By  on August 21, 2012

WASHINGTON — The U.S. filed a case against Argentina at the World Trade Organization on Tuesday, accusing the country of running afoul of global trade rules over its import restrictions that impact a wide range of products, including an estimated $1.7 billion worth of apparel, footwear and textiles.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said the U.S. is requesting consultations with Argentina’s government under the dispute settlement provisions of the WTO.

“Argentina’s protectionist measures adversely affect a broad segment of U.S. industry, which exports billions of dollars in goods each year to Argentina,” Kirk said. “These exports support jobs and businesses here at home.

“The Obama administration insists that all of our trading partners play by the rules and uphold their WTO obligations so that American workers receive the benefits negotiated in our agreements. The Interagency Trade Enforcement Center was established by the President earlier this year to strengthen further the United States’ ability to enforce trade agreements. The ITEC provided key support for this enforcement action and will continue to do so.”

The USTR office said Japan also requested WTO consultations with Argentina on Tuesday. The European Union requested consultations in May.

Kirk said Argentina has “greatly expanded” the list of products subject to “nonautomatic import licensing requirements” that are required for about 600 categories of industrial products, including footwear, textiles, apparel, luggage, bicycles, chemicals and paper products. Many companies shipping products to Argentina have reported wait periods of six months or longer to get approval and licenses for their goods, and some are denied import licenses altogether without explanation, the WTO members said.

In addition to the licensing requirements, Argentina has implemented “informal balancing requirements and other schemes, whereby companies seeking to obtain authorization to import products must agree to export goods of an equal or greater value, make investments in Argentina, lower prices of imported goods and/or refrain from repatriating profits,” the USTR office said.

Nate Herman, vice president of international trade at the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said in March that apparel brands that have tried to set up factories in Argentina have run into problems because they cannot get access to imported yarns and fabric to make the clothes or the machinery to produce them.

If the matter is not resolved within 60 days, the U.S. has the right to request the establishment of a WTO dispute settlement panel.

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