--Spain says all biodiesel mixed into fuel must be from European Union
--Measure is a response to Argentina's seizure of Repsol YPF's local unit
--Spain says additional responses to come
(Adds response from Argentina, in the eighth through 10th paragraphs.)
By Ilan Brat
Of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
An eye for an eye, an oil for an oil? Spain's first economic response to Argentina's seizure of Repsol YPF SA's (>> Repsol YPF SA) local unit will target biodiesel imports, the government said Friday.
The measure, which the Spanish government disclosed after the weekly cabinet meeting, mandates that all biodiesel mixed into fuel processed in Spain come from European Union countries. The new rule effectively cuts off the direct flow of Argentine biodiesel to Spain, which in 2011 was worth about EUR750 million and represented about 45% of Spain's biodiesel consumption, according to government statistics and Spain's Renewable Energy Producers Association, or APPA in its Spanish acronym form.
The moves came as Spain is striving to marshal international pressure against Argentina after the former colony issued plans this week to expropriate 51% of YPF SA (YPF, YPFD.BA), leaving Repsol with a 6.4% stake in the South American country's leading oil-and-gas company.
The pressure campaign is showing some signs of success. The U.S. expressed its concern about Argentina's decision this week, and political leaders from Mexico and other countries have condemned Argentina's nationalization effort. On Friday, the European Parliament approved a resolution seeking to partially suspend preferential trade treatment for Argentine exports.
Spain's move against Argentina's exports Friday targets a key industry for Argentina, soybean production, and may relieve some economic strain from Spain's 51 biodiesel-production plants. Under Spanish law, biodiesel must represent about 7% of the petroleum-derived fuel consumed in Spain, and biodiesel imports, primarily from Argentina and Indonesia, have been growing rapidly in recent years.
About 74% of the 1.6 million metric tons of biodiesel consumed in Spain in 2011 originated outside the country, compared with 62% in 2010, according to APPA.
After the weekly cabinet meeting, Spain's deputy prime minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, said the government will continue to look for other reprisals to take against the Argentina and ways to exert international pressure.
Argentine President Cristina Kirchner told Argentines that they shouldn't worry about Spain's decision. Argentina can increase domestic demand to compensate for a decline in exports, she said.
"Argentina's biodiesel is much cheaper than that produced by the Spaniards," Kirchner said in a speech. "If Spain's government wants its own businesses to pay more for biodiesel, that's a sovereign decision. We're not going to question it."
Kirchner said Argentina won't complain about the move at the World Trade Organization.
Repsol shares closed up 1.74% at EUR14.92 on Friday, just below the 1.92% gain seen on Madrid's blue-chip index.
-By Ilan Brat, The Wall Street Journal; 34-91-395-8125; [email protected]
--Taos Turner in Buenos Aires contributed to this article.