The art world is growing anxious about President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.

The administration’s list of $200 billion in goods targeted for duties includes paintings, sculptures, collages, ceramics and historical collectibles, along with antiques older than 100 years.

Critics of the tariff plan say it will discourage private collectors and dealers from acquiring Chinese art and cultural items, and because museums rely on donations, they and the viewing public will suffer. They also question the effectiveness of trying to spur U.S. production or change China’s trade behavior by targeting art.

“If everything is slapped with a 25 percent tariff, it’s actually going to do a disservice to people here in the U.S.,” said Daniel Chen, director of Chambers Fine Art gallery in New York. “Who are they trying to punish?”

Chen is among more than a dozen individuals and groups filing comments posted on opposing the tariffs. A hearing is also set for Aug. 20-23 in Washington for companies and groups to weigh in on the proposed duties on more than 6,000 product categories from chemicals to pneumatic tires and circuit boards. The inclusion of art and antiques shows how the escalating trade war affects sectors not typically associated with trade disputes.

China Tariffs
The U.S. imposed duties on $34 billion in Chinese products on July 6 and tariffs on an additional $16 billion in goods will take effect on Aug. 23, in response to allegations of intellectual property theft and other unfair trade practices. The administration has identified a further $200 billion in goods for duties and is reviewing whether to increase the rate to 25 percent from 10 percent initially proposed. China has announced further retaliation.

China is the No. 2 art market in the world, accounting for 21 percent of sales by value, behind the U.S. at 42 percent, according to the Art Market 2018 report from Art Basel and UBS. Sales in the global art market reached $63.7 billion in 2017, up 12 percent from 2016, the report said.

Imports originating from China last year included $107.2 million for century-old antiques and $66.6 million for paintings, drawings and pastels by hand, according to U.S. Census data.

Chinese Buyers
Not everyone in the art world is concerned. Tad Smith, chief executive officer of Sotheby’s, said on an Aug. 6 post-earnings conference call that while the auction house prefers a stable, growing trade environment, the duty would affect only about 0.1 percent of all its Chinese works of art sold in New York.

“The real buying of Chinese art is in China,” said Larry Warsh, a New York entrepreneur who’s been collecting Chinese contemporary art for more than 15 years.

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