Argentina to eliminate tariff on computers, tablets

BUENOS AIRES, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Argentina will get rid of a 35 percent tariff on imports of computers, laptops and tablets, the Production Ministry said on Monday, part of a larger effort to lower consumer prices and roll back protectionist policies.

The government hopes the elimination of the tariff, which will take effect in April, can normalize the distorted consumer electronics market. Computers are three times more expensive in Argentina than in the United States, and 50 percent more expensive than in neighboring Chile, the ministry said in a statement.

Former populist President Christina Fernandez instituted a number of tariffs and import restrictions in a bid to boost domestic manufacturing employment. That often resulted in higher prices, and it is common for Argentines to cross into Chile or Paraguay to buy cheaper goods.

Center-right President Mauricio Macri has implemented a number of market-friendly reforms since taking office in December 2015, including removing capital controls and cutting the budget deficit. The government is also working with unions to cut the country’s famously high labor costs in a bid to boost foreign investment.

Opposition politicians have criticized the move to eliminate the tariff, citing layoffs and looming plant closures. The government said it would “accompany workers in the transition” and help them find jobs at other companies. (Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Matthew Lewis)