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Trade

WTO sides with Europe, US in Argentina trade restriction spat

The World Trade Organization has found Argentina has broken global trade rules by imposing many obstacles for imports to the country from the US, Europe and other business partners. But a quick change looks unlikely.

Argentina broke a number of trade rules, a WTO disputes panel ruled Friday, saying that several hurdles for goods sold to the Latin American country by its trading partners had not been in line with the world body's stipulations.

The WTO watchdog concluded that Buenos Aires should "bring the inconsistent measures into conformity with its obligations."

WTO officials in particular scrutinized Argentina's import licensing rules which, among other things, required firms eager to export to the country to import domestic products in exchange.

Scratch my back and I'll scratch yours

A case in point had been German premium carmaker Porsche which was forced to commit to purchasing Argentine wine and olive oil in order to export some 100 of its cars to the Latin American nation.

Argentina defaults again

Also in the crosshairs of the WTO were regulations limiting import volumes as well as government rules linking potential shipments from abroad to promises of investments in Argentina and pledges from importers not to repatriate their profits.

US trade officials hailed the WTO ruling as a major victory, and so did their European counterparts. EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said "this case sends an important signal that protectionism is not acceptable."

WTO panels can authorize retaliatory trade measures against a guilty party that fails to fall in line with their rulings. Argentina still has the option of appealing, with the settlement process probably lasting years.

hg/sri (AFP, dpa)

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