* Trade balance widens to $1.64 billion
* August figure means 2012 goal met in eight months
* Gov’t has tightened controls on imports
BUENOS AIRES, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Argentina’s trade surplus rose to $1.64 billion in August, more than double the surplus in the same month a year ago, President Cristina Fernandez said on Thursday.
The country’s trade surplus is widening as imports fall due to government restrictions that have riled many trading partners and prompted complaints at the World Trade Organization.
Argentina’s economy, Latin America’s third largest, is slowing sharply after booming during most of the last nine years. Fernandez wants to maintain a big trade surplus to help fatten the central bank reserves used to pay government debt.
Her administration also defends its trade policies as a way to protect local jobs as the global economy struggles.
The left-leaning president said August’s preliminary data meant the government had already met its target for 2012’s trade surplus, reaching $10.04 billion in the first eight months of the year.
This year’s budget estimated a surplus of $8.58 billion versus $9.04 billion in 2011.
Argentina’s trade surplus was $800 million in August 2011 . July’s surplus widened 54 percent as imports dropped for a sixth straight month thanks to government curbs that have riled many trading partners.
August’s trade data is due for official release on Sept. 24.