BUENOS AIRES, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Argentina's government and importers are on the warpath after President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner slapped new taxes on the traders and refused to budge in the face of furious demands for change.
Fernandez is under fire from critics since she won a landslide victory in October. Critics accuse her of arrogance and insensitivity to what are seen as legitimate demands of various constituencies of economic and political groups in Argentine society.
Earlier this month, Fernandez upset farmers' groups after ignoring demands for more emergency aid to drought-stricken areas of the country.
The latest potential political flashpoint was caused when the government refused to defer new legislation that importers denounced as punitive, restrictive and wrapped in red tape.
Further complications arose after trade partner Brazil also objected to new rules coming into place.
"It's understandable that people are upset," Vice President Amado Boudou said during a news conference coinciding with political rallies outside the capital.
Boudou was acting president before Fernandez resumed office this week after surgery.
Critics say the new rules, going into effect next month, will introduce more bureaucratic delays. Manufacturers said the new rules would inhibit industrial production and growth as they would likely impede the flow of components, raw materials and other industrial inputs.
But Boudou insisted all was well in Argentina's $30 billion-a-year trade with Brazil -- in sharp contrast to pronouncements in Brazil and news reports of a developing trade war on the border trade.
Brazilian Foreign Trade and Industry Minister Fernando Pimentel last week declared that in contrast to amicable political ties the "trade relations with Argentina are a permanent problem." Brazilian media criticism of Argentine trade policies has gained momentum amid calls for retaliatory steps.
The government of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has said it wants to wait and observe till March before taking countermeasures against Buenos Aires.
The influential Sao Paulo Federation of Industries in Brazil said the new Argentine import rules could affect 80 percent of Brazilian exports to the country.
FIESP President Paulo Skaf said he hoped to meet with Fernandez to spell out Brazilian concerns.
FIESP board member Fernando Bessa said, "Argentina can't continue to isolate itself from the world because it's not an island."
Opposition to the impending measures also has come from the Argentine Industrial Union. Union President Jose de Mendiguren said members were concerned and hoped a solution would be found and the current situation wouldn't continue because of "subjective" decisions.
"What concerns us the most are predictability and transparency. We need to know why a shipment is accepted or rejected," de Mendiguren was quoted in a MercoPress report.
He said the fate of imported goods shouldn't be left "up to the mood swings of a government official."
Argentina introduced non-automatic import licenses in March 2011 but the new rules are blamed by critics for causing severe bureaucratic delays.