4 countries against Argentina collecting tolls on Paraná Waterway

4 countries against Argentina collecting tolls on Paraná Waterway

Thursday, August 31st 2023 – 09:21 UTC

The controversy may end up in the hands of an ad-hoc tribunal

Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, and Uruguay insisted Wednesday on their objections to Argentina collecting tolls on the Paraná River Waterway and demanded the latter to halt that practice until it demonstrates services effectively rendered to navigation justify the measure.

 The coincidence was reached during the XLIX Meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of the Paraguay-Parana Waterway in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. The four countries also requested Argentina to guarantee freedom of navigation and freedom of transit in addition to refraining from adopting other restrictive measures.

In response, Argentina took note of the claims of the four signatory states of the Santa Cruz de la Sierra Agreement on River Transport on the Paraguay-Parana Waterway, regarding the suspension of the measure and referred to the additional technical information submitted on August 24 to demonstrate services provided to navigation in the section of the Parana River, from its confluence with the Paraguay River to the port of Santa Fe, and proposed such information be analyzed in the technical instance of the Commission of the Agreement.

“Paraguay is promoting the fulfillment of the procedural steps contemplated in the Protocol on Dispute Settlement, whose last instance is to submit the dispute to the decision of an Arbitral Tribunal,” said the Paraguayan Foreign Ministry in a statement.

Asunción is promoting compliance with the procedural steps contemplated in the Protocol on Dispute Settlement, the last resort of which is to submit the dispute to the decision of an Arbitral Tribunal.

Meanwhile, Paraguayan and Bolivian businesses issued a communiqué recalling the terms of the Santa Cruz de la Sierra Agreement signed by Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, whose objective is to establish a common regulatory framework that favors the development, modernization, and improvement in the efficiency of river operations, thus facilitating access under competitive conditions to regional overseas markets; under the principles of Freedom of Navigation, Equality of Treatment and Freedom of Transit.

Regarding Argentina’s claims that navigational improvements had been implemented, the private entities underlined that “it is inconvenient to provide the traditional beaconing service -with static buoys- because this not only does not favor navigation but may even hinder it due to the permanent change of course caused by currents in that section of the Paraná River.”

“This year, the Argentine government proceeded to unilaterally implement a toll of US$ 1.47 per net registered ton for river transportation along the ”Port of Santa Fe-Confluencia“ section. This toll affects users in the region: importers, exporters, shipowners, and service providers, not only Paraguayan shipowners. This type of measures, besides making the region’s goods more expensive, making them less competitive, could discourage the use of the waterway,” the document goes on.

“It is the intention of all the institutions present to defend the Agreement and its principles in a decisive manner and therefore we urge all the actors, the members of the governments, to solve the problems within the framework of the IACH and the Commission of the Agreement. It is important to emphasize that every action of one of its members affects the rest. Therefore, all actions taken by the countries must be framed under the multilateral approach. Even more so, taking into account that two of its members are Mediterranean countries, which have the right of access to the oceans enshrined in the Convention of the Sea,” the business entities stressed.

Signing the document were, among others, the Paraguayan Chamber of Terminals and Private Ports, the Chamber of Exporters, Logistics and Investment Promotion of Santa Cruz, the Paraguayan Chamber of Oilseed and Grain Processors, the Paraguayan Chamber of Grain and Oilseed Exporters, the Paraguayan Industrial Union, the Paraguayan Navigation Center, the National Chamber of Commerce of Bolivia, the National Chamber of Oilseed Industries, the National Chamber of Exports of Bolivia and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bolivia.

In this scenario, former Yacyretá Binational Entity (EBY) Director Oscar Thomas advised Argentine Economy Minister and presidential candidate Sergio Massa that his country should not forgive more than US$ 14 billion of interests owed by EBY to Argentina.

Through a letter on Facebook, Thomas urged Massa not to give in to Paraguay’s proposal regarding the EBY debt, in reference to a previous agreement between former Presidents Mauricio Macri and Horacio Cartes.

“There is documentation on the matter. I have participated in the negotiations with Paraguay on behalf of Argentina with the support of former Minister Julio De Vido from 2005 to 2014. I am very sorry for the bad experience he had in Asunción a few days ago, it could have been avoided if the Argentine Ambassador in Paraguay had warned him about the tricks that the Paraguayans put together when they try to make a profit,” he asserted.

Earlier this month, Massa stopped over in Asunción on his way back from Washington DC and met with President Santiago Peña, whom he allegedly promised tolls would no longer be collected on the Waterway. But that turned out not to be the case.

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