Argentina calls EU biodiesel tariffs 'protectionism'

Argentina accused Europe of engaging in "aggressive protectionism" on Tuesday after it slapped import tariffs on biodiesel fuel from Argentina and Indonesia.

"Unable to compete, Europe is pushing an aggressive protectionism against Argentine biodiesel," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The European Commission said Tuesday it will impose tariffs on imports of Argentine and Indonesian biodiesel after concluding that both countries were dumping the fuel at below cost to gain market share.

The Argentine foreign ministry said the EC decision was part of an "escalation of the historic European protectionism, aggravated today by the crisis that the European Union is going through."

It said the tariffs lacked "technical justification" and "are due to the incapacity of European producers to compete with more efficient producers, which is the case of the Argentine and Indonesian biodiesel producers."

Bio-diesel is made by adding other oils, usually from plants such as palm, to the traditional fuel to make it more environmentally friendly.

The CE set tariffs of between 6.8 percent and 10.6 percent for imports of Argentine biodiesel. Its tariffs for imports from Indonesia ranged from zero to 9.6 percent.

Argentina, which sold two billion dollars' worth of biofuels on the international market in 2011, is the world's biggest exporter of biodiesel and together with Indonesia accounts for 90 percent of EU imports of the product.

In 2012, Argentina succeeded in overturning a similar measure by Spain, which changed its rules for importing biodiesel from outside the EU after Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner ordered the expropriation of Spanish oil company Repsol's 51 percent share in Argentina's YPF oil company.