Weekly News – Import controls

On August 17th, Argentina notified the WTO Secretariat of a request for consultations with the European Union on Spanish restrictions to its imports. Four days later, United States and Japan filed a separate dispute against Argentina on import control.

Argentina claims that a Spanish regulation implemented in April of 2012, in effect discriminates against biodiesel imports from Argentina. Whereas U.S. and Japan reported that Argentina has used a system of non-automatic import licensing to restrict and discriminate against imported goods.

For more information: www.wto.org

A Shadow of Mistrust Due to Argentina’s Falsified Inflation Statistics

Over the past fifty years, Argentina has often achieved the highest inflation rate in the world. Recently, there has evolved a severe disagreement between politicians and business executives regarding the publication of data and research of inflation levels.

Businesses (and researchers) want accurate reporting so that they can adjust their prices and forecasts accordingly. However, higher inflation numbers have severe economic repercussions for government, since there were commitments made to inflation adjust many government payments. In the budget, it makes a big difference whether the inflation rate is reported as 40 percent or as 8 percent.

In the country’s statistical office, starting in early 2007, the government replaced several statisticians, clerks, and field workers who collect consumer prices. Subsequently, starkly lower inflation figures began to be reported. Workers at the National Institute of Statistics protested Argentina’s miraculous declines in inflation and poverty rates. For example, the government numbers report an official poverty figure of 15.3 percent while the Catholic Church says it is near 40 percent.

Such discrepancies lead to controversy. Economists and political analysts say the allegations hurt the country’s credibility in terms of investments. In speeches, though, President De Kirchner and other officials have defended the country’s unorthodox economic policies, including high taxes on agricultural exports, heavy spending and energy subsidies .“Our different way of doing things has permitted growth and the creation of jobs,” Vice President Amado Boudou recently told reporters. “Argentines can be proud we did things our way.” Also, the government budget is less strained due to lower adjustment payments.

Who is right – the accuracy side, which is said to be particularly short term oriented, or the adjustment side, which claims there are other things than just numbers to worry about?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/15/AR2009081502758.html, accessed March 4, 2012; Juan Forero, “Fight over Argentina’s inflation rate pits government against private economists,” The Washington Post, October 31, 2011.

Answer to International Business Jeopardy Question Posted on June 8

Gauchos say that if you need a fork, then you need a plate, then you need a table, and then you need a chair — and before long you’re living in a house with a woman and a bunch of kids and a dog that kills your chickens. So forget the forks. Stick with your caballo (horse) and eat with your manos (hands), say the gauchos.