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Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CHABOT. I would like to thank my colleague, the distinguished chairman of the Judiciary Committee (Mr. Smith of Texas) for yielding the time. He explained it much better than I can, but I'll take a stab at it myself.

H.R. 4086 is really a straightforward bill which would better clarify the relationship between the Immunity from Seizure Act and the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Since 1965, the Immunity from Seizure Act has provided the executive branch with authority to grant foreign artwork and other objects of cultural significance immunity from seizure by U.S. courts. The purpose of this was to encourage loaning and sharing exhibitions between U.S. and foreign museums.

However, there is now a conflict between the Immunity from Seizure Act and the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act that has interrupted this friendly exchange. Essentially, a provision of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act allows U.S. courts to have jurisdiction over foreign governments when their artwork is temporarily imported into the U.S., putting foreign artwork and artifacts at risk of seizure.

Unfortunately, this has led, in many instances, to foreign governments declining to import into our country artwork and cultural objects for temporary exhibitions. In order to maintain the exchange of government-owned artwork and artifacts, Congress should clarify the relationship between these two acts in question.

This bill would do just that, ensuring that American museums like the Cincinnati Museum Center and the Cincinnati Art Museum, two in my district, can continue to enjoy international artwork and cultural artifacts. Enacting this legislation will remove a major obstacle to foreign loans and exchanges to American museums.

I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 4086, and I would also thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Berman) and the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers) for their leadership and their support in this effort.

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