Tit-for-tat, EU takes Argentina to WTO

The EU took Argentina to the World Trade Organization Thursday over what it said were import restrictions damaging to European business after Buenos Aires did the same over its bio-diesel exports.

The EU 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.

Talks with Buenos Aires had failed to find a solution.

"Argentina's import restrictions violate international trade rules and harm EU exports. The consultations we held with Argentina ... did not bring any positive solution," EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said.

On Wednesday, Argentina filed complaints with the WTO charging the United States with erecting barriers against its beef and lemons and the European Union with protectionist measures against its biodiesel.

The barriers have caused "extensive damage" to Argentine producers and cost thousands of jobs, it said.

It said EU member Spain unfairly restricted imports of Argentine biofuels to protest a decision by Buenos Aires earlier this year to seize the YPF oil concern from Spain's Repsol.

When it took over YPF, Buenos Aires accused the Spanish oil giant of allowing oil and gas production to lapse and forcing Argentina's oil import bill to rise.

"With annual exports to the EU of approximately $1.9 billion in 2011... this economic bloc is the main market for Argentine biodiesel," a foreign ministry statement said.

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