The Argentinian National Congress passed a supply bill Thursday, increasing state control over business. (Fernando Sturla/European Pressphoto Agency)

One of South America's largest countries has passed new measures to cap consumer prices of goods, set profit margins for private businesses and levy fines on companies found to be making "artificial or unjustified" profits.

If that sounds like something they would do in Venezuela, well, that's because they already have.

Now it's Argentina that wants to use the heavy hand of the state to grip the invisible hand of the market.

After an all-night debate, legislators in Argentina's lower house voted 130-105 early Thursday for a new "supply law" pushed by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who is battling inflation, product shortages and a debt crisis her government blames on "vulture" bondholders.

Economy Minister Axel Kicillof said the controls would protect ordinary shoppers against "the innumerable abuses" they suffer at checkout lines. Consumer prices have risen roughly 40 percent since last summer in some parts of the country.

Businesses and farmers in Argentina -- once the most prosperous nation in South America -- fought against the measures, but lawmakers in both houses of the National Congress have now voted for a greater state intervention in the $490 billion economy. Kirchner is expected to sign the legislation this week.

Those who have watched Venezuela's economy spiral downward will be familiar with what typically happens next: worsening scarcity, accelerating inflation, businesses shutting down.

Argentina's law is designed to exempt most small and medium-size companies, but many economists view price control attempts as self-defeating, since they tend to discourage production and end up further driving up the prices they're meant to depress.

In Argentina, the impact could be worse. While Venezuela is a state that depends almost entirely on oil exports to generate foreign exchange, Argentina is a manufacturing and agrarian economy that is one of the world's top exporters of grain and soybeans. Farmers have warned that the new price controls would put the entire production chain at risk.

The value of the Argentine peso is sinking fast, for many of the same reasons economists say Venezuela's currency controls are driving rampant inflation and shrinking imports. International rating agencies have judged Argentina to be in default because the Kirchner government has defied U.S. court orders to pay holdout creditors over its previous default, in 2001.

In recent weeks, the value of the U.S. dollar has jumped to 15 pesos on Argentina's black market, nearly twice the official exchange rate.

The peso is dropping so fast that American Airlines announced Thursday that it would only sell tickets for travel 90 days in advance, a sign of growing anxiety about not being able to get money out of the country.

Kirchner cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich called the airline's announcement "part of a permanent agenda of schemes from companies that intend to generate uncertainty about the currency in Argentina."

Yet it's clearly another parallel to Venezuela, where inflation is 60 percent and international carriers have sharply reduced flights or pulled out of the country entirely because they have more than $3 billion in local currency deposits that they can't exchange into dollars.