Wednesday, May 31, 2023
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What lobbies pull the TTIP's * strings?*

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The free trade agreement (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States is forged in the darkest of the institutions on both sides of the Atlantic. On February 2 last, the eighth round of negotiations began in Brussels, which lasted until 8 March. While public opinion is beginning to see the the lobby wolves' teeth, lobby groups, think tanks and law firms and public relations at the service of private power, have been two years in the shadow pulling the strings of a treaty affecting millions of people.

During the preparation of negotiations between late 2012 and early 2013, the Department of Trade of the European Commission was pressured by 298 "stakeholders", of which 269 belonged to the private sector. Furthermore, 92% of the meetings that the Commission had behind closed doors were with business pressure groups. This leaves at 26 the meetings with public interest groups and means that, for every appointment with a union or group of consumers, there were 20 with companies and industry federations. This was denounced last summer by the Corporate Europe Observatory. Also, the 25 groups that most pressure exerted were industry lobbies.

Grouped under "umbrella organisations", the most powerful companies in the world put pressure on political authorities to ensure that their controversial interests were not affected. From the ACEA, the automotive industry group representing BMW, Ford, Renault, Volkswagen and many others -whose lobbying activities did not go unnoticed- to the CEFIC, this pharmaceutical conglomerate where BASF and Bayer laboratories hide.

But surely, BusinessEurope (employers' federation) and the European Round Table of Industrialists are the strongest lobbies in the European Union. The latter was founded in 1983 to influence policies favouring increasingly large transnational corporations. Theirs are the successes of the single market, Trans-European Networks or some key aspects of the Treaty of Maastricht, where in 1991 they left their footprints on the basics of what the future Economic and Monetary Union would be.

This industry lobby group, currently chaired by the CEO of the French gas company Air Liquide, includes the major European multinational moguls. Among its select ranks are four Spanish: Cesar Alierta (Telefonica), Pablo Isla (Inditex), Antonio Brufau (Repsol) and Ignacio S. Galan (Iberdrola). Unlike most lobbyists in Brussels, the ERT does not lobby about legislative details, but thanks to its free access to commissioners and parliamentarians, it focuses its influence on filling the EU agenda with projects favourable to globalisation, and therefore to multinationals.

Also in America, companies that include Apple, Blackberry, IBM Microsoft exert pressure in the name of Digital Europe to achieve their ends. The powerful American lobbying machinery that is the US Chamber of Commerce deserves special mention for the influence it has on the TTIP. Only in 2014, its lobbying expenditures totalled 124 million dollars. We have seen over the last year all the Spanish establishment pass through its headquarters in Spain (AmCham) Monsanto, McDonald's and Procter & Gamble are the representatives of this American giant, which is also working closely with the ERT on the issues that matter most to its members, now the Free Trade Agreement.

However, if ever there was an industry that has sought to influence European and American politicians, that was agribusiness. Of the 560 meetings with the Directorate General for Trade that have been carried out, this sector has starred in 113. More meetings that the pharmaceutical lobby financial, medical, and automotive together. "It is to pull down the labour, environmental rights and democracy to make the trade lower the price of their products and services," says this sector spokesman of Equo in "La Marea, Florent Marcellesi from Brussels.



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