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US president Donald Trump has announced duties on $300bn of Chinese imports. Image credit: The White House by James Manners.

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The launch of the levy is part of the China-US trade war where US president Donald Trump has announced duties on $300bn of Chinese imports by the end of the year.

The tariff on any Chinese-made painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, print antiques older than 100 years and other collectable goods entering the US had been fought by the art and antiques industry.

Back in August 2018, a lawyer representing collectors and museums successfully argued against the introduction of the duties. US Trade Representative (USTR) officials heeded this argument. But in a u-turn earlier this year, art and antiques were back on the tariff list. On August 14 it was revealed the duty would be 10% but this was raised to 15% by August 24.

The tariff, effective from September 1, was widened to include objects such as books, manuscripts, photographs, maps and ephemera made or printed in China.

“More complex, time-consuming and frustrating”

Stuart Bennett, general secretary at the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), said: “It can be surprising, and in view of the tariffs discouraging, to see just how many recent books were printed in China and are subject to these import duties. Of course, antiquarian dealers specialising in Asian materials are going to find trading with the US much more complex, time-consuming and, inevitably, frustrating.”

Last month BADA secretary general Mark Dodgson told ATG: “There is a well-developed trade between the US and UK in antique Chinese objects. It is this trade between the two countries that will be damaged, not China’s trade.

He added: “President Trump is misguided in treating objects which left China centuries ago as if they are part of modern-day China’s manufacturing output.

“The only people to benefit will be Chinese buyers who will now be able to buy at reduced prices.  Profits previously made by US and UK-based dealers will be made by dealers from China.”