A decrease in Argentina's trade surplus this year would make it difficult for the federal government to end the current restrictions on imports, which force companies to file an affidavit in order to obtain authorization, the Argentine Importers Chamber (CIRA) said this week, only days after the country’s 2014 trade data was revealed to be the worst since 2001.
“The perspective of a low trade surplus this year would impose strong constraints on a wider flexibilization on the current import scheme,” Diego Pérez Santisteban, the head of the chamber, said.
Argentina's trade surplus narrowed 17% in 2014 to 6.6 billion dollars, the lowest figure since 2001 when a 6.2 billion dollars surplus was registered, the INDEC statistics bureau reported. Imports dropped 11% and totaled 65.2 billion, while exports declined 17% to 71.9 billion.
The annual results came after INDEC revealed that December was a bad month for trade. The trade surplus registered in the last month of 2014 was 74 million dollars, which is 31% lower than the same month last year. Exports narrowed 13% (4.5bn), a drop which was also seen on imports 4.4bn.
“Looking after the Central Bank’s foreign currency reserves became the most important objective of the federal government’s economic policy and in that context everything that means spending dollars is being analyzed carefully,” Santiesteban said.
“In a certain way, the government decided with its economic policy to give up on growth in order to decrease the demand of dollars and maintain a calm situation in the market.”
CIRA also highlighted Central Bank foreign currency reserves have plunged from the 48 billion dollars available in 2010 to the current 31.276 billion.
The main sector responsible for the drop in imports last year was the vehicle sector as fewer sales in the country led to a 49% decline in car imports, compared to 2013. At the same time, capital goods accessories dropped 22%, fuel and lubricants 4%, intermediate goods 11% and consumption goods 10%.
December saw a whopping 61% drop in car imports, followed by a 28% drop in capital goods accessories and four percent on intermediate goods.
Santiesteban said the lack of foreign investment, the drop in exports because of lower demand of Brazil, Argentina’s main commercial partner, and lower prices of grains and soybeans have led to a lower number of dollars being brought in the country, funds used to finance Argentina’s imports.