World Bank head Robert Zoellick on Thursday slammed the Argentine government's takeover of oil firm YPF, owned by Spain's Repsol.
"I think it's a mistake and I think it's a symptom that we have to watch out for—if under economic pressure, whether countries will move to more national, autocratic policies, respond more to nationalism, more to protectionism," Zoellick said at a news conference.
"So I think it was the wrong thing to do," he told reporters as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund spring meetings got underway in Washington.
Argentine President Cristina Kirchner announced Monday a plan to seize 51 percent of Repsol's shares in YPF, alleging that Repsol had failed to sufficiently in invest in the company, forcing the country to sharply increase oil and gas imports.
Kirchner's action has provoked a firestorm of protest from Spain and criticism from other industrialized economies, with the United States at the fore, but was welcomed by leftist leaders in Latin America, such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
The Argentine finance minister, Hernan Lorenzino, was expected to join finance chiefs from around the world for the spring meetings that officially open Friday.