The European Union (EU) is one of the most important markets for developing countries, and trade policy has long been one of its most important instruments for promoting development. There is, however, a paradox at the heart of the relationship between the EU's trade policy and development. On the one hand the EU's trade as development policy has undergone a paradigm shift, the objective shifting from supporting the former colonies of the EU's member states to addressing poverty and with a greater emphasis on reciprocal liberalization. On the other hand, the EU's conventional trade policy initiatives—particularly its market access objectives in the Doha Round and in commercially motivated bilateral trade agreements—have adverse consequences for developing countries, as does its tendency to adopt stringent product regulations. We argue that this paradox is explained by differences in how much traction the emphasis on the development implications of trade has had in the EU's various trade policy subsystems.