The multilateral trading system (MTS) represents an excellent case for analyzing the factors influencing the EU’s impact on policy-making within international institutions, because of the marked changes that have taken place in the EU over the course of the development of the multilateral trading system. The EU did not exist when the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was established, and the customs union was under construction during the crucial Kennedy Round. Yet today trade is the international policy arena in which the EU has greatest power
resources (as a result of its market size and presence in international trade) and greatest institutional capacity (due to the extensive delegation of authority from the member states to the EU and, at the EU level, from the Council of Ministers to the European Commission). This article argues that the completion of the single European market
(SEM), the greater acceptance of liberalisation that accompanied it, and reforms of the common agricultural policy have enabled the EU since the mid-1990s to advance a more positive agenda in the multilateral trading system – to be more ambitious. Its effectiveness in promoting that agenda, however, seems to have peaked in the immediate wake of the Uruguay Round. The subsequent emergence of new trading powers hostile to the EU’s agenda of extending the rules-based system – notably Brazil, China and India – has resulted in the gradual erosion of the EU’s ambition to shape the multilateral trading system in the Doha Development Round. This article begins by briefly summarising the development of the multi-
lateral trading system and describing how this interacted with the development of trade policy and policy-making in the EU. It then sets out the relevance of the EU for European stakeholders seeking to pursue their objectives in the multilateral trading system, before analysing the EU’s capacity to aggregate their preferences. The crux of the article identifies the power resources the EU has for pursuing agreed objectives within the MTS, before assessing its success in doing so. The article concludes by emphasising the need to analyse the EU’s preferences and power in context.