Handbook on the Law of Cultural Heritage and International Trade

Handbook on the Law of Cultural Heritage and International Trade

Research Handbooks on Globalisation and the Law series

Edited by James A.R. Nafziger and Robert Kirkwood Paterson

This Handbook offers a collection of original writings by leading scholars and practitioners in the exciting, rapidly developing field of cultural heritage law. The detailed essays are the product of a multi-year project of the Committee on Cultural Heritage Law of the International Law Association.

Chapter 2: International trade in cultural material

James A. R. Nafziger and Robert Kirkwood Paterson

Subjects: law - academic, cultural heritage and art law, international economic law, trade law


This volume focuses on a fundamental theme of cultural heritage law: the sale and purchase or exchange of cultural material across national boundaries. Obviously, the applicable rules and regulations are effective only insofar as they can be applied to tangible material that is capable of such movement. The fundamental international law governing trade in such material is the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization ("WTO Agreement") which came into effect in 1995. It is, in fact, a package of agreements that extend beyond trade in goods to services and trade-related aspects of foreign investment and intellectual property. Within this framework, export and import controls over cultural material can only be meaningfully applied, of course, to trade in tangible material that is capable of crossing national borders. Intangible cultural heritage is still subject to international rules - such as the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the "TRIPS Agreement")- but these rules do not ordinarily operate within national regimes governing the export and import of cultural material. The WTO Agreement has its roots in the negotiations at the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference. Its purpose was to strengthen international monetary, developmental and trade cooperation and thereby help avoid the kinds of economic problems associated with the Great Depression of the 1930s and the concomitant tensions and reactionary politics that led to World War II.

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