December 17, 2014
Sparks set to fly over consumer laws
Committees to meet today to discuss changes to Anti-Hoarding, Competition laws
A heated debate is expected to start today in Congress as several committees meet to start discussing the proposed amendments to the Anti-Hoarding Law, the Competition Law and a new bill to create a state mediation centre.
Committees will meet at 5pm in Congress to discuss the bills proposed by the federal government to give the Trade Secretariat and consumers more tools, something that has been described as unconstitutional by business leaders and organizations such as the Argentine Industrial Union (UIA) and the Commerce Chamber (CAC).
While President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has said consumer associations and business chambers will be allowed to take part in the debate and propose changes, opposition leaders have expressed their rejection of the three bills and said they will block any changes to the current legislation.
The debate will kick off with the bill that seeks to create a state mediation centre where consumers would be able file complaints and receive free legal aid. If an agreement isn’t reached with the business, consumers will be allowed to ask the Trade Secretariat for a quick solution to obtain compensation or go to the national judiciary.
But all eyes will be set on the Anti-Hoarding Law, which has been the main focus of criticism. The bill establishes that the federal government be allowed to take an active role in the economic processes of companies so as to determine prices, profit margins and production volumes. That way the state would be able to manage purchases and sales of companies and to seize goods and documentation.
Opposition anticipates rejection
Head of the Radical Party caucus in Congress, Mario Negri, said he will oppose the changes and asked all parties to “slow all the political campaigns that have started and make it a priority to stop this crazy and dangerous initiative of the government.”GEN leader Margarita Stolbizer also said she will vote against the bills and said “pressures on companies have to be stopped.”
The PRO and Renewal Front have also expressed their rejection to the bills and compared them to laws currently in effect in Venezuela.
Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri said the bills “frighten” business leaders and warned that “there will be no investment and more unemployment” if the measures become law. Meanwhile, the head of the Renewal Front Sergio Massa fiercely criticized the government’s initiative and said the bills “haven’t been thought of in a country like Argentina since they are copies of Venezuelan measures.”
“The bills have a distinctive characteristic,” Massa said. “They helped the Venezuelan government to expropriate 1,193 companies, close 400,000 stores and more than 2,000 industries.”
PRO lawmaker Federico Sturzenegger agreed with Massa on the comparison with Venezuela and said the bills are “an exact copy of the Fair Prices Law that led Venezuela into a massive food shortage.”
Trade Secretary Augusto Costa highlighted the bills aren’t unconstitutional as members of the Argentine Industrial Union (UIA) have claimed. At the same time, Costa focused the debate on the role the state should have in the economy since, he said, “UIA has asked to decrease public expenses, social programmes and subsidies.”
Costa directly accused the country’s business leaders of following the opposition’s lead.
“The fact that there has been so much criticism of the bills is related to the political objectives of the opposition. They try to make people believe that the government wants to hurt the private sector and that’s just not true,” the Trade secretary said. “We’re not applying socialism in Argentina, we’re creating better instruments for the state and the workers.”
Herald with Télam, DyN