Illicit Import Restrictions
By Peter Tompa
Do MOU's only apply to "illicitly exported" artifacts as archaeo-blogger Paul Barford has claimed?
No. In fact, import restrictions as applied by US Customs bar entry of coins openly and legitimately sold in markets abroad merely because they are of a type on a designated list.
There are limited exceptions to this embargo, but they provide little solace for coin collectors.
First, for coins coming directly from the country for which import restrictions are granted, there is an exception if they are accompanied with an export permit. However, this is easier said than done. There are currently import restrictions on certain coins of Cypriot, Chinese and Italian types. Cyprus offers no export permits. Italy does, though the process is evidently time consuming. When the issue was being discussed before CPAC, it was said that the Chinese regularly issued export certificates for certain items. However, since there have been reports that they are no longer so easy to obtain. Even if export certificates are provided, the costs of obtaining them may very well exceed the value of the coin itself, particularly if the coin in question is only worth a few dollars.
The second means of legal import is applied in the much more common situation where a coin is coming from one of the open markets in a third country. That anticipates procuring certifications documenting that the coin in question was out of either Cyprus, China or Italy as of the date of the restrictions. Again, even if this information is available and the foreign consigner is willing to provide it, the costs of compliance may very well exceed the value of the coin itself.
Import restrictions do indeed apply to all undocumented coins on the designated list, not just "illegally exported" ones as Barford misleadingly claims.
Such restrictions are therefore grossly overinclusive-- and do indeed suggest that the Obama State Department has taken an anti-small business position in imposing them, particularly on such popular and widely collected issues as the Greek coins of S. Italy, Sicily and certain Roman Republic and Imperial city coins.
Such coins can and are freely traded worldwide, but no longer can easily be imported into the US. Thus, these restrictions are not only place onerous burdens on small businesses, they also discriminate against American collectors.
How then are such restrictions consistent with President Obama's stated goals of eliminating onerous government regulations and protecting the interests of American small business?
The import restrictions Tompa discusses are both illogical and themselves definitely illicit, according to the 1983 CCPIA implementing US accession to the 1970 UNESCO Convention. That very clear contravention of the terms of the CCPIA is a key aspect of the ACCG's legal challenges to recent import restrictions on ancient coins, and the atmosphere of unreasonable secrecy within which they were discussed, negotiated and issued. It is impossible to find out what the State Department has been doing and why they did it, without a lawsuit. Clearly something that cannot withstand the light of day is going on and to preserve our liberties, it is essential to expose it to the full glare of public scrutiny.