EU Commission Redefines Corporate Lobbyists As 'Civil Society' To Pretend To Be Transparent In TAFTA/TTIP

from the bare-faced-cheek dept

The fact that the USTR continues to peddle the line that TPP is "the most transparent trade negotiation in history," despite a dogged refusal to reveal its negotiating positions to the public (to say nothing of any draft texts), indicates that the US government is acutely aware that its attitude towards transparency in TPP and TAFTA/TTIP is both unpopular and unjustifiable. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, the European Commission too is desperately trying to convince people that it is conducting the TTIP negotiations in a fully open way. For example, earlier this week, the Commission held what it called an "Outreach" session in Brussels:

As part of an ongoing commitment to transparency, DG TRADE is organising a second Civil Society Dialogue to discuss progress and to exchange views on the TTIP.
As well as trumpeting its "ongoing commitment to transparency," the European Commission claims that this is a "Civil Society Dialogue." On the same Web page, there's a list of who had registered to participate in this session. Here are some of the "civil societies" that caught my eye in a quick scan:
ICMP, the global voice of music publishing
Committee for European Construction Equipment
European Association of Sugar Traders
European Agricultural Machinery
American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union
European Petroleum Industry
European Banking Federation
European Patent Office
Confederation of British Industry
Confederation of European Community Cigarette Manufacturers
Putting those and similar business organizations to one side, I came up with around 26 genuine civil society groups out of a total of 196 registered entities. A Swedish TTIP site came up with about 30. So even allowing for some vagueness in definitions, I think it's safe to say that fewer than 20% of those that had signed up for the "Civil Society Dialogue" were actually civil societies; the remaining 80% were essentially lobbying groups for European and US companies.

What this represents is an extraordinary -- and outrageous -- rebranding exercise. The European Commission clearly wants to be able to point to these meetings as "proof" that it is acting transparently, and engaging with civil society as well as business. But the facts prove the exact opposite: the vast majority of the people there came from corporate organizations representing powerful industry groups on both sides of the Atlantic. The "Civil Society Dialogue" turns out to be a sham and yet another opportunity for companies to push their agendas, so that the European Commission can claim it has wide support for its anti-democratic, pro-corporate negotiating positions.

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Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 4:22am

    That's some insane rebranding indeed. To be fair I was expecting 0 real representativity so the ~20% figure is quite surprising. Maybe this is why they call the most transparent negotiations ever since in the past no representative of the civil society (this time in its official meaning) were allowed in...

    What is interesting is that even if it is a half-assed attempt pleasing the citizenry (ie: pretend to listen to them) all it takes is a small crack and time to change things much like water eroding the solid rock.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 5:52am

    How about making the contents of the treaty available to the elected representatives of the people, or is that too much to ask?

     

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  3.  
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    I'm_Having_None_Of_It, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 6:09am

    Re:

    I believe they're afraid of another ACTA. Bring it on, we're ready. Just let us know when to begin the onslaught of phone calls, emails, and letters to our MEPs and we'll fight those corporate buggers off again.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 6:18am

    I wonder where these monied 1% brainiacs are planning on moving to, because they will certainly not want to live in the cesspool they are creating. fwiw, purchasing your own island is not sustainable due to the raising water level that they deny is happening.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 6:41am

    and there will never be any let up because governments today are so intent on making every country possible a capitalist/corporate society that when one effort fails, the next one is lined up with the wording rearranged to jump straight in behind. the people are meaningless! their views are totally disregarded and when something happens to get a bit more 'say' into the frame by the people, a new law comes into being to stifle it again!

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 6:55am

    ...and the names of these 26/30 are?

    Quite candidly, many of those in the US that regularly speak up consistently call for a "Kumbaya" system that ill serves the economic interests of our country, and these economic interests are not at all limited to the Big Guns in the private sector.

     

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  7.  
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    St. Pat, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 6:58am

    Transparency

    > "the European Commission too is desperately trying to convince people that it is conducting the TTIP negotiations in a fully open way"

    Being transparent is like being a woman. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 7:03am

    Re:

    Maybe they'll build a Dyson sphere.

     

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  9.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 7:03am

    Re: Transparency

    ... I don't think I've ever heard it put quite that way before, but the basic premise is sound, much like if you feel the need to tell people how you're one of the 'good guys', or tell them how transparent/honest you are... it's a pretty good bet you're anything but.

     

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  10.  
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    Guardian, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 7:04am

    we're all fooked

    the way these crazy politicians are going i wonder if aliens aint taken over and rpelaced them all

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 7:06am

    Re: Transparency

    "Being transparent is like being a woman"

    What?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 7:10am

    Re: Re:

    Nah, they'll just fly to the moon and break that instead. Much cheaper.

     

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  13.  
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    techflaws (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 7:11am

    The rebranding like any other form of handweaving fails miserably. If they really wanted to be transparent, they'd just post the latest draft online for everone to read.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 7:23am

    Re:

    In an ongoing negotiation? Risking leaks?

    In the beginning things will be awfully transparent drafts from industry groups wanting to expand their powers. Since copyright is a task where industry-groups from both sides can agree on as strong as possible protections, it is an easy thing for negotiators to write an initial deal.

    Then the things get cooked down to only the most essential demands. In the end the task is to obfuscate the intentions of the deal by using sweepingly broad and legaly obscure language. This is where the copyright chapter actually gets hard to write. Last time they almost copied the digital chapter of the currently unsolvably deadlocked infosoc directive in hope of forcing a more strict interpretation by courts or at the very least stop any chance of weakening it/strenghtening limitations.

    The intention-documents will be revealed, but only after the treaty has been signed and accepted. In that way the people or parliamentarians will not know what hit them untill after it is too late to change! These kinds of shenanigans are normal. The tricks pulled by the commission during and after the ACTA-negotiations were blatant moves to force a certain result through without letting the parliament see the background documents. Even though it was harshly critizised throughout the process, massive lobbying was almost able to swing the deal anyway (If the conservative group dared and had enough cohesion, they could have forced it through with the dissents from the other groups!).

    This time they have already started spreading the word on how awesome the TTIP is going to be and they have their own information page on the negotiations to control the information getting spread. They are doing everything to solve the communication problems of ACTA by ramping up the theater around TTIP without changing anything of substance.

    I fear, a public outcry against TTIP will be insufficient this time around since the socialists and liberals have been somewhat assured by the limitation on audiovisual provisions and the promise of no specific digital chapter.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 7:50am

    These negotiations are being done transparently. It's very transparent that they are only intended to serve corporate interests.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2014 @ 7:53am

    Re:

    This isn't capitalism. Governments passing anti-competitive laws is not what capitalism is about.

     

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  17.  
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    Andrew Norton (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 10:11am

    I think the problem is we're looking at two different meanings of transparent

    We look at it as meaning 'you can look through it'
    They look at it as meaning 'you can't see it at all'

     

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  18.  
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    toyotabedzrock (profile), Jan 16th, 2014 @ 12:12pm

    They should propose that pulic hangings of Corporate fat cats found to be misleading the public be included.

     

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  19.  
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    I'm_Having_None_Of_It, Jan 17th, 2014 @ 1:58am

    Re: Re:

    We got them on side before, and we can do it again. Don't underestimate them just because you disagree with them. The Pirates and Greens will lead this AGAIN and we will be working to raise awareness AGAIN.

    I had some very encouraging conversations with some socialist MEPs while fighting ACTA, and I assure you they're aware of how destructive these treaties can be. In any case, we'll be using the same talking points so how can we fail? The same things are at stake.

    The trick is to target them on the issues they care about. Socialists want access to medicines and will fight attempts to limit generics. Liberals will get on board with that, and can't abide restrictions on freedom of speech or freedom from surveillance. On the right, focus on property rights: TTP/TAFTA will subvert them so we end up in a permission culture, renting rather than owning what we pay for. That'll really raise their hackles. Seal the deal with the fact that FTAs have historically undermined national sovereignty. The spectre of Ecuador's disaster happening in their own back yard will make them think twice about ratifying it.

    Never say never.

     

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  20.  
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    I'm_Having_None_Of_It, Jan 17th, 2014 @ 2:04am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Sorry, liberals hate surveillance. Never type in a hurry.

     

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