Panama filed a dispute against Argentina at the World Trade Organization on Wednesday alleging the government of President Cristina Fernandez had broken WTO rules by discriminating against imports of goods and services.
Panama's complaint is the eighth WTO dispute involving Argentina since May, equal to the total number of WTO disputes globally in the whole of last year. The EU, US, Japan and Mexico have also filed complaints regarding alleged restrictions to trade on the side of Argentina.
The administration of President Cristina Fernandez rebutted by filing trade restriction complaints against the US, EU and particularly Spain.
Diplomatic sources said the Panamanian complaint refers to measures involving taxes, companies’ registry, limits to sending benefits overseas and financial services activities.
The filing of the complaint means both sides have sixty days to try and solve the dispute, and if finally there is no accord, plaintiffs can request the WTO to name a panel of experts to rule on the issue.
The frictions were born out of Argentina’s strict restrictions on imports, which have been described by over forty countries as ‘protectionist’ and contrary to free trade. Restrictions are applied through the non automatic licences which supposedly ‘cool’ imports for sixty days although the timetable is rarely respected by Argentina.
These governments argue that exports to Argentina as a result of restrictive policies have fallen dramatically, but the government of Cristina Fernandez says imports from those countries have actually increased substantially, well above the growth rate of Argentine exports.
Another complaint is that licences extended by Argentina are part of a ‘balanced trade” policy which demands importers to ship overseas similar values or invests locally to have their licences approved.
Argentina has also had clashes and complaints from its neighbours and Mercosur members such as Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.