The United States on Wednesday defended restrictions on imports of beef and lemons from Argentina after the South American country said it planned to challenge the measures at the World Trade Organization.

The defense came amid escalating tensions over Argentina's trade policies.

On Tuesday, the United States and Japan challenged Argentine government regulations that require prior approval of nearly all foreign purchases as a violation of WTO rules.

Argentina's Foreign Ministry did not comment directly on the U.S. and Japanese complaints but said it would file a complaint at the WTO over Washington's policies that hamper lemon and fresh beef imports.

"The United States is surprised and disappointed at Argentina's reaction," USTR spokeswoman Nkenge Harmon said.

"It appears to be part of a disturbing trend in which countries engaged in actions that are inconsistent with their WTO obligations retaliate with counter complaints rather than fix the underlying problem raised in the complaint," she added.