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US Extends Cultural Property Protection to Items from Bulgaria and China
January 23, 2019


On January 14, 2019, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) extended import restrictions for certain cultural materials from the Republic of Bulgaria (Bulgaria) and the People’s Republic of China (China). These import restrictions are imposed pursuant to bilateral agreements, or Memorandums of Understanding (MOU), the United States has entered into separately with both Bulgaria and China under the Cultural Property Implementation Act, Public Law 97-446, 19 U.S.C. 2601 et seq. (CPIA). The CPIA enables the U.S. government to implement Articles 7(b)(1) and 9 of the 1970 United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970 UNESCO Convention) (823 U.N.T.S. 231 (1972)).

The extension of import restriction for certain archeological and ecclesiastical ethnological material from Bulgaria replaces the former MOU between the United States and Bulgaria that became effective on January 14, 2014 and was set to expire on January 14, 2019. The new MOU extends the import restrictions for another five years, continuing in effect through January 14, 2024. In addition to extending the import restrictions, the new MOU amends a discrepancy that existed between the previous MOU and the Designated List of material from Bulgaria to which the import restrictions apply; the previous MOU incorrectly listed the ecclesiastical ethnological material ranging in date from the beginning of 681 A.D. rather than from the beginning of 4th century A.D. as properly stated in the Designated List. The final rule extending the import restrictions for Bulgaria can be found here. The Cultural Heritage Center has yet to publish the new MOU on the webpage for “Current Import Restrictions.” Upon publication, the document will be accessible under Country: Bulgaria, and titled “Agreement in Force (2019)”.

The new MOU between the United States and China is the second extension of import restrictions on archaeological material from the Paleolithic Period through the Tang Dynasty and monumental sculpture and wall art at least 250 years old. In 2014, the 2009 MOU between China and the United States was extended by MOU for another five years. The new MOU now supersedes the 2014 MOU, and continues in effect through January 14, 2024. The new MOU amends the Designated List of types of archaeological material that are restricted from importation, adding a new subcategory of glass objects from Zhou period through the Tang period (see “Section VIII Glass”). The amended list reflects grammatical changes made in “Section II Stone” and “Section III Metal,” and words have been added throughout the list for clarity. The final rule extending import restrictions for China can be found here. Upon publication, the new MOU between China and the United States will be accessible here, listed under Country: China, and titled “Agreement in Force (2019)”.

The extension of these import restrictions reflects the Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs’ determination that the cultural heritage of both Bulgaria and China continues to be in jeopardy from pillage of certain archaeological and ethnological material and such conditions warrant the continued imposition of import restrictions on designated material.

The importation of the covered material from Bulgaria and China is restricted to the extent that CBP will not allow such material to enter the country absent either documentation of lawful exportation (e.g., a license issued from the respective country or another document that certifies the exportation was not in violation of that country’s export laws) or proof that the material at issue was in circulation outside of Bulgaria or China for at least ten years prior to the date of entry, or prior to the date the material became restricted. Any material that is not accompanied by such documentation or evidence is subject to seizure and forfeiture and potential return to the country of origin under Section 310 of the CPIA.

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