On December 6, 2012, the United States, the European Union, and Japan formally requested the establishment of a WTO panel to resolve their simmering trade disputes with Argentina. According to Ambassador Ron Kirk, the U.S. Trade Representative, “Argentina’s persistent use of import restrictions broadly impacts all U.S. exporters of goods to Argentina.” E.U. Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said, “It is the E.U.’s last resort to see Argentina’s unfair trade practices lifted and free and fair trade re-established according to the WTO rules to which Argentina has subscribed.” Japan similarly cited its inability to achieve satisfactory resolution of the disputes through consultations.
As reported in the October 2012 Trade & Manufacturing Alert, Argentina has adopted policies and administrative measures regarding foreign trade that increased tensions with its trading partners. These policies include licensing requirements that impeded imports, nationalization of Spanish interests in a domestic oil producer, and refusal to honor international arbitration awards that grant relief to foreign companies from Argentina’s actions against their interests. Earlier last year, the United States, the European Union, Japan, and Mexico all lodged complaints against Argentina at the WTO for such practices.
The U.S. request alleges that Argentina has erected barriers against imports that violate Article XI:1 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. In its press release, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative summarized the allegations:
“Since 2008, Argentina has greatly expanded the list of products subject to non-automatic import licensing requirements . . . for approximately 600 eight-digit tariff lines in Argentina’s goods schedule. In February 2012, Argentina adopted an additional licensing requirement that applies to all imports of goods into the country…. In conjunction with these licensing requirements, Argentina has adopted informal trade balancing requirements and other schemes, whereby companies seeking to obtain authorization to import products must agree to export goods of an equal or greater value, make investments in Argentina, lower prices of imported goods, and/or refrain from repatriating profits.”
On December 5, Argentina fired back with its own WTO complaints against the United States, the European Union, and Spain, accusing them of imposing trade barriers against Argentine imports. Argentina’s complaints coincided with the joint U.S., E.U., and Japanese requests for a WTO panel. On December 14, Mexico announced its intention to withdraw its complaint against Argentina after the two countries reached an agreement over Mexican automobile imports