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Newly Signed Cultural Property Agreement Will Shut the American Art Market to Illicit Antiquities from Tunisia

March 18, 2023

The Antiquities Coalition commends the United States and Tunisia for building law enforcement cooperation and strengthening their diplomatic ties in the fight against the looting and trafficking of ancient art and artifacts.

On March 17, 2023, U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia Joey Hood and Minister of Cultural Affairs Hayet Guettat Guermazi signed a bilateral cultural property agreement, committing both countries to combating the illicit trade. The Government of Tunisia had requested the agreement on November 7, 2019. 

This agreement closes U.S. borders to illegally acquired or exported Tunisian antiquities. It does not affect the legal trade, as antiquities exported legally may still enter the U.S. market. In fact,  the agreement will open new opportunities for responsible cultural exchange between the two nations, such as traveling exhibitions and museum loans.

Tunisia, while the smallest country in Northern Africa, is home to eight world heritage sites, including the extensive archaeological site of Carthage, a Phoenician city founded in the 9th century BCE.

By restricting the import of undocumented cultural objects, cultural property agreements fight cultural racketeering, while allowing the legitimate trade to continue and thrive. In doing so, they protect the vast majority of responsible collectors, dealers, galleries, auction houses, and museums from being misused by criminals.

With this signing, the United States now has agreements with six countries in northern Africa, also including Algeria (2019), Egypt (2016), Libya (2017), Mali (1993), and Morocco (2021)—demonstrating the region’s desire to work with international partners to fight cultural racketeering, while also sharing its rich heritage with the world.