Mexico Withdraws Argentina Automobile-Tariff Accord


* Mexico puts 20 pct tariff on lights vehicles from Argentina

* Tariff direct response to Argentine measure

* Mexico concerned about Argent

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* Mexico puts 20 pct tariff on lights vehicles from Argentina

* Tariff direct response to Argentine measure

* Mexico concerned about Argentine protectionism (Adds quote from Mexico's economy secretary)

Mexico has withdrawn a zero-tariff agreement with Argentina on autos in a tit-for-tat trade dispute after the Argentine government's decision to pull out of an auto trade pact between the two countries.

Francisco de Rosenzweig, Mexican undersecretary for trade, said on Thursday the measure became effective on June 26.

Mexico had said on June 25 that Argentina had pulled out of the auto trade pact over the deal's conditions.

"Mexico is taking a reciprocal action," de Rosenzweig said.

Argentina imports to Mexico will now be subject to a 20 percent tariff on light vehicles and between zero and 20 percent for auto parts and machinery, de Rosenzweig said.

"Mexico will do everything in its power to make sure the agreements it signs with other countries are respected," said Mexico's Economy Secretary Bruno Ferrari.

"We understand (the Argentine action) as an act of protectionism. We are very concerned by it."

When Argentina withdrew from the pact, Mexican cars were subject to a tariff of 35 percent on vehicles and a range of tariffs on parts and machinery in Argentina.

Mexico previously said it was preparing a case against the South American nation before the World Trade Organization over protectionist measures.

Argentina said in March it planned to seek more favorable terms in the pact, known as ACE-55, aiming to follow Brazil, which won concessions limiting the number of Mexican auto exports to that country.

Mexico's government had said previously it would not renegotiate the 2002 auto pact with Argentina.

Argentina's center-left government has tightened controls on imports and foreign-exchange purchases in recent months to improve its balance of trade, which is crucial to boosting international reserves used to pay debt.

Argentina's overall exports to Mexico fell 23 percent last year while imports from the country jumped 39 percent, according to the INDEC national statistics bureau.

The Argentine trade deficit with Mexico widened to $1.59 billion in 2011 from $590 million a year earlier. The automotive sector alone registered a $995 million trade deficit in 2011, Argentina's government said in March.

Mexico gave in to pressure to cut auto sales to Brazil to an average of about $1.55 billion over the next three years, bowing to Brazilian concerns about its ailing industrial sector.

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