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US-China to extend MOU on illicit relic trafficking

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US-China to extend MOU on illicit relic trafficking

Photo: VCG

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the US and China on illicit relic trafficking will be extended today.

The decade-old agreement aims to prevent the illegal trade of ancient Chinese artifacts into the US by restricting the importation of cultural artifacts unless licensed and certified for export by China.

The importance of the MOU is highlighted by the fact that smugglers normally gain access to cultural sites by force resulting in the damage or destruction of archaeological artifacts. Import restrictions aim to protect Chinese cultural sites from desecration by cutting the black-market demand for such ancient relics that criminal smuggling networks service.

Although it is an uncontroversial agreement for Washington and Beijing to extend, the accord reduces bilateral tensions amid ongoing disagreements on other issues such as restricting chip exports into China and military tensions relating to Taiwan and the South China Sea. Safeguarding cultural heirlooms is politically important to Beijing, and they likely appreciate the full cooperation of US authorities in protecting Chinese cultural heritage.

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Beijing and Washington are seeking to stabilize relations after barely being on speaking terms for much of the past two years. Finding consensus on this issue provides a basis to find common ground on other issues such as climate change in the near-to-medium term.

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