Argentina slams EU, US over WTO trade complaints

Argentina on Thursday condemned what it called "coordinated" charges of protectionism lodged against it by the United States and European Union at the World Trade Organization.

Buenos Aires has accused Washington of blocking its exports of lemon and meat and says the EU and Spain are unfairly blocking its exports of biodiesel.

In a counterpunch, Washington on Thursday filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization against Argentina's alleged trade barriers, joining Japan and the European Union in an attack on Buenos Aires's import licensing rules.

"Argentina deplores the ill-timed, but obviously coordinated complaints lodged against our country at the WTO," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The complaints "aim to divert the attention of public opinion instead of resolving trade barriers affecting Argentine products," it said.

The United States asked the WTO to launch a dispute resolution panel over the issue, arguing that Argentina's rules "include the broad use of non-transparent and discretionary import licensing requirements that have the effect of unfairly restricting US exports."

But in Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner struck a more conciliatory tone.

"We have a very strong bilateral relationship. You know, these are serious issues and will be addressed in the appropriate fora," he said.

"Our relationship with Argentina is broader, it is stronger than just the economic piece of it and just the specific trade piece," he added.

The EU meanwhile said that along with Japan and the United States, it was going to the WTO to force Argentina to end measures which have been harmful to European trade and investment for more than 18 months.

The measures potentially affect all EU exports to Argentina, worth 8.3 billion euros ($10.8 billion) in 2011, it said.

Earlier talks with Buenos Aires failed to find a solution.

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