In this article we argue that the conclusion of the GATT Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture and the subsequent role of the WTO has changed the international context of CAP policy-making. However, comparing the three latest CAP reforms, we demonstrate that pressures on the CAP arising from international trade negotiations cannot alone account for the way in which the EU responds in terms of CAP reform. The institutional setting within which the reform package was determined also played a crucial role. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the CoAM seems to be a more conducive setting than the European Council for undertaking substantial reform of the CAP. We suggest that the choice of institutional setting is influenced by the desire of farm ministers and of heads of state or government to avoid blame for unpopular decisions. When CAP reform is an integral part of a broader package, farm ministers pass the final decision to the European Council and when CAP reform is defined as a separate issue the European Council avoids involvement.
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