5 June 1998

EU slams gluten quota

BRUSSELS has responded tersely to this weeks US decision to impose a strict quota on imports of wheat gluten.

"This action is the most trade- restrictive measure that could have been applied," says the commission. "It is all the more surprising coming from a government that, only two weeks ago, was calling on the World Trade Organisation to further liberalise trade in agricultural products."

The quota, which was signed off this week by President Bill Clinton, will limit imports to 57,500t in 1998, allowing for 6% annual growth thereafter. EU shipments will be cut to just 24,500t, 40% less than in 1997.

The US International Trade Commission argues that its domestic wheat gluten industry has suffered. "The high levels of subsidy available for EU starch producers effectively subsidises the gluten too," said a US trade mission representative in Brussels.