Christie’s Asks to Be Excluded From Trump’s Tariffs on Chinese Imports, Claiming It Would Cause a ‘Significant Loss’ to Its Business

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The auction house was among the first companies to seek relief from a 15 percent tax on art and antiques in China.

Christie's at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Courtesy of Christie's.
Christie's at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Courtesy of Christie's.

Christie’s has filed for exemption against President Trump’s newly-imposed tariffs on Chinese art and antiques.The auction house was among the first businesses to appeal for an exclusion yesterday, the first day in a three-month period in which applications will be accepted by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). If approved, Christie’s will be excused from a 15 percent duty levied on seven types of artwork and antiques that come from China, including drawings, paintings, prints, and sculpture. 

In its filing, Christie’s claimed that rather than harming China, the tax will result in a “significant loss” for the company’s US business and even potentially push more collectors to buy Chinese art in China, where they won’t have to pay additional fees. 

“It also will severely impact the US art market as a whole, drying up any ability to purchase Chinese artworks outside of the United States,” Christie’s explained in the document. “Punishing the US art market in this manner flies in the face of an important American value of support for the art world.”

Christie’s appeal is in stage one of a four-step process. Its request will now be reviewed by the USTR, who will determine if the tariff would result in “severe economic harm” to the company or American interests.

A product of Trump’s ongoing and increasingly tense trade war with China, the tariff has yielded an outcry from art dealers in the US market. In August, the President announced that the US would implement a 10 percent tax on $300 billion worth of Chinese imports, including art and antiques. Later that month, he increased the tariff to 15 percent. It went into effect on September 1. 

“Based on the new Chinese tariffs, it appears yet again that Trump prefers the law of unintended consequences to more thoughtful regulation,” Thomas Danziger, an attorney specializing in art law, told Artnet in August. “The global Chinese art market will definitely take a hit, but it is hard to see how this will have a material impact on Chinese trade policy. [Trump] probably gave as much thought to the tariffs as he did to his last tweet.”

From now until January 31, companies are invited to apply for exemption status with the USTR.

Whether or not other auction houses will follow Christie’s lead is still to be seen. Representatives from Sotheby’s, Doyle, Bonhams, and Phillips did not immediately respond to Artnet’s request for comment about whether they planned to request a similar exemption.

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