As of June 2012[update], the future of the Doha Round was uncertain: the work programme lists 21 topics for which the original deadline of 1 January 2005 has not been met and the Round remains incomplete.  The conflict between free trade in industrial goods and services, the maintenance of protectionism in agricultural subsidies to domestic agricultural sectors (demanded by industrialized countries) and the establishment of fair trade in agricultural products (demanded by developing countries) remain the main obstacles. This impasse has made it impossible to open new WTO negotiations beyond the Doha Development Round. As a result, bilateral free trade agreements between governments are increasing.  As of July 2012[update], the WTO system set up several negotiating groups for the current impasse in agricultural trade negotiations.  At the country level, political economy arguments about the impact of SAAs on support for multilateral liberalization tend to focus on the effects of preference erosion and the potential for diversion of negotiating resources. If special interests are strong enough to influence the negotiations, to protect themselves, for example with restrictive rules of origin, they have a strong incentive to avoid multilateral liberalization that could undermine this advantage. In North-South developing countries, developing countries often negotiate for access to important markets in industrialized countries. As soon as they find themselves in this area of preference, their exporters will be wary of further liberalization, either multilateral or regional, which could undermine their advantage over their third-party competitors. Another practical concern is that, in most countries, negotiating resources are limited and that a transfer to regional or bilateral negotiations will inevitably divert attention from multilateral negotiations. Beginning in 1990, regional and bilateral trade agreements quickly watered down, with the United States participating. According to the WTO, 279 IONS were in force as of 20 June 2017 (combination of goods, services and accessions). The WTO also reports that notifications concerning all bilateral and regional agreements have increased from 124 in the period 1948-1994 to more than 400 agreements on trade in goods or services (counted separately) since 1995 alone.
The extension of Article XXIV to free trade agreements has become a major loophole because, of the 242 agreements notified to GATT/WTO, only ten are customs unions (non-accession). And of these, only the EU is economically important. 11 Figure 3.1 illustrates the strong upward trend in ASAs, which began in the early 1990s and accelerated in the early 2000s. From the beginning, however, there were exceptions. While the United States was a strong supporter of non-discrimination, the United Kingdom wanted to maintain preferential trade agreements with the Commonwealth. British negotiators eventually agreed to include non-discrimination as a central principle in the future GATT, but they also insisted on an exception for imperial preferences. In the statement of the postponement, John Maynard Keynes, a prominent economist and member of the British delegation negotiating the Bretton Woods agreements for the post-war world economy, argued before the House of Lords: [The proposed policies] are primarily aimed at restoring multilateral trade. The basis of the guidelines before you is against bilateral barter and any form of discriminatory practice.