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 23: Foreign culture: Export controls on material of foreign origin

Robert Kirkwood Paterson and Marc-André Renold

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


One of the least discussed aspects of national cultural property export controls is what their scope should properly be. Various national laws present a diversity of approaches ranging from virtual embargoes on the export of broad categories of cultural material, to restrictions limited to exports of what are considered to be objects of truly national importance. Most discussion surrounds issues regarding the enforcement of national export controls, once objects have been illegally exported from their source country. Rarely has the legitimacy of such illegality itself been the subject of extensive debate. Thus, no comprehensive attempt has so far been made at the multilateral level to draft a model cultural property export control law that could be considered for adoption by individual countries. In order to critically evaluate national cultural property export regimes, however, it is necessary to distinguish between two very different sorts of source country situation. On the one hand, there are a number of countries, often whole regions, where unprotected or poorly protected cultural sites and objects are vulnerable to damage, destruction, illegal interference or outright theft. These situations obviously demand some sort of national, perhaps even international, response, usually including export controls, as well as means to achieve the recognition and support of such controls by other countries. On the other hand, most developed countries with well-developed legal systems, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, do not typically face such critical situations and their approach to export controls should, at least arguably, be different.

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