In earlier multilateral trade rounds, a closing of ranks between the European Community and the United States used to secure the success of the exercise, witness the famous Blair House agreement on agriculture that in 1992 opened the way to the conclusion of the Uruguay Round. More recently, however, a joint EU-US initiative, again in the agricultural sector, apparently had the opposite effect. Like the “Singapore issues” (investment, competition policy, trade facilitation and transparency in government procurement), the common proposal of the two superpowers in international trade was a major reason for the failure of the WTO ministerial conference in Cancún in September 2003. In particular, it met with fi erce resistance from the newly formed group of twenty-plus developing countries which demanded a much more radical liberalisation of agricultural markets in industrial countries (while however keeping their own agricultural trade barriers largely intact). The ensuing collapse of the negotiations caused a sense of multilateral fatigue in both the EU and the USA mixed with anger and frustration.
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