When European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström took office in November 2014 she promised a “fresh start” for the TTIP negotiations, including more civil society involvement and listening to public concerns as her “top priority”.
So, have things changed since the early phase of the TTIP talks? Has the Commission’s consultation policy on TTIP become less business-biased under Malmström?
The short answer is no. In the first six months since Malmström took office, she, her Cabinet and the director general of DG Trade had 121 one-on-one lobby meetings behind closed doors in which TTIP was discussed. 100 (83%) of these declared meetings were with business lobbyists – but only 20 (16,7%) were held with public interest groups (the other meeting was with a standard setting institution). So, for every meeting with a trade union or an environmental organisation, Malmström and her staff had 5 get togethers with companies and their lobby groups. (Check the full data and how we gathered it here).
The lobby groups with the most such high level meetings on TTIP were the Transatlantic Business Council (representing over 70 EU and US-based multinationals), pharmaceutical lobby group EFPIA (lobbying for pharma giants like Eli Lily, Pfizer, Novartis, and GSK) and the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise. Second in line were BusinessEurope (the European employers’ federation and one of the most powerful lobby groups in the EU), the European Services Forum (a lobby outfit banding together large services companies such as Deutsche Bank and Telefonica, as well as federations like TheCityUK), CEFIC (the European Chemical Industry Council, lobbying for BASF, Bayer, Dow, and others), the German industry federation BDI, the Open Europe think tank, the French industry federation MEDEF, the European Roundtable of Industrialists (banding together together 52 bosses of European multinationals), the Confederation of Finnish Industries, and a Spanish law firm.
Transparency International’s Integrity Watch platform reveals similar findings, but counts only meetings in which TTIP was explicitly listed.
However, none of the figures tells the full story of lobbying around TTIP under Malmström: only Commissioners, cabinet members, and director general bosses are required to log their meetings with lobbyists while the TTIP negotiating team and other DG Trade staff aren’t required to do so.
Still, the fact that Malmström and her team seem to primarily deal with the arguments of business representatives raises serious concerns that industry lobbyists continue to dominate the agenda of the TTIP talks and crowd out citizens’ interests. This is supported by the cosiness between Malmström, her team, and big business, as is made apparent in correspondence such as this email of Big Finance lobby group TheCityUK, inviting Malmström’s head of Cabinet to “informal lunch” “on her way back from the US”, with “plenty of time for whatever questions she would like to raise with us”.
There is also evidence that Malmström and her team are close enough to Big Business to discuss joint strategies and communication challenges. In a meeting with French employer’s federation MEDEF on 26 March 2015, for example, the lobby group warned that “the 19 million European SMEs which do not export... will face increased competition” from TTIP and asked Malmström and her team “how the (Commission’s) communication services can reassure” the small and medium enterprises.
Malmström's move on controversial rights for foreign investors in TTIP, which closely follows the big business agenda, also reinforces the view of her close alliance with corporate lobbyists. In a blatant disregard for democracy, the Commissioner brushed off thousands who have spoken out against excessive corporate rights, a full 97 per cent of about 150,000 contributions to a consultation on ISDS – including small businesses and governments – in order to adhere to the corporate agenda on the issue.