Washington, DC
A series of hearings is taking place in Washington, DC, this week over the trade tariffs which include Chinese works of art. Image: Kevin McCoy via Wikimedia Commons.

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Representing two US-based cultural organisations, Peter Tompa of Washington, DC law firm Bailey & Ehrenberg yesterday (Wednesday, August 22) that imposing a 25% tax on Chinese art works entering the US risks damaging the local art market while benefiting that in China.

The Trump administration wants to impose tariffs on billions of dollars-worth of Chinese imports, claiming unfair trade practices by the world’s second-largest economy.

As reported in ATG No 2354, Chinese works of art – including paintings and sculpture – are included on the list of products that could be subject to tariffs, regardless of port of origin.

Six days of hearings

Tompa addressed the US International Trade Representative at 5pm EST yesterday, as part of six days of hearings that started on Monday, August 20.

He will argue that duties on Chinese works of art imports would have the unintended consequence of damaging the US art and antiques sector while helping the growing art Chinese market, the second largest in the world.

In his pre-hearing submission, seen by ATG, Tompa writes that the proposed tariffs “only benefit China’s mercantilist approach to art”.

Tompa, executive director of one of the cultural bodies, the Global Heritage Alliance (GHA), explained “why imposing duties on art objects that have previously been exempt from such taxes will harm US interests and cause disproportionate harm to the small or medium-sized businesses of the art trade as well as museums and collectors”.

The submission document continues: “The cultural goods listed … are unlike most manufactured goods …art is not typically subject to customs duties because our government has generally sought to encourage cultural exchange.”

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Peter Tompa.

Threat to other Chinese art hubs

As also reported in ATG No 2354, international art market federation CINOA and auction houses including Christie’s have submitted their opposition in writing amid concerns about the proposed tariff’s effect on other Chinese art market hubs including London.

Tompa was advocating on behalf of The Committee for Cultural Policy (CCP), an educational and policy research body that supports policies that enable the lawful collection, exhibition and global circulation of artworks and the preservation of archaeological sites, and the GHA, which advocates for policies that foster appreciation of ancient and indigenous cultures.

Diverse industries included in tariff list

The lawyer is among the 300-plus ‘witnesses’ from the technology, food, petroleum, chemicals, clothing, furniture and other industries making the case for exemption from tariffs.

In July, $34bn-worth of Chinese goods were subject to duties, with a list of a further $200bn-worth of goods under consideration, including art.

Revisit antiquestradegazette.com for further developments on this story