Argentina Posts First Trade Deficit in 16 Years After Revision

  • Deficit totaled $3 billion on 17 percent slump in exports
  • Statistics agency revised trade balance numbers for 2014-2015

Argentina reported its first annual trade deficit in 16 years after the new government revised data produced by the previous administration.

The shortfall was $3 billion in 2015, the statistics agency’s Technical Director Fernando Cerro said Thursday at a news conference in Buenos Aires. Before the government assumed power in December, the agency known as INDEC, had reported a surplus in each of the first 10 months of the year. The trade surplus for 2014 was revised down to $3.1 billion from $6.7 billion.

President Mauricio Macri’s government in December announced a statistical emergency and suspended the publication of all official data while it overhauls the INDEC. Argentina in 2013 became the first nation to be censured by the International Monetary Fund for misreporting its statistics.

“For 2015, we’re reporting a deficit of more than $3 billion,” Cerro said. “When we arrived, the statistics showed a tendency toward a surplus.”

Cerro didn’t respond to questions about whether the data had been manipulated by the previous government, saying that the new team had simply gone over customs figures for the year and added up the total.

Exports fell 17 percent in 2015 to $56.8 billion as a result of a 16 percent decline in prices and a 1 percent fall in volume. Imports slid 8 percent to $59.8 billion, mainly due to the drop in energy prices.

The last time Argentina posted a trade deficit was during the economic crisis that culminated in a $95 billion default on its debt in 2001. In 1999, South America’s second-largest economy had a trade deficit of $2.2 billion.

INDEC Director Jorge Todesca last week fired Graciela Bevacqua as technical director, replacing her with Cerro, after she insisted that a new consumer price index would take eight months to produce. Todesca said this week he would have a new index ready by the end of the second quarter.

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