Bottom Line: The European Union appears to be punishing Argentina over the expropriation of Repsol YPF with higher duties on Argentine bio-diesel that will cost the industry dearly.
Analysis: On 23 October 2013, the European Union (EU) announced higher anti-dumping measures on Argentine bio-diesel that could cost local industry up to US$ 1 billion. Set to come into effect by the end of the November, the duties will add between US$300 to US$340 per ton. Foreign Minister Hector Timmerman declared Argentina would appeal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to reverse the decision. Beyond these new duties, Argentine bio-diesel will be subject to additional 6.5 percent import tariff if Mercosur fails to extend current trade agreements with the EU. Considering Mercosur’s general inability to act in an orchestrated and fast manner, it is virtually certain that Argentina’s soy exports to Europe will slow.
In part, the tariffs are the result of Argentina’s decision to expropriate Spanish hydrocarbon producer Repsol YPF in May 2012. At that time, Spain warned that it would lobby to block Argentine trade preferences. Repsol also filed suit for US$10.5 billion in compensation; in 2013, Argentina responded with an offer of US$1.5 billion, terms rejected by the Repsol board.
Recommendation: Though the current administration has worked hard to develop the biodiesel sector, production dropped from 710,000 tons in the first quarter of 2012 to 390,000 in the first quarter of 2013 after years of steady growth. Production will remain stalled unless Argentina can negotiate better trade terms with some major market – a difficult proposition given the long line of investors lined up at the courthouse doors with cases against Argentina.