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Committee on Import Licensing April 2012

Last Friday’s ILC meeting was chaired by Israel’s DPR to the WTO Mr. Shai Moses PhD, and the main issue of discussion related to Argentina’s import licensing measures and procedures. The matter was raised jointly by: Australia, the EU, Japan, Korea, Norway, Turkey and the US.

At the outset, Australia recalled the joint-statement delivered a few weeks ago at the CTG, were concerns had again been raised on Argentina’s new trade restricting requirements. According to Australia, many of the procedures and measures implemented by Argentina are inconsistent with the WTO. Such measures have expanded the coverage to over 600 tariff lines, heavily restricting the importation of products to Argentina. Furthermore, Australia requested immediate steps in addressing the concerns by removing said measures, or else, asked for a detailed written explanation in terms of article XI GATT and 3.2 Import License Agreement on why Argentina believes these measures to be consistent with the WTO.

The EU mirrored the joint-statement at the CTG, and stated that Argentina had failed to address its concerns. The EU said that the non-automatic licenses are one of several measures implemented by Argentina that restrict imports. According to the EU, Argentina’s measures have expanded to cover a long list of products equivalent to 608 tariff lines. Some of these products are: laptops, home appliances, autos, auto parts, footwear, textiles, bicycles and ACs. On the advanced sworn declaration procedure, the EU noted that it requires the pre-registration of all imports and the industry has experienced long delays and huge costs due to this measure. The EU highlighted that this measure allows for a wide discretionary power to the authorities that can often be used as a protectionist measure, especially when linked to import/export balancing. The EU stated that article 3.5.f of the agreement states that non-automatic licenses procedures should be completed within 60 days; however, this has not been the case in Argentina.

The US recalled its CTG statement and asked for Argentina’s specific steps in addressing the concerns. The US stated that this matter has been raised for over 6 years, and it was expecting at least an explanation by Argentina on why it believes the measures to be WTO consistent. However, the US stated that Argentina not only does not address the concerns, but instead it creates new import restricting measures. Regarding the justification of said measures, Argentina merely relies on providing vague answers and simple unjustified assertions of consistency. Furthermore, the US stated that measures should not be more burdensome than necessary to administer an underlying measure, and so far, there is no explanation to this. Also, the US stated that the time frame for approving the licenses is far greater than the 30-60 days claimed by Argentina.

Argentina recalled its statement made at the CTG earlier this year and called the requests to withdraw the measures inadmissible. Argentina stated that it has always complied with its obligations relating to transparency in notifying promptly all required measures. According to Argentina, there has been an increase of 24% in imports in this year, with it being equivalent to 20% in imports from the Members making this statement. Argentina mentioned that the only Member that has a lower percentage in this increase is Norway. Argentina also stated that it has implemented an online system (SISCO) to improve and facilitate trade. Finally, Argentina stated that its import license system is transparent and in compliance with its WTO obligations and will answer any questions relating to it.

The EU thanked Argentina for its answer, but stated that it still has not addressed the concerns requested by several Members.

Afterwards, the Chair took note of the statements made. Next ILC meeting is scheduled for October 22, 2012.