Friday, August 16, 2019

US State Department Imposes Embargo on Algerian Cultural Artifacts-- Including Rope!

The U.S. State Department has approved a MOU and import restrictions on behalf of Algeria's authoritarian government. For more, see today's Federal Register notice.

Once again, the designated list is extremely broad. In what has to be a first, import restrictions have even been imposed on rope!

Both coin collectors and Jewish groups will once again be disappointed.  Import restrictions have been applied on virtually all coins that were made or circulated within Algeria down to 1750, including those made outside the confines of what is now Algeria by the Carthaginians, Byzantines, Ottomans and Spanish.  While there are no explicit restrictions on artifacts of Algeria's displaced Jewish population, certain categories like "manuscripts" may nonetheless encompass Jewish religious artifacts like Torahs.

Import restrictions are controversial to the trade and collectors because, as construed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, they embargo all undocumented items of types on designated lists imported after the effective date of the regulations, not just items illegally exported from a UNESCO State party after the effective date of import restrictions as required under CPIA, 19 U.S.C. §§ 2601, 2604, 2606, 2610. Such regulatory actions have converted CPIA import restrictions into embargoes of all objects of restricted types rather  than targeted, prospective import restrictions that do not impact the purchase of artifacts from the legitimate marketplace abroad.

Import restrictions have been particularly hard on coin collectors and the small businesses of the numismatic trade because most collector's coins (which typically are of limited value) lack detailed provenance histories necessary for legal import. This has greatly damaged the legitimate trade in such items with fellow collectors, especially from within the EU.  Here, if anything, the problem will be exacerbated because Algeria was a French colony for such a long time. Many artifacts must have left Algeria for France during this period lawfully, but with little documentary proof.  Often such material does not have a solid provenance, and cannot be legally imported under U.S. Custom and Border Protection procedures.