Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The CPIA Cannot Support Import Restrictions on Spanish Colonial and Republican Era Coins or Any Restrictions that Could Benefit the Taliban

 Here is what I said more or less at today's CPAC meeting:  

        Thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of IAPN and PNG.  I am available to answer questions on all our written submissions but will defer my comments on Cyprus until CPAC’s January meeting.   Let me discuss any proposed import restrictions on Peruvian coins first.  CPAC has looked at and rejected prior efforts to impose import restrictions on Latin American coins.  Spanish colonial and Republican era coinage simply do not fit the statutory definitions of “archaeological” or “ethnological” material.  Such coins do not meet the 250-year-old threshold for “archaeological” material.  Nor are they normally found within the ground.  European settlers ran Peru’s mints.  The coins were produced using sophisticated industrial processes churning out thousands of virtually identical objects.  As such, they cannot be deemed “ethnological” material either.  Nor can one assume that Peruvian coins imported into the United States from third countries were ever “first discovered within” or “subject to” Peruvian export control.  Spanish Colonial and Republican era Peruvian coins circulated widely in international commerce, and even served as legal tender in the United States until 1857.

          Now let me address Afghanistan.  It should weigh heavily on CPAC that any emergency import restrictions could very well have the perverse effect of requiring U.S. Customs to “claw back” undocumented Bactrian coins imported from Europe, so they can be handed over to the Taliban who could resell, or even worse, melt them for bullion.  CPAC should be skeptical of any claims this can’t happen because forfeited artifacts will be given “safe harbor” in the United States.  There is no “safe harbor” provision in the CPIA, which instead requires forfeited items to be offered to the State Party, here Afghanistan, now under Taliban control.   Section 1216 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021, cited by the Archaeological Institute of America, only applies to institutional loans that the Afghan government has authorized.  The reality is that objects forfeited under the CPIA must be repatriated when diplomatic relations are reinstated, and that decision will be based on factors other than the Taliban’s abysmal treatment of pre-Islamic cultural heritage.

          Finally, let me emphasize that import restrictions are especially problematical for coin collectors because they are applied as embargoes on all “designated” coins imported from legal markets of our major trading partners in the E.U., U.K. and Switzerland rather than as prospective restrictions only placed on “designated” coins illicitly exported from the State Party after the effective date of the governing regulations.  While we agree with the Antiquities Coalition on how the CPIA should operate, we know from hard experience that Customs and the State Department rely on the deference Courts have afforded the government in “foreign policy matters” to green light such confiscatory practices.  We therefore urge CPAC to be especially wary of approving of any new import restrictions on coins, particularly where the Taliban may be their primary beneficiary.  Thank you. 

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