UPDATE 1-Panama embroils Argentina in eighth trade dispute

Wed Dec 12, 2012 1:42pm EST

GENEVA Dec 12 (Reuters) - Panama filed a complaint against Argentina at the World Trade Organization on Wednesday, in the latest of a string of cases accusing it of imposing unfair restrictions on imports.

It was the eighth WTO dispute involving Argentina since May - equal to the total number of complaints brought to the global trade body last year.

The United States and the European Union have already accused the government of Cristina Fernandez of effectively blocking imports to protect Argentina's sputtering economy. They filed cases against Argentina earlier this year alongside Japan and Mexico.

Argentina has also filed two complaints against the United States and one against the EU.

Argentine officials have blamed rich countries for causing the global financial crisis and accused them of rigging global trade rules to stop developing countries prospering.

The WTO said Panama had cited Argentina's taxes, rules governing the registration of companies and restrictions on financial service providers, among other issues.

Details of the complaint, Panama's first since July 2007, are likely to be published within the next few days.

Under WTO rules, the filing triggers a 60 day period in which Argentina can try to settle the dispute. After the 60 days, Panama can ask the WTO to arbitrate, a process that could end with Argentina being forced to change its laws.

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