and the prospect of their inclusion.

I was present at the meeting and recall that Mr. Tompa made explicit reference to coins and the prospect of their being introduced in the renewal. The oral comments made by Mr. Tompa were direct enough that a member of the CPAC asked him how about the practicalities of potentially restricting coin types from Italy.

The comments made by Mr. Wetterstrom also addressed the prospect of considering coins in the future:

"Of course, the major issue is not so much how difficult it is to export coins from Italy, but the unfair, unworkable burden import restrictions would place on unprovenanced coins of Italian type, of which there are millions already in the marketplace. By way of example, ACCG imported unprovenanced coins of Cypriot and Chinese type from the United Kingdom for purposes of a test case. The coins could have come from literally anywhere, but U.S. Customs has assumed they were exported from Cyprus and China contrary to the import ban. The coins were detained in April 2009, seized in August 2009, and Customs still has not brought an action in court to allow ACCG to contest the seizure. One can only imagine the chaos that would take place if the State Department reverses prior precedent and imposes import restrictions on coins of Italian type. ACCG, of course, plans to argue this point further when CPAC addresses Article I of the current MOU with Italy."

Wayne Sayles'
letter
also expressed concern over the consideration of coins in the future:

"...Consequently, the renewal of this
MOU seems questionable and any extension to include common utilitarian objects like coins would be totally inconsistent with the terms of the present MOU and of the overall intention of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act."


It is improper to assert that members of the archaeological community strayed beyond article II by discussing coins when the IAPN/PNG representative and also the ACCG representative made oral comments - before any member of the archaeological community spoke - raising the issue of coins and suggesting their protection under a renewal would be undesirable. The comments about coins made by concerned archaeologists and numismatists were counterpoints to arguments and insinuations already raised.

All best,
Nathan

David Gill said...

Dear Peter
I would not wish you to disclose text belonging to your clients, by which we should understand the IAPN and PNG.
Will the IAPN or PNG be posting "their" text on their websites?
Best wishes
David

Wayne G. Sayles said...

To Mr. Elkins, I would merely say thank you for further publicizing the views of the ACCG. It is quite helpful.

Regards,

Wayne

Cultural Property Observer said...

Dear Nathan-

You misunderstand my point. We did touch on coins, but in the context of Art. II. I am unclear what aspect of Art II. members of the archaeological community (other than Patty Gerstenblith) focused upon. The Committee in effect gave the archaeological community two bites at the apple as to Art. I. The Federal Register Notice was quite clear that oral comments were to be confined as to Art. II. In any event, it really does not matter all that much-- assuming we all get to comment on Art. I specifically at some point.

On a more substantive note relating to Art. II, it would be interesting to learn if you agree that Italian coin collections and finds are underpublished and that the state of Italy's stewardship over coins is in general quite poor. Let's keep in mind Italy is certainly one of the world's richest economies. I suppose you could say we are not all that great in that regard here either given the lack of public funding for numismatics, but then again, they are the ones asking for import restrictions based in part on their supposed stewardship over coins.

As to David's question, I doubt IAPN and PNG should release its paper while it is still under active consideration, but might change my mind if the archaeological community and Italy posts their papers somewhere on the web.

Best,

Peter Tompa

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