Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Argentina - US warns Argentina could loose trade benefits for not complying international investment rulings


United States could soon suspend trade benefits for Argentina warned on Monday an official from the Department of Commerce. US accuses Argentina of not paying awards in two long-running investment disputes with US companies following rulings from an international tribunal.

The Obama administration is loosing its patience with the administration of President Cristina Fernandez The Obama administration is loosing its patience with the administration of President Cristina Fernandez

”We hope to make a recommendation to the president (Barack Obama) in the near term,“ a US trade official told an international news agency.

The United States currently waives duties on some imports from Argentina under the Generalized System of Preferences program, a trade program aimed at helping create jobs in developing countries.

”USTR accepted two petitions in June 2010 seeking withdrawal of Argentina's GSP benefits due to the Argentine government's non-payment of two separate ICSID (the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes) arbitral awards,“ the US trade official said.

”Our review of the two petitions is at an advanced stage, and the matter is being discussed at senior levels of the administration. The administration takes the two petitions very seriously and has engaged with the Argentine government at the highest levels on the underlying issues,” the official added.

One case is believed to involve Azurix Corp, a Houston-based water services and investment company that was granted a 30-year water concession in Argentina in 1999.

Last year, Representative John Culberson, a Texas Republican, wrote to US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urging him to help Azurix collect an ICSID award from Argentina totalling more than 165 million dollars.

According to the US government the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is a program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for up to 4,800 products from 129 designated beneficiary countries and territories.

Argentina/Uruguay - Argentina trade restrictions cut Uruguayan exports by almost half in February

Uruguayan exports to Argentina during the month of February plummeted 46.6% compared to the same month a year ago according to Uruguay’s Union of Exporters, which attributes the poor performance to the imports restrictions imposed by the neighbouring country.
President Mujica is concerned because of the impact on the manufacturing sector and jobs President Mujica is concerned because of the impact on the manufacturing sector and jobs

“The effect of the trade obstacles which Argentina has been implementing since the beginning of February is more than evident” and with this strong fall “equally significant is the drop in the percentage of Uruguay’s overall exports to Argentina which has descended to 3.97% (from 9.24% last January)”.

Uruguay exports to Argentina during the month of February totalled 25.84 million dollars compared to 46.54 million only a year ago.

However during the second month of the year sales to Brazil also descended, 11.77%, but nevertheless with exports totalling 117.8 million dollars remains as the main market for Uruguayan goods.

Globally Uruguayan exports expanded 9.1% in value during February to 626 million dollars, while imports dropped, 3.2% to 600 million dollars.

Some experts argue that the fact the deadline for the new Argentine restrictions in February was anticipated, there could have been a rush of exports during January before the deadline.

Nevertheless President Jose Mujica described the situation as “quite mortifying” and recommended “opening other fields”.

The president Mujica has named a special committee with members of his staff plus the ministers of Industry and Energy, Foreign Affairs and Economy to address the situation but “trying to keep dialogue channels open” in spite of the complications and at the same time explore for new markets with the help of Brazil.

Much of the drop (83%) in exports to Argentina was in the sale of vehicles and auto-parts, and to make things worse it is the most exposed and Argentine dependent sector with 80% of sales going to that market.

Another sector, paper, pulp and high quality paper, are also very much exposed to Argentina and exports in February dropped 21.9%.

Last year Uruguayan exports to Argentina totalled 587 million dollars, the second most important market. However Argentina’s share has been falling from 15% in 2001 to 9.4% last January.

Argentina is important for Uruguay since it absorbs 92% of manufactured goods, which represent 20% of the country’s total production. This concerns the government given its impact in the labour market.

But Uruguayan exports to Brazil also dropped, which is significant because it’s the country’s main trade partner. Likewise to China and Russia they dropped, 19.5% and 28.5%, respectively.

But these losses were compensated by exports to Venezuela, up from 15.7 million dollars to 39.6 million becoming Uruguay’s second trade partner behind Brazil. Israel also doubled beef purchases in the first two months of the year and exports to the US increased 14%.


Venezuela - Venezuela to ship more fuel to Syria as crackdown spreads

Venezuelan Clown President Hugo Anal Chávez.

Venezuela is readying a third shipment of diesel to the government of Syria even as President Bashar al-Assad intensifies a crackdown against protesters, said a Venezuelan lawmaker on Monday.

Last month, Venezuela's government confirmed it had sent at least two shipments of fuel to Syria, potentially undermining Western sanctions as a rare supplier to the increasingly isolated Assad regime.

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who is in Cuba recovering from surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, has been a vociferous supporter of Syria as part of a self-styled international "anti-imperialist" alliance.

Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA shipped cargo in February aboard the Negra Hipolita vessel after the same tanker carried a first shipment in November.

"The information we have received is that the Negra Hipolita is on the Venezuelan coast, and according to the agreement, Venezuela is ready to continue supplying diesel," said congressman Adel El Zabayar from the government's socialist party.

El Zabayar did not say when the third shipment would be sent.

The PDVSA shipments appeared to be carried out under a 2010 agreement between the two nations in which Venezuela provides diesel in exchange for food and commodities such as olive oil.

It is not clear if PDVSA is negotiating directly with Syria's state oil firm Sytrol, which has been blacklisted by the United Sates and the European Union even though there is no blanket embargo on supplying fuel to Syria due to humanitarian concerns.

"The decision of the government is to give all our support to Syria," El Zabayar said.

The United Nations says more than 7,500 civilians have died in Syria's crackdown on protests and Assad has refused to back down in the face of international pressure.

Syria's military pursued rebels on several fronts on Monday after eliminating an opposition bastion in the central city of Homs following a 26-day siege.

The fuel is crucial to Syria's embattled government as former trading partners have dropped out for fear of violating international sanctions.

It is not clear when Chavez, 57, will return from Cuba after surgery but in his absence foreign minister Nicolas Maduro roundly condemned international pressure on both Syria and Iran, which is facing sanctions over suspicions about its nuclear program.

Falkland Islands - Roger Waters denies saying Malvinas belong to Argentina

A few days after the local media ran a story in which Roger Waters stated that the Malvinas Islands belonged to Argentina, the former Pink Floyd lead singer published a note on his Facebook page explaining that a local journalist had “misunderstood” his statement.

“I recently gave a press conference in Santiago, Chile, where I answered questions for over an hour,” the note begins.
“As I speak no Spanish my answers were translated by an interpreter. I was asked about the Malvinas/Falklands and gave a comprehensive answer. A journalist from Argentina misunderstood me and wrote a news piece in an Argentine paper quoting me as stating categorically that the islands belong to Argentina. I said nothing of the kind,” it continues.

Waters then goes on to describe the history of the Islands as “the doleful inheritance of the, now largely discredited, imperial policies of 16th century European monarchs.”

“The islands themselves existed uninhabited for millions of years before the 16th century and will probably survive the extinction of the human race for millions more. The tragedy of 1982, when 900 young lives were lost was that it was caused by the folly of two political leaders, Galtieri and Thatcher, who were both losing their grip on the reins of power and used the conflict as a distraction,” he explains.

“It was described at the time by a Chilean commentator as being like “two bald men fighting over a comb,” the singer adds.

“Now thirty years later the sound of sabres rattling is rising again. I am not a politician or a diplomat, and have no ready solution, but I am convinced it’s time to sue for peace and seek a compromise, not push for victory. At the end of the day what really matters is that not one more drop of blood is shed on the altar of the imperial aspirations of long dead kings,” the note concludes.

Argentina - US trade official: Argentina closer to losing trade benefits

The United States could soon suspend trade benefits for Argentina. The United States accuses Argentina of not paying awards in two long-running investment disputes with US companies, a US trade official said on Monday.

"We hope to make a recommendation to the president (Barack Obama) in the near term," a US trade official told an international news agency.

The United States currently waives duties on some imports from Argentina under the Generalized System of Preferences program, a trade program aimed at helping create jobs in developing countries.

"USTR accepted two petitions in June 2010 seeking withdrawal of Argentina's GSP benefits due to the Argentine government's non-payment of two separate ICSID (the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes) arbitral awards," the US trade official said.

"Our review of the two petitions is at an advanced stage, and the matter is being discussed at senior levels of the administration. The administration takes the two petitions very seriously and has engaged with the Argentine government at the highest levels on the underlying issues," the official added.

One case is believed to involve Azurix Corp, a Houston-based water services and investment company that was granted a 30-year water concession in Argentina in 1999.

Last year, Representative John Culberson, a Texas Republican, wrote to US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urging him to help Azurix collect an ICSID award from Argentina totaling more than $165 million.

According to the US government the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is a program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for up to 4,800 products from 129 designated beneficiary countries and territories.