With a busy agenda prior to her G20 Summit address, Argentine President Cristina Fernández renewed her criticism of so called world powers’ protectionism and warned about a “crisis of the multilateral system” both in the economic and political arenas.
The Argentine leader made the statements on Thursday after a meeting with Brazilian Roberto Azevedo who will be formally assuming the presidency of the World Trade Organization (WTO) this week.
Ahead of the official opening of the G20 Summit, the President and Azevedo gathered at St. Petersburg Constantine Palace joined by Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and Foreign Trade Police Secretary Beatriz Paglieri.
At a press conference following the meeting, Cristina Fernandez then addressed the Syria crisis and US preparations for a military strike on the Arab country as a leading example of what she considered a “crisis of the multilateral system.”
Argentina’s own legal, billionaire dispute with US-based ‘vulture’ (hedge) funds over the defaulted sovereign bonds more than a decade ago were indeed brought up by the head of state also as a proof of such crisis that becomes evident, she affirmed, both in the economic and geopolitical world scenarios.
“Leaders must think whether the multilateral system is a way to resolve conflicts or if it is only useful when it is only convenient to oneself” as it happens with developed countries when issues don’t serve their interests”, said the Argentine president said and went to question world powers’ protectionism.
Following on the recent reiterated position of the EU against what the bloc calls Argentina’s own protectionist policies, Cristina Fernandez emphasized that the “so called opening of developed economies is not such.”
“Argentina is still waiting for the US to open beef trade with us” she explained referring to WTO phytosanitary barriers, which Buenos Aires has been long targeting describing them as “masked trade barriers.”
“There is no major protectionism than the one carried out by developed countries and let’s not talk about Europe,” she stressed and added protectionism is “beneficial for EU countries” as they become together to “defend their benefits at the expense of emerging nations.”
“Developed countries carry on and on about free trade but they then do the opposite. There are no bad and good boys here in this business, but people defending their interests,” Argentina’s leader insisted and called for “reasonable criteria” in global trade.
A week ago a Buenos Aires daily revealed that last March Argentina had to face a barrage of criticisms from over 32 countries at WTO questioning the country’s protectionist measures, the seizure of companies without compensations, the impact of inflation, the still pending agreement with the Club of Paris (Argentina owes over 9 billion dollars) and foreign companies complaints because they can’t transfer profits overseas.
Apparently the whole incident is included in WTP document WT/TPR/M/277 while Argentina was defended by Ms Pagliari and Ambassador Augusto Acosta, head of International Economic Relations desk from the Foreign ministry, who ended up arguing Argentina was still suffering the negative consequences of the Malvinas war and from the last dictatorship, which ended in 1983.
WTO head of the Trade policies examiner, Swedish ambassador Joakim Reiter was quoted expressing concern over Argentina’s export taxes, domestic taxes and a system of incentives conditioned to formulas of national content.
“Inflation puts at risk sustained growth thus inflation and price stability should be a priority for Argentina” and likewise Australia challenged Argentina for not concluding negotiations with the Club of Paris. Norway complained the lack of transparency in tariff regulations; Switzerland the need to protect intellectual property and the EU and other countries strongly questioned the majority seizure of YPF without paying compensations. The US questioned Argentina’s tendency to increase import tariffs and Japan the need for special permits to pay for imports above the value of 100.000 dollars.
Faced with the tsunami of objections Ambassador Costa argued that Argentina is not pursuing ‘self sufficiency’, while Pagliari argued that contrary to other countries, ‘Argentina suffered an atrocious dictatorship”.