The Department of State published a notice in the Federal Register on September 13 on extending import restrictions on certain cultural property from Cyprus.
The proposal would extend import restrictions under a bilateral agreement between the United States and the Republic of Cyprus (the US-Cyprus Bilateral Agreement). The restrictions prohibit (except in exceptional circumstances) the importation of certain archaeological, ecclesiastical, and ritual ethnological materials from Cyprus representing the Pre-Classical and Classical periods, ranging in date from approximately the 8th Millennium B.C. to approximately 330 A.D.
The US-Cyprus Bilateral Agreement was originally signed on July 12, 2002, and has been extended four times, with the last extension occurring on July 16, 2017. Without extension, import restrictions owing to the US-Cyprus Bilateral Agreement will lapse on July 16, 2022. However, should the president determine that artwork and cultural antiquities from Cyprus continue to be in jeopardy of pillage despite Cyprus' efforts to protect those items, he may again extend the import restrictions for a period not to exceed five years. Importers should beware, though: the list of items designated for restriction has been amended on several occasions and extension of the US-Cyprus Bilateral Agreement presents an opportunity for another amendment.
The Federal Register notice implicates elements of the federal government's robust authority to restrict the importation of various pieces of cultural property. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authority found at 19 U.S.C § 2606, sets out part of its mechanism for enforcing import restrictions on the type of cultural property implicated in the notice in the following manner:
- The foreign country must have an agreement with the United States to prohibit importations
- The agreement establishes a designated list of prohibited artwork, antiquities, and cultural property
- Without certification from the foreign government or other evidence that satisfies CBP that exportation of the cultural property was not in violation of the laws of the foreign government, the imported material will be subject to seizure and forfeiture.
A list identifying each of the 25 countries maintaining similar agreements enforceable under 19 U.S.C § 2606 and a general description of the artwork and cultural antiquities subject to restriction is provided at Title 19 of the Code of Federal Regulations (19 C.F.R. § 12.104g(a)). Where an importer cannot meet the conditions set forth in 19 U.S.C. § 2606 and 19 C.F.R. § 12.104(c), designated materials will be denied entry into the United States, and subsequently seized and forfeited to the government.