(Recasts with statement from Argentina, adds second byline)
By Philip Blenkinsop and Gabriel Burin
BRUSSELS/BUENOS AIRES, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Argentina and the European Union (EU) reached an agreement to end a dispute over exports of biodiesel from the South American country to the bloc, the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday.
The deal establishes price and volume limits to be announced next month, the ministry said in a statement. The deal marks the end of a long trade dispute and could help bolster Argentina’s critical soybean sector. Argentina is the world’s top producer of soyoil, the main ingredient used to make biodiesel.
Earlier on Wednesday, a European Commission source told Reuters that European Union countries backed a proposal to impose anti-subsidy duties on Argentine biodiesel imports, with an exemption for producers that agree to a minimum price.
Argentina celebrated the deal as a victory for the country’s biofuels sector. A statement from the foreign ministry said it expected Europe to ratify and settle on the details of the agreement over the days ahead.
“To find a solution to the commercial dispute, with the support of the national government, the Argentine Chamber of Biofuels (CARBIO) offered a price and volume commitment to allow the restart of exports,” the statement said.
“We have worked for several months to reach a mutually beneficial agreement,” CARBIO chief Luis Zubizarreta said in a separate statement welcoming the agreement.
The European Commission, which oversees trade policy in the 28-member EU, said earlier this month it had told interested parties that it was willing to accept price undertaking from Argentine producers, allowing them to escape extra duties.
The European Union’s 28 member states voted in favour of the measures at a meeting on Wednesday, the European Commission source said.
With their backing, the Commission is set to impose anti-subsidy duties, normally in place for five years, by Feb 28.
The European Biodiesel Board, which represents EU producers, said it welcomed the move and said it showed the bloc recognised Argentine export taxes unfairly distorted the international market.
It said the deal meant Argentine exporters would be allowed to export up to about 1.2 million tonnes of biodiesel per year without paying duties.
The scheme, with a minimum price option, would mirror that used to allow Chinese solar panel producers to export to the bloc after a major dispute over alleged dumping that threatened to spiral into a trade war.
For Argentine biodiesel, the commission has proposed duties of between 25.0 and 33.4 percent depending on the companies, a document seen by Reuters in December showed.
Exporters include the Argentine arms of Bunge Ltd, Cargill Inc and Louis Dreyfus Corp, as well as Molinos Rio de la Plata SA.
Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Francesco Guarascio, Elaine Hardcastle and Richard Chang