For many years, tariffs and other restrictive trade practices have been removed on trade between both developed and developing countries and many rounds of negotiations have taken place, with mixed results.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) plays a key role in trade negotiations and has the main aim of liberalising trade. The organisation requires its members to operate according to a variety of rules, including the prohibition of quotas and the inability of countries to raise existing tariffs without negotiating with their trading partners.
If any country breaks a trade agreement, the WTO can impose sanctions. A current case that has been referred to the WTO for ‘consultation’ concerns Argentina. Argentina has imposed various import restrictions on trade, such as import licensing and a requirement for countries to balance its exports and imports.
A number of WTO members recently expressed their concerns about these restrictive trade practices. The EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht said:
Argentina’s import restrictions violate international trade rules and must be removed. These measures are causing very real damage to EU companies – hurting jobs and our economy as a whole. … Argentina’s trade policy has become rooted in unfair trade practices.
Argentina has said that it was expecting the move from the EU, but claims that its protectionist measures are there to support and re-industrialise the country. This case is unlikely to be resolved any time soon and while the ‘restrictive trade practices’ remain in place, EU companies trying to export to Argentina will find barriers, such as a requirement for all imports to receive pre-approval.
The effects of these restrictions have already been felt, with EU exports to Argentina down by 4% in April this year, compared with the same month last year. The following articles consider this issue.
EU takes Argentina trade fight to WTO France 24, (25/5/12)
EU files WTO suit over Argentina’s import restrictions Reuters, Sebastien Moffett and Tom Miles , (26/5/12)
EU escalates dispute with Argentina Financial Times, Peter Spiegel and Joshua Chaffin, (25/5/12)
EU refers Argentina’s import restrictions to the WTO BBC News (25/5/12)
EU steps up challenge to Argentina’s policies Wall Street Journal, Matthew Dalton (25/5/12)
- What are the rules governing the members of the WTO?
- What are the advantages of free trade?
- To what extent should emerging economies be allowed to impose protectionist measures to help support their economies?
- What action could the EU take in response to the ‘restrictive trade practices’ imposed by Argentina?
- What is import licensing?
- How will the import restrictions affect EU companies and the growth of the EU as a whole?