May 26, 2013
Argentina takes US, EU to WTO
Argentina has asked the World Trade Organization to investigate its claims that the United States and European Union have broken WTO rules by curbing imports of lemons, beef and biodiesel, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman said yesterday.
The move ups the ante in long-simmering disputes between the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and two of Argentina’s most important partners.
“The measures against Argentine exports ... have caused serious damage to Argentine farmers, also causing the loss of thousands of jobs,” Timerman said.
“We’re open to keep talking while this complaint is handled by the World Trade Organization,” he told a news conference, adding that the complaints were filed earlier in the day.
Argentina accuses the United States of blocking imports of Argentine beef and fresh lemons while it says that the European Union and Spain have done the same with Argentine biodiesel.
Diplomatic and business relations have been strained between Argentina and the EU since earlier this year when Fernández de Kirchner seized a majority stake in Argentina’s top energy company YPF from Spanish oil major Repsol.
Argentina has previously complained to the WTO over both issues, but yesterday’s presentation is a formal request for the organization’s Dispute Settlement Body to rule on the dispute.
Under WTO rules a country accused of breaking the rules has 60 days to try to resolve the complaint, after which the complainant can ask the WTO to set up a panel of adjudicators to judge the merits of the disputes.
Argentina is the world’s top exporter of biodiesel, which is made from the soy that grows abundantly in the Pampas farm belt.
Spain announced import barriers against Argentine biodiesel in April, just after Buenos Aires said it would seize control of YPF. The nationalization infuriated EU politicians.
In August Fernández de Kirchner’s government accused the United States of unfairly blocking imports of Argentine beef.
Argentina is the world’s third-largest exporter of beef after Brazil and Australia. But it has been shut out of the United States for years because of restrictions meant to block the spread of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle.