The Naked Lobbyist
The world's most powerful corporate lobby groups
uncovered by the Corporate Europe Observatory
New Internationalist magazine, July 2002
1) The corporate-state alliance
Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD)
* Established in 1995, the Transatlantic Business Dialogue
is undoubtedly the most far-reaching international alliance between
corporations and states. Unlike other lobby groups, it acts as
a mandate for the U.S. government and the European Commission
to work meticulously to identify 'barriers to transatlantic trade'
- in effect, any regulation or policy proposal that does not fit
the corporate agenda on either side of the Atlantic.
* The 150 large corporations in the Business Dialogue have
managed to delay, weaken or even dismantle a wide range of environment
and consumer-protection regulations, including a planned EU ban
on marketing of animal-tested cosmetic products. High-level government
officials are active participants at the Dialogue's major events
and officials entertain the demands of their many working groups
on a daily basis. A major Dialogue success includes the EU-US
Mutual Recognition Agreement which allows corporations to market
a wide range of products in both the EU and the US if they have
been tested on either side of the Atlantic. A member of the TABD
claimed: 'We got [World Trade Organization Director General] Mike
Moore to come to one of our meetings before the Seattle WTO Ministerial.
I think he found it quite helpful. We're a non-governmental organization,
an NGO, like all the others. I really can't see what all the fuss
is about.' The TABD played a key role in the launch of the new
WTO round of trade negotiations in Qatar last November.
* Post-September 11, EU and US arms producers have taken a
leading role in the TABD and a new working group to find 'ways
to capitalize on... the new awareness of the importance of the
security sector'. www.tabd.org
2) The architects of globalization International Chamber of
* The Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce, founded
in 1919, is the single largest and most influential international
corporate lobby group. This self-proclaimed 'world business organization'
- implying a self-image of semi-officialdom - has thousands of
member companies in over 130 countries. It is dominated by the
world's most powerful transnational corporations, including General
Motors, Novartis, Bayer and Nestle. The political clout of its
members has secured it permanent representation at the World Trade
Organization and unparalleled access at other key economic and
political institutions in the global economy, including the G8
and the United Nations.
* The ICC has taken the lead in attacking the global-justice
movement and its challenge to corporate-biased international trade
and investment rules. A key strategy has been its successful charm
offensive towards the UN as a prominent partner in Kofi Annan's
Global Compact between the UN and transnational corporations,
launched in January 2000. The total absence of monitoring and
enforcement mechanisms makes the Compact an ideal 'greenwash'
instrument. The partnership with the UN should be taken in context
with the group's long and ongoing history of vigorously lobbying
to weaken international environmental treaties, including the
Kyoto Protocol to curb climate change, the Convention on Biodiversity
and the Basel Convention against trade in toxic waste. www.iccwbo.org
3) Global leaders
World Economic Forum (WEF)
* The world economic is not a lobby group, but a powerful
international forum for elite consensus building and strategizing.
Two thousand corporate executives, politicians and academics meet
at the Forum's annual meeting, traditionally held in Davos, Switzerland,
but moved to New York for the January 2002 event. As WEF veteran
Samuel P Huntington puts it: 'Davos people control virtually all
international institutions, many of the world's governments and
the bulk of the world's economic and military capabilities.' The
World Economic Forum takes credit for the launching of the Uruguay
Round of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs which culminated
in the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1994.
* However, the atmosphere at the recent WEF meetings has been
more self-flagellating than in preceding years. The growing discontent
with the economic model promoted by the Forum is clear in the
anti-globalization protests which have dogged their meetings on
five continents. In response, the Forum is adopting a new tune.
The discourse coming out of their carefully orchestrated debates,
transmitted by the corporate media which attend en masse, is that
globalization is the only viable strategy but needs a 'human face'.
Despite attempts to save its tarnished image, the WEF remains
a symbol of what is wrong with the current model of globalization.
Over 20,000 people demonstrated nonviolently in January in New
York against this gathering of self-proclaimed 'global leaders'
meeting to chart out the future for the rest of the world. www.weforum.org
4) The EU policy shapers European Roundtable of Industrialists
* This discreetly operating club of some 47 chairpersons and
chief executive officers of Europe's largest transnationals has
been one of the main political forces on the European scene for
almost two decades. European Roundtable member Baron Daniel Janssen
describes the ERT's influence as a 'double revolution': 'reducing
the power of the state and of the public sector in general through
privatization and deregulation' and 'transferring many of the
nation-states' powers to a more modern and internationally minded
structure at European level'.
* Privileged access to both governments and the European Commission
has been key to the Roundtable's dramatic success in shaping the
European Union's political agenda. The ERT reaped its most remarkable
successes in the late 1 980s and early 1 990s, when its wishes
for a single market and trans-European networks of transport infrastructure
were fulfilled. Roundtable fingerprints are also clearly visible
on the 1991 Maastricht Treaty which laid the groundwork for European
Monetary Union. The group's ongoing influence is reflected in
the EU's March 2000 'Lisbon' action plan, which includes the further
liberalization and privatization of energy, transport, telecommunication
and postal services markets as well as neoliberal reforms of labour
markets and pension systems. www.erit.be
5) The chief executive's club Business Roundtable (BRT)
* THE BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE, with over 200 chief executives
of the largest US-based corporations and banks in its ranks, was
founded in 1972 with the explicit goal of enforcing corporate
control over the political agenda. The BRT's successes inspired
corporate leaders in Europe, Canada and elsewhere to set up lobby
groups around the same CEO-only model.
* The Roundtable lobbies aggressively on issues from healthcare
and social security to the environment and consumer protection,
aiming to adapt public policy to the corporate bottom-line. The
BRT is particularly influential over US international trade policies.
In the early 1990s, a Roundtable front group, USA*NAFTA, spent
$10 million to help secure the controversial North American Free
Trade Agreement. In 2000, the Roundtable successfully campaigned
for unconditional access to US markets for goods US corporations
produce in China under commercially ideal, but often socially
and environmentally deplorable, conditions. They spent over $30
million on lobbyists to help US Congress members make up their
minds. The Business Roundtable alone employed no less than 80
full-time field organizers to create an impression of local grassroots
activity in favour of the China trade policy. www.brtable.org