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International Law

Esteban Ropolo on Argentina's Most Recent Protectionist Measures

by Esteban Ropolo


For the last few years, Argentina's government has been serially violating its commitments to a rules based multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization (WTO). The recently introduced non-automatic licensing regime applicable to all final imports (as opposed to temporary) into the country threatens importers with total extinction. The main objective of these measures is to protect the country's trade surplus, the only source of foreign exchange in a country cut off from the international credit markets since the 2001 default of its foreign debt.

General Description of the Licensing Regime

On 10 January 2012, the Argentine tax authorities (AFIP) passed General Resolution No. 3252/2012 (the Resolution). This Resolution requires importers to file an Advance Import Affidavit (DJAI) prior to the definitive importation of any type of goods. The DJAI shall be analyzed by the tax authorities and by any other governmental agency that may adhere to the system. The import is permitted only once the tax authority or relevant agency approves the DJAI. The Resolution applies to all types of products definitively imported into the country from 1 February 2012.

Pursuant to the Resolution, importers must file a DJAI (through AFIP's website) before issuing a purchase order or similar document. AFIP will inform importers online about the status of their petition. If applicable, the AFIP will identify the reasons for any objections made and the governmental agencies where importers can remedy those objections. Finally, importers must enter the DJAI number in AFIP's Maria Information System (SIM) as part of the customs clearance process of the goods. The customs clearance process will be automatically stopped if such number is not entered.

On 23 January 2012, AFIP issued Resolution 3255 further regulating the DJAI process. The main points contained in Resolution 3255 are:

a) The agencies that have adhered to the system have a 72-hour period to announce any queries they might have. This period is counted from the date the importer files the DJAI. The period may be extended up to ten calendar days in "those cases in which the specific activities of the agency in charge so requests," as expressly stated in the General Resolution. Once the designated time periods have elapsed with no queries, the import operation may continue. Otherwise, the queries shall be handled by the importer with the agency that raised them. It is worth mentioning that the Internal Commerce Secretariat (the Secretariat), the first agency that has adhered to the system, has set itself a 15 working day period to raise any queries (as per Resolution SCI 1/12). This 15-day period might be deemed abrogated by General Resolution 3255, but this issue is far from clear.

b) The data to be supplied by the importer at the time of filing the corresponding import declaration are: (i) tax ID (CUIT) number; (ii) FOB value and foreign currency involved; (iii) tariff item number of the goods to be imported; (iv) type and quantity of goods; (v) condition of the goods; (vi) country of origin; and (vii) country of provenance.

c) The DJAI shall be valid for 180 days from the date of issuance, and this period may be extended.

d) At the time of filing the DJAI request, the importer will be informed of the agencies that will take part in the approval process.

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Esteban Ropolo is a partner with Baker & McKenzie in Buenos Aires. He practices foreign trade, antitrust, and mergers and acquisitions. Before joining private practice, Mr. Ropolo taught political economy and foreign trade law at several universities in Argentina. He has authored a book on competition law and written extensively in his fields of practice.