When preparing the TTIP negotiations in 2012 and early 2013, the European Commission’s trade department (DG Trade) was lobbied by 298 ‘stakeholders’ – 269 of them from the private sector. Of the 560 lobby encounters that the Commission had – in consultations, stakeholder debates and behind closed doors meetings – 520 (92%) were with business lobbyists. Only 26 (4%) of the encounters were with public interest groups (the remaining 4% were with other actors such as individuals, academic institutions and public administrations). This means that, for every encounter with a trade union or consumer group, there were 20 with companies and industry federations. (Check the full data here 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 intimate 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 legislation”, 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”). 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 simply equal influence, these encounters do pay off.
DG Trade’s biased questionnaire in the public consultation on TTIP published in summer 2012 is another example of its business-biased consultation policy. How would the average citizen respond to questions such as: “If you are concerned by barriers to investment, what are the estimated additional costs for your business (in percentage of the investment) resulting from the barriers?” 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.