Argentina files WTO complaint over Spanish biodiesel restrictions


BUENOS AIRES -- Argentina has lodged a protest with the World Trade Organization (WTO) committee on technical barriers to trade over Spain's recent decision to stop buying biodiesel from outside the European Union (EU).

Argentina's foreign ministry said Spain is violating WTO rules by keeping the South American nation and other biodiesel producers out of the Spanish market.

"Argentina is studying the possibility of taking this issue to the WTO's dispute-settlement body," the ministry noted.

Starting in April, Spain required all imported biodiesel to be sourced from EU producers. The measure effectively blocked imports of the fuel from Argentina, which had dominated Spain's biodiesel market.

Soybean-based biodiesel imports from Argentina were valued at about €750 million ($944 million) in 2011, according to Spain's Renewable Energy Producers Association.

Spain's biodiesel restrictions followed Argentine President Cristina Kirchner's decision to expropriate a 51% stake in oil and gas company YPF SA from Spanish oil producer Repsol YPF SA. Kirchner said in April her government would not complain about the Spanish biodiesel measures.

Argentina is the target of an EU complaint at the WTO over its import restrictions, as the country intensified trade barriers earlier this year in a bid to bolster its international reserves.

Companies in Argentina are required to file an online affidavit with the federal tax authority and receive approvals from several government agencies before they can import goods or pay for offshore services like legal consulting or music rights.

However, the EU's complaint could struggle to gain traction at the WTO, as Argentina's trade policies are often informal in nature.

Dow Jones Newswires

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