The ruling, in the case “Argentina – Measures Affecting the Importation of Goods,” held that the requirement for importers to file a special affidavit, called Declaración Jurada Anticipada de Importación, or DJAI, consituted an unlawful restriction on imports.
The United States, the European Union, and Japan were the main driving-forces behind the WTO complaints against the import restrictions.
Under the Argentinian rules, the filing of the DJAI applies to all air, sea and road shipments entering the country. If the cargo arrives without the DJAI having been presented by the importer, the goods will likely be refused by customs and will have to be reshipped out of the country. The DJAI must also be approved by the Federal Administration of Public Revenues and the processing time generally takes 15 days.
The question now becomes, what is Argentina going to do about it?
Under WTO rules, Argentina agreed that December 31 was a “reasonable time frame” to comply with that ruling.
In an interesting wrinkle, Argentina will hold presidential elections this year and the term of the next government will begin on December 10, so the issue could be resolved by the next government.
The major presidential candidates have all stated that the DJAI measures will be adapted to WTO rules but that import restrictions will continue in the next administration.
The Argentinian government is less interested in protectionism than it is in Argentina’s balance of payments and the fact that there is a lack of U.S. dollars in Argentina. An alternative policy to achieve the same aims would be to cancel the taxes on Argentinean exports in an attempt to get dollars and to achieve greater trade balance.
Argentina could also implement lawful import restrictions. But they would have to be consistent with articles XI, XII, and XX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (G.A.T.T.)–pertaining quality standards, safeguarding the balance of payments, and sanitary and phytosanitary measures–as well as the Agreement on Import Licensing Procedures, the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, and the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.
Juan Pablo Rizzi is a customs and international trade attorney with BRSV Lawyers in Buenos Aires, Argentina.