I would like to join others in welcoming the delegation of Argentina, led by His Excellency Ambassador Jorge Neme, Secretary for International Economic Relations in Buenos Aires and Argentinian colleagues in Geneva. Allow me also to express our gratitude to the WTO Secretariat for the reports and to Ambassador Peralta for her valuable advice, as well as to your Chairman for facilitating today’s meeting.
We warmly welcome the opportunity to record Argentina’s achievements, as well as to explore the possibilities for further development of Argentina’s trade policy so that we can collaborate even more effectively in the future.
And going back to the period since Argentina’s last review, I would first like to salute Argentina’s laudable welcome to MC11, typical of Argentina’s commitment to GATT and now to the WTO. We also welcome the ratification and acceptance by Argentina of the Protocol on Trade Facilitation of the WTO (TFA), the Protocol Amending the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. (TRIPS) and the Fourth Protocol on Telecommunications annexed to the General Agreement on Trade in Services.
Looking more to the present, I would very much like to commend Argentina’s active participation in the WTO in joint initiatives on electronic commerce, the integration of MSMEs in international trade – for all the reasons mentioned by the ambassador on the nature and character of the Argentine economy – investment facilitation and domestic regulation of services: all vital initiatives that cover topics of great interest to all our businesses, and which we believe bring a much needed new dynamism in our discussions here at the WTO, as we try to ensure that the WTO is not only back to business, but also supports business.
The Ambassador rightly referred to the challenges Argentina, like many other countries, face in dealing with the pandemic, and we would like to commend Argentina for its work in ensuring that essential supply chains remain. opened in the last 18 months. And as a member of the G20, we welcome Argentina’s commitment in the G20 Trade Ministers’ Declaration of March 2020 to ensure that all emergency measures designed to address the pandemic are targeted, proportionate. , transparent and temporary. We look forward to continuing to work with Argentina and other WTO members to strengthen the resilience of global medical supply chains, including through the Trade and Health Initiative.
The pandemic has of course, as we have mentioned elsewhere, highlighted the importance of cross-border cooperation in health care between partner countries. In particular, we would like to salute and recognize Argentina’s collaboration with AstraZeneca to produce and supply vaccines around the world. We believe that this example of Anglo-Argentinian collaboration could be extended to other areas in the future. However, we believe that this collaboration could be further strengthened if Argentina decides to pursue economic reforms in certain key areas.
First, with respect to excessive regulatory requirements for businesses, I think this is evidenced by some of the changes to Argentina’s rules on capital controls which, in our review, result in unnecessary administrative burden for businesses. We understand that companies must now seek permission from the Central Bank of Argentina to access foreign currencies in order to pay for imported goods or services. So, like many of our partners in the WTO, we are always seeking to expand the possibilities for our businesses to operate efficiently and successfully in Argentina and restricting access to foreign currencies hinders the ability of UK businesses to do so. We hope that these measures can be phased out in the near future as the economic situation improves.
Second, we hope that this Trade Policy Review may lead to changes in Argentina’s import licensing rules. The Secretariat underlines in the report the growing impact of non-automatic import licensing since Argentina’s last review. The report notes that in 2020, non-automatic licenses were required for around 14% of all tariff lines. This was a large increase from the 2012 figures, when only 6% of tariff lines were subject to such licenses. In addition, these processes may not be clear to foreign companies and often exceed the 60-day limit set in the WTO Agreement on Import Licensing. This remained a problem for UK exporters to Argentina for several years, affecting a range of industries including automobiles, footwear and manufacturing. We remain concerned that this measure will continue to affect these sectors and we encourage our Argentinian friends to consider the consequences that the increasing use of non-automatic import licenses has on international flows of goods, as well as the impact of these measures on their own economy.
Madam Chairperson, we have submitted written questions to Argentina on a range of topics, and I would like to thank our Argentinian colleagues for their responses to these questions. We will examine them carefully with a view to having constructive discussions aimed at strengthening the flourishing bilateral trade relations between our two great countries.