Pick the worst TTIP lobbyist


Last week, six corporate lobby groups were nominated for the prestigious “worst lobbyist on TTIP” medal – named after the much disputed transatlantic trade and investment partnership between the European Union and the United States.

In the coming weeks they will be competing for this title during an internet vote after which one of them will be crowned with the Democracy for Sale Award.

It’s not, of course, a nomination any of them desire. The award, organised by four NGOs, is about undue influence on EU policy making, and all nominations have been carefully backed up with evidence that the lobby groups have had a profoundly negative impact on the EU position during TTIP negotiations.

You’re probably thinking it is all about the dirty tricks they played, and the hoard of lobbyists they sent knocking on the door of the Commission and the governments, but actually it’s much worse. These awards reveal the level of collusion from politicians and officials, who welcomed corporate lobbyists with open arms from day one.

For years now, the Commission has had a very simple approach to international trade negotiations. They start any initiative by building a business wish list, which is then transformed into a negotiation mandate.

TTIP is a case in point. It is reflected in the number of meetings between civil servants in the Commission’s trade branch and business groups in the months before the EU approach to the negotiations was adopted – 528 of 597 meetings (88 per cent) were with business lobby groups.

Perhaps this was of little consequence in the distant past when trade negotiations were about boring stuff like quotas or tariffs, but today’s trade agreements touch on core issues related to welfare, social rights and health regulations. To leave such sensitive issues in future trade agreements to a chat between lobbyists and civil servants is outright dangerous to workers across Europe.

Here a few examples of the nominees: the chemicals lobby is nominated for its successful attempt to basically formulate the EU’s position on this sector. Considering the danger of deregulation in this area, this can have severe consequences for safety at work.

The employers at BusinessEurope share a nomination with the US Chamber of Commerce for their full-scale long term deregulation project called “regulatory cooperation”, a cousin of the EU’s Better Regulation Agenda, which has long proved inimical to social rights.

Or how about the pharmaceutical industry’s attempt to scale down on how much they have to disclose about their products? You can imagine why, but it’s more difficult to grasp why those who negotiate trade deals on our behalf – the Commission – is forthcoming to such demands.

Finally, it seems ironic that at a time when the Volkswagen scandal has undermined the credibility of the car industry, the Commission seems to buy into all the main ideas coming from US and EU car lobbies.

In recent years, the trade union movement has paid more attention to EU trade policy. Local trade unions, federations, confederations, have all voiced serious concerns over TTIP and similar trade deals. But there is a need to take one step further and denounce the way EU trade policy is produced.

If TTIP is adopted, the corporate approach to trade will be more difficult to change. And despite the distaste for free trade agreements coming from both main candidates in the US presidential elections, they are both likely to leave TTIP untouched.

But we can pin our hope on popular discontent and mobilisations. So far, a lot has been achieved. To the amazement of EU negotiators and member state governments, millions have denounced the trade deal, and there is still a good chance it can be stopped.