The United States cut preferential trade tariffs for Argentina Monday saying Buenos Aires had failed to pay penalties it owes US companies after international tribunal rulings in their favor.
US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said it was removing tariff-free treatment for imports from Argentina because the government had ignored requests to pay $300 million in two arbitration awards against the country dating back to 2005-2006.
"The government of Argentina has not paid the awards, despite repeated requests to do so by the two petitioners and the United States government," said a statement from Kirk's office.
The move withdrew Argentina's inclusion in the US generalized system of preferences (GSP) program, which aims at helping developing countries by removing duties on some goods they ship to the United States.
Last year the US imported some $477 million worth of Argentine products -- 11 percent of all US imports from Argentina -- that were covered under the GSP program.
The USTR said that criteria for qualifying for GSP benefits include adhering to arbitrated awards to US companies that fall under the US-Argentina bilateral investment treaty and the International Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes.
The ICSID tribunal ruled separately in favor of the US firms Blueridge Investments and Azurix for losses both incurred on investments in infrastructure dating to Argentina's financial crisis of 2001.
Buenos Aires' challenges of both cases were also rejected in ICSID hearings.