UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Argentine President Mauricio Macri said his government would definitely appeal to the World Trade Organization if the U.S. Commerce Department followed through on threatened duties on Argentine biodiesel.
"I can assure you (U.S. Commerce) Secretary (Wilbur) Ross is doing his best to find an agreement with the U.S. private sector," Macri told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. "Still we didn't find it but I'm still optimistic."
Macri, though, replied in the affirmative when asked whether his government would go to the WTO to contest the duties if they were confirmed at the preliminary level of as much as 64.17 percent.
The U.S. Commerce Department is expected to make a decision setting final antidumping duties on Argentine and Indonesian biodiesel, which threatens to price its exports of the primarily soy-based fuel out of the U.S. market.
Argentina has been trying to settle the trade dispute by negotiating a minimum price for its exports, but no deal has yet been reached.
Macri, who reached out to U.S. President Donald Trump soon after he was elected in a bid to rekindle a relationship they formed as businessmen before entering politics, portrayed the dispute as one between private industries rather than governments.
The Argentine president, who has made signing trade deals a priority, said he was optimistic that Mercosur, the trade bloc formed by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, would be able to conclude a free trade deal with the European Union by year-end despite differences over beef and other agribusiness matters.
"I feel that the European Union is really committed to finding an agreement with Mercosur," he said, predicting that a deal could be signed at the WTO Ministerial Conference scheduled to happen in Buenos Aires in early December. "They know they need some good news after Brexit."
Macri, who is wrapping up a two-day visit to the United States during which he met with executives from companies including BlackRock Inc (BLK.N), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and DowDuPont Inc (DWDP.N) predicted the Argentine economy would grow "a little more than 3 percent" in 2017.
"Yes, I am optimistic," he said. "Everyone says 2.8 percent, I say a little more than 3 percent."
Macri, whose Cambiemos coalition coasted to a sweeping victory in mid-term elections last month, acknowledged that if his forecast came true his government would likely have to make payments on debt linked to the country's economic performance.
(Reporting by Christian Plumb; Writing by Caroline Stauffer in Buenos Aires; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)