Argentina/US trade conflict escalates following Argüello claims and strong reply from Washington
The current war of words over trade barriers going on between the US and Argentina further escalated tensions on Wednesday as Argentine Ambassador to the US Jorge Argüello highlighted: “the United States has been reported for a number of trade law violations.”
“The United States has already been reported for violating international trade laws that Argentina hasn’t”, said Argüello.
The statements came when the Argentine official was questioned on the action Argentina will take at the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding the US import restrictions on Argentine lemons and fresh meat.
On Tuesday Argentina declared, via its Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman, that the country would give Washington the US 60 days in order to answer its questions over the import restrictions in place on Argentine products, after a complaint was filed to the WTO.
However the US did not remain quiet and defended its restrictions on imports of beef and lemons from Argentina and again questioned the trade policies from the administration of President Cristina Fernandez.
The United States is surprised and disappointed at Argentina's reaction, USTR spokeswoman Nkenge Harmon said in an emailed statement.
It appears to be part of a disturbing trend in which countries engaged in actions that are inconsistent with their WTO obligations retaliate with counter complaints rather than fix the underlying problem raised in the complaint, she added.
US trade officials have read news reports that Argentina plans to challenge the lemon and beef restrictions, but have not received official word of any action, Harmon said.
Nonetheless, I can say that all US measures relating to imports of Argentine products, including lemons and beef, are science-based and consistent with WTO requirements, she said.
Argentina complained in its press release the US market has been closed to Argentine lemons since 2001 for health concerns, even though other countries accept the fruit.
Argentine citrus is exported to destinations with very high health standards such as the Netherlands, Spain and Italy, which do not question the excellent quality of Argentine produce the Argentine government argued.
It added US restrictions on Argentine beef because of foot-and-mouth disease were unjustified and had cost Argentine ranchers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales.
Although the International Health Organization has recognized the southern Patagonia region as free of foot-and-mouth disease, without vaccinations, since 2003, the U.S. government has delayed recognition of this situation, and has unreasonably delayed the authorization for the importation of fresh beef, the Argentine government said.
Harmon said the the fundamental openness of the US market was reflected in US trade data with Argentina. Last year, US imports of Argentine farm products topped 1.64 billion dollars, while US agricultural exports to Argentina totalled 154 million dollars, Harmon said.
However, Argentina is one of the few countries with which the United States enjoys an overall trade surplus. Last year, it exported 9.9 billion dollars worth of goods to Argentina and imported 4.5 billion from that country.
The Spanish conservative newspaper ABC commenting on the current situation in Argentina said that President Cristina Fernandez is involved in “a thousand battles of different degree” and definitively is in the eye of a diplomatic storm given “the particular crusade” she has undertaken “by herself against the world (and trade rules)”.
The battle ground has become the WTO where the Argentine president is burning with Peronist determination the vessels of “her great autarchic dream”, says ABC.
And as enemies multiply by the minute on complaints against the restrictions to imports imposed by the Argentine government, Cristina Fernandez does not back down and continually counterattacks. “Probably until the very end” when left with no resources”, concludes ABC.