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TTIP: a corporate lobbying paradise

Which businesses are pushing most for the proposed EU-US trade deal TTIP? Who’s influencing EU negotiators? Corporate Europe Observatory’s eight new info-graphics reveal the corporate lobby behind the TTIP talks.


When preparing the mandate for the negotiations on TTIP, and in the first important months of the talks themselves (January 2012 to February 2014), the European Commission’s trade department (DG Trade) had 597 behind-closed-door meetings with lobbyists to discuss the negotiations, according to internal Commission files obtained via access to information requests. 528 of those meetings (88%) were with business lobbyists while only 53 (9%) were with public interest groups. So, for every meeting with a trade union or consumer group, there were 10 with companies and industry federations. The rest of the meetings were with other actors such as public institutions and academics. In total, DG Trade met 288 lobby groups in the early phase of the TTIP talks – 250 of them from the private sector (Check the full data and how we gathered it here).

There is evidence that DG Trade actively encouraged the involvement of corporate lobbyists, while keeping pesky trade unionists and other public interest groups at bay. For example, in autumn 2012, DG Trade chased pesticide lobby group ECPA to participate in the then-ongoing public consultation on TTIP. As “the European crop protection/pesticides industry, is one of the key sectors we would be looking at in terms of improving the framework for business,” a DG Trade emailed ECPA, their contribution “would be most welcome”. The official added: “A substantial contribution from your side, ideally sponsored by your US partner, would thus be vital to start identifying opportunities of closer cooperation and increased compatibility”. ECPA responded a few weeks later, together with its US sister organisation CropLife America, demanding “significant harmonisation” for pesticide residues in food. Trade unions, environmentalists, and consumer groups did not receive such special invites.

DG Trade’s responses to contributions to the public consultations also differed greatly. While trade unionists received a standard confirmation receipt, business lobbyists were invited to initiate follow-up meetings with negotiators. The Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA), for example, got an email from DG Trade thanking “you for your readiness to work with us”, and offering a meeting, “to discuss about your proposal, ask for clarification and consider next steps”. Again, public interest groups did not receive this special treatment.

BusinessEurope and the US Chamber of Commerce, two of the most powerful pro-TTIP lobby groups, also had a follow-up meeting in November 2012, after responding to one of the Commission consultations on TTIP. On the table: their proposal for “regulatory cooperation”, a “potential game changer” which would allow business lobbyists to “co-write regulation”, as they put it. At the table: officials from DG Trade, but also DG Enterprise and the General Secretariat of the Commission. The atmosphere was clearly friendly. And the Commission stressed its desire to work closely with the two business lobbies to refine the proposal (renewed in another meeting with BusinessEurope in February 2013 where the Commission noted the importance of EU industry “submitting detailed ‘Transatlantic’ proposals to tackle regulatory barriers”1). A year later, the EU negotiation position for regulatory cooperation in TTIP was leaked. The demands of the US Chamber and BusinessEurope had been largely accommodated – one example showing that, while the number of lobby encounters does not have a simple correlation with levels of influence, it is an indicator, and these encounters do pay off.

Another example of the formidable alliance between EU negotiators and the corporate sector is the enthusiasm in the financial lobby community for the EU’s approach on financial regulation in TTIP. When the EU’s position on the issue was leaked in early 2014, Richard Normington, Senior Manager of the Policy and Public Affairs team at TheCityUK – a key British financial lobby group – applauded the Commission’s proposals, because it “reflected so closely the approach of TheCityUK that a bystander would have thought it came straight out of our brochure on TTIP”.

So, clearly, the close involvement of business lobbyists in drawing up the EU’s position for the TTIP talks is a result of the privileged access granted to them by DG Trade. Despite her PR to the contrary, this practice hasn’t changed significantly under the new Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, as the next info-graphic shows.

1. European Commission (2013): Brief report – BusinessEurope US Network meeting, 21 February 2013, dated 22 February 2013. Obtained through access to documents requested under the information disclosure regulation. On file with CEO.

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