Argentina has been irritating a lot of countries with its global commerce policies
On Monday 3 September Argentina lodged a complaint against the US with the World Trade Organisation. This is the latest of a long line of recent grievances either filed by or against Buenos Aires. The newest protest came from the South Americans who claim that US laws are blocking the imports of lemons from the north-west of the country. Quite a few states have been weighing in at the WTO with Argentinian problems of their own for a while now. Here is a rough outline of what has been going on:
April: Argentinian government takes control of oil firm YPF from Spanish parent company Repsol
May: European Union files WTO complaint against Argentina over import licensing rules
June: Argentina pulls out of car trade pact with Mexico
August 21: US and Japan file WTO complaints against Argentina over import licensing rules
August 27: Mexico files WTO complaint against Argentina over protectionism claims
August 30: Argentina files WTO complaint over US beef and lemons
September 3: Argentina files WTO complaint against US over import of lemons
There has been a lot of activity involving the government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner at the WTO headquarters in Geneva: more than 20 WTO members have objected against Argentinian trade laws which have taken a more protectionist direction in the recent months of la presidenta‘s second administration.
Regarding the latest complaint in these tit-for-tat international commercial arguments, the World Trade Organisation states on its website that:
“Argentina claims that the prohibition of imports of lemons to the US for the last 11 years, and other restrictive measures, lack scientific justification. Argentina also claims that the measures of the United States appear to cancel or impair the benefits for Argentina derived, directly or indirectly, from the relevant WTO Agreements”
As soon as a WTO complaint is lodged the two opposing sides have 60 days in which to settle the dispute through bilateral talks. If these fail or if the deadline is not met then the WTO is usually called upon to adjudicate on the argument.
It is certainly true that the Latin American nation has been increasing its trade surplus in the past few years as its export market grows, with its soybeans, beef and motor parts the most popular items on foreigners’ shopping lists. However, where the countries listed above have a problem is over trying to export goods back into Argentina.
Brussels, Mexico City, Tokyo and Washington have all got hot under the collar over the South Americans’ import licence applications which they claim are subject to lengthy and illegitimate delays. What really gets their goat is that Argentinian companies normally do not face similar bureaucracy when they are carting cereals and chemicals off to their main buyers, which include most of the regional neighbours along with their own nations. Cecilia Nahón, the Argentinian ambassador to the WTO, has defended her government’s policies, saying that Buenos Aires cannot be accused of restricting imports when the national intake of foreign goods rose by 31% last year.
Many of these ‘Somebody v Argentina’ disagreements have the look of global points-scoring about them, with one side claiming that their hand was forced by their opponent’s move. Where they are all the same is that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s abrasively defensive style of government seems to be rubbing many nations up the wrong way. She may pass the others’ grumbling off as sour grapes or as envy at her soaring positive trade balances, but in order for her to achieve record surpluses she has to have easy import licensing rules available to her nation’s firms.
Argentina must now come clean about the accusations levelled against its own import licences for other countries’ companies and the way their exporters’ applications are handled.