September 3, 2012 / 6:43 PM / 6 years ago

Argentina's latest trade dispute challenges U.S. over lemons

GENEVA (Reuters) - Argentina has filed its third trade complaint in two weeks, the World Trade Organization said on Monday, challenging U.S. laws that it says have blocked imports of fresh lemons from the northwestern region of Argentina.

The United States, Japan and Mexico filed trade complaints about Argentina’s import licensing policies two weeks ago, prompting Argentina to say it would hit back with complaints over U.S. beef and lemons. It filed the complaint about beef on August 30.

There was no immediate comment on the lemons case from the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) office in Washington on Monday, a U.S. national holiday for Labor Day.

But USTR spokeswoman Nkenge Harmon said on Friday the United States was “disappointed” with Argentina’s decision to launch the beef case, which appears to be part of larger pattern.

“We are concerned with a disturbing trend in which countries engaged in actions that are inconsistent with their WTO obligations retaliate with counter-complaints rather than fix the underlying problem raised in complaint,” she said.

The United States must try to settle the dispute in bilateral talks with Argentina. If that fails, after 60 days Argentina could demand the WTO adjudicate on the dispute.

The European Union brought a complaint against Argentina in May, accusing it of limiting imports. That drew a complaint from Buenos Aires on August 20 denouncing a “de facto prohibition on imports of biodiesel from outside the Community”.

President Cristina Fernandez’s government has angered trade partners by moving to slash imports and riled historic ally Spain with the takeover of energy company YPF (YPFD.BA).

Ten day ago the United States and Japan filed complaints against Argentina with the WTO, alleging that its import licensing rules are protectionist because they discriminate against foreign goods.

Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Louise Ireland and Pravin Char

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