Research Handbooks on Globalisation and the Law series
Edited by James A.R. Nafziger and Robert Kirkwood Paterson
Chapter 2: International trade in cultural material
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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